Attention Problems and Behavior Problems

Attention Problems and Behavior Problems
What’s the connection and can they be fixed?

For an ADHD child who’s experienced failure or frustration at school, has a difficult time making friends, cannot process multiple step instructions, and who likely has poor self-esteem, defiance or misbehavior seem inevitable.

The off switch or filtering in their brains works differently, so they often have impulse control issues and a frequent lack of control over what they blurt out. Couple that with failure and frustration, and you have the perfect storm. No matter what you do; punishment, coaxing, bribing, yelling, pleading etc. don’t seem to work.

Play Attention not only teaches attention by making it concrete and controllable — Play Attention students can move screen characters by mind alone via BodyWave technology — but also teaches a variety of skills that make them successful at school or work. These successes greatly improve behavior.

Additionally, and this is important, since they can see their attention in real time, Play Attention makes it readily apparent that misbehavior negatively affects their success during game play. Success is predicated on their ability to stay in control and attentive. It’s simple to correlate this to being a classroom superstar. Play Attention students learn to self regulate or control their own behavior. This is the basis of the behavior shaping program built into Play Attention (it took us over 5 years to develop it).

The scientists and doctors of the prestigious Tufts School of Medicine researched Play Attention in Boston area schools over five years. They sent independent observers into the classroom to monitor students in their study of Play Attention. The observers were blinded to the students; they didn’t know anything about them but were required to monitor their behavior. Even though the students had been labeled ADHD with behavioral problems, the Play Attention students showed significant self-control — even 6 months after the study was completed! Never underestimate what your child can learn. We at Play Attention know there is an intelligent person hiding behind the defiance and frustration. Our goal is to set him free.

800.788.6786

Play Attention Rocks New Study

Research shows Play Attention to be highly effective

To read more: http://www.playattention.com/clinical-studies/

Once again in a randomized, controlled, long-term clinical study performed by the prestigious Tufts School of Medicine, Play Attention has shown to be highly effective.

The results are published in the Journal of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, this month. Play Attention (NF in the article) was tested in 19 Boston area schools and pitted against cognitive training (brain games) and a control group. Here are the high points from the researchers:

“Parents of children who received NF [Play Attention] training reported significant improvements in attention and executive functioning…Parents of children who received cognitive training (CT) did not report significant improvements compared to those in the control condition.

The parent-reported improvements of participants in the NF [Play Attention] condition on the learning problems subscale might reflect important generalization of skills to the academic setting. It is noteworthy that parents of children in the NF condition did not seek an increase in their children’s stimulant medication dosage, although these children experienced the same physical growth and increased school demands as their CT and control peers.”

It is noteworthy that the researchers found no significant improvement in students who did simple cognitive brain training alone. These students performed worse in many areas and had to increase medication dosages over the period of the study. Play Attention produced the exact opposite effect.

ADHD’s Genetic Link

What causes attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD? Research in the English medical journal, The Lancet, says it’s not too much sugar, bad diet, or poor parenting. Professor Anita Thapar, lead author of the study, says it’s likely genetic.

Thapar and her group of scientists at Cardiff University in Wales compared 366 children with ADHD to 1,047 kids without ADHD. In particular, the researchers examined differences in the children’s DNA. They found that kids with ADHD were more likely to have small segments of DNA that were duplicates or missing (copy number variants or CNVs — either a deletion or duplication of genetic material).

"We hope that these findings will help overcome the stigma associated with ADHD," Professor Anita Thapar, the study’s lead author, said in a written statement. "Too often, people dismiss ADHD as being down to bad parenting or poor diet. As a clinician, it was clear to me that this was unlikely to be the case. Now we can say with confidence that ADHD is a genetic disease and that the brains of children with this condition develop differently to those of other children."

While being media friendly, Thapar’s last statement is a stretch in relation to her research. People and the media love statements that provide seemingly conclusive answers.

Let’s go beyond the media hype that says this research concludes there is a definite genetic link. The researchers really only say there seems to be a possible “genetic link.”  However, their research did not conclude that it is purely or even primarily genetic. What they truly are saying is that this study is evidence that ADHD is not purely social.

The authors conclude:

    “Our findings provide genetic evidence of an increased rate of large CNVs in individuals with ADHD and suggest that ADHD is not purely a social construct.”

This is logical because only 15% of the research subjects with ADHD demonstrated increased CNVs. So is it safe to conclude that genetic makeup may contribute, at least in some particular cases, to ADHD? Yes, but to be clear,  this research did not conclude that it is entirely genetically based and was only partially genetically based in a small segment of their study population. This is very similar to other genetic research.

Why is it, if ADHD is genetically based, at least in part, that 30% don’t have it as adults when diagnosed as a child? What happened? Where did it go? This is what is most  important to parents and professionals.

