By Art Harris- (Emmy award winning journalist, formerly of CNN and the Washington Post)
LOS ANGELES, CA. – She was a mother without hope. Diagnosed with autism, her six year old son, EJ, bit other children, threw tantrums and chairs. “He had no future,” says Beatrice Tan, whose family stopped going to church--too risky to put EJ in the nursery.
Now, after several months of specialized Neurofeedback therapy at Drake Institute of Behavioral Medicine in Los Angeles, EJ no longer bites: he hugs. He has friends, and “we have hope,” says Beatrice, now back in church with EJ and husband, Ronnie.
“We see autistic children coming out of their social comas, it’s huge,” says Dr. David F. Velkoff, Drake’s medical director. “We’re excited whenever we can help jump start a child’s life.”
A physician who also holds a masters degree in psychology, Dr. Velkoff reports dramatic results for most of the 250+ autistic children like EJ Drake Institute has been treating over the last year at its four California clinics, with medical technology Drake first used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD), then modified for autism.
Over the last 27 years, Drake has treated more than 6,000 children for attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD), he says, then last year began focusing on children also diagnosed with high-functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. In treating their ADD, Drake staff found their autism symptoms dramatically improved as well.
“Like a lot of accidental advances in medicine, we stumbled onto it, but it’s working,” he says of Drake’s medical mystery. “We think it helps these children rewire brain synapses, so life starts to make sense.”
To make sense of their surprising progress, Drake cranked up an initial clinical study of 18 patients, all children with autism disorders and poor social skills. After 20-40 neurofeedback sessions, parents reported children were not only responding to peers, but interacting with new awareness to the feelings of others, says Dr. Velkoff.
“EJ used to ask, ‘Mommy, why don’t I have friends?’” says Beatrice Tan in a videotaped interview on Drake’s website, drakecanhelp.com.
“I’d say, ‘You have to be nicer, talk to them, don’t take their toys, share!’ It’s no longer a problem. ”
“Unfortunately, we can’t help every child with autism, but we’ve seen big improvements in three out of four children we treat,” says Dr. Velkoff. “Parents tell us they keep getting better even after treatment ends. We hear, ‘it’s a different child’ all the time.’ Their lives begin to blossom.”
Dr. Velkoff isn’t talking about the stereotype of the autistic child stricken with severe mental retardation. But he says Drake has been successful in treating higher functioning kids with autism. “Autism doesn’t have to mean there’s no hope,” he says, citing a mother who recently called, elated her home-schooled daughter suddenly wants to attend high school for the first time after treatment.
“Drake has opened her up,” says Lori Malone of her 16 year old daughter, Jayne. “She is smiling more (and) came out of her shell.”
It all makes sense, says Dr. Velkoff. According to Drake’s study, autistic children were suddenly more “teachable” after Neurofeedback treatments, requiring less time to learn how to handle situations that once confused them. “They are happier children now; they have fewer meltdowns,” says Dr. Velkoff, praising anyone engaged in the fight against autism, especially patients and their “courageous parents.”
“It’s been a frightening road for a lot of these families, but they’re not alone in this fight,” he says, “We’ve been so encouraged by the progress we’ve seen at Drake. Fate has dealt these children a difficult hand. We just want to help improve the odds.”