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.”
Interview with Dr. David Velkoff
Interview with Dr. David Velkoff
Spanish News Feature
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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Behavioral Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Behavioral Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Behavioral Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Behavioral Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”