Epigenetic theory, now being widely embraced by the scientific community, maintains that human development  includes both genetic origins of behavior and the direct influence that environmental forces have on the expression of those genes (nature/nurture). Epigenetic theory regards human development as a dynamic interaction between these two influences.

Simply put, how our genes express themselves is greatly impacted by environment. This is likely why, over time, 30% of children don’t display symptoms as adults. The brain changes, rewires, or (a radical version of epigenetic theory) their genes change.

Do tools exist to do this? Yes. See support.playattention.net.

If I may quote Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, “What seems to have happened is that parents have lost the awareness that they had for decades – if not for centuries – that concentration and self-discipline do not come naturally to children, and have to be taught (as well, sometimes, as enforced).”

Is ADHD all in your head?

A study published in the June 14 edition of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics has sparked controversy regarding ADHD medication and the brain’s power to regulate itself.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by Dr. Adrian Sandler, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and medical director of the Olson Huff Center for Child Development at Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.  The research was performed over the course of eight years using 99 patients from Western North Carolina.

Sandler found that children with ADHD can do just as well on half their medication when the medication is combined with a placebo. They performed as well even when parents and children had full knowledge they were taking a placebo.

[Placebo –  A substance containing no medication and prescribed or given to reinforce a patient’s expectation to get well. The placebo in this research was akin to a harmless inert pill].

Previous studies have shown that common stimulant medication causes side-effects like tics, weight loss, stunted growth, and even heart complications in some instances. This often causes trepidation in parents afraid of the possible side-effects on their children.

Sandler compared fully medicated children, children on reduced medication, and children on reduced medication with a known placebo. The results were quite intriguing.  Both the fully medicated and reduced medication groups had increased side-effects while the reduced medication with placebo demonstrated decreased side-effects. Furthermore, the reduced medication group reported decreased control of their ADHD symptoms. However, the control of ADHD symptoms was no different in the reduced medication with placebo group than in the full dose group, i.e. the reduced medication with placebo performed as well as the fully medicated group with less side-effects as well.

“I’ve been getting a lot of calls and e-mails,” said Sandler,, who conducted the research with James Bodfish, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and pediatrics at UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine, and study coordinator Corrine Glesne.

“Medications work,” Bodfish said in a statement. “The question is whether we always need to use them at the highest dose. Many parents are concerned about placing their child on medication. Some choose not to treat their child because of concerns about side effects.”

While the research doesn’t address it, the obvious question is, Why? Parents and children in this study knew they were taking a placebo. Why then did they perform as well as their peers without the side-effects — at essentially half the dose as their peers? While the placebo effect has been studied widely, the exact mechanisms are unknown. We do know that the mechanism is governed by the brain. This clearly tells us that having ADHD or not, our brain is still a powerful weapon in our arsenal.

We also cannot exclude the influence of the parents during this research. Did they expect their child to do better? The authors suggest that this was so. This dynamic cannot be overlooked in your family either.

The bottom line is that we likely have far more control over our behaviors and cognitive processes than we are given credit for. Modern medicine, as this research suggests, is just beginning to understand the brain’s role in shaping our lives. We’ve known this for years at Play Attention. Cognitive training. Memory training. Motor skills. Attention training. Behavioral shaping. It’s time to take control over our lives. We’ve all got the power to do it. It lies right behind our eyes.

Summer ADHD brain drain

Research tells us that during the summer, the average student loses one to three month’s math and reading gains made over the prior year. Academic losses are so common among students that educators have given the phenomena a name: Summer Brain Drain.

Summer Brain Drain may even be worse for ADHD students already having trouble at school.

Going to school daily provides schedules and routines. The summer break means those routines aren’t there. Expectations are lowered or relaxed. Even sleep schedules are often totally abandoned.

Unfortunately, exercise is often replaced with computer time, watching movies, or playing video games with friends. That’s a bad idea. While there’s nothing wrong with playing video games or watching movies, sedentary activity must always be balanced with exercise. This is especially important for an ADHD student. 

I’ve included some specific articles that approach this topic from varying perspectives. Enjoy and gain the benefits this summer!

Children with ADHD benefit from time outdoors enjoying nature

(http://www.news.uiuc.edu/NEWS/04/0827adhd.html)

News Bureau at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from May 15 through June 8. — Kids with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) should spend some quality after-school hours and weekend time outdoors enjoying nature, say researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The payoff for this “treatment” of children 5 to 18 years old, who participated in a nationwide study, was a significant reduction of symptoms. The study appears in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

“The advantage for green outdoor activities was observed among children living in different regions of the United States and among children living in a range of settings, from rural to large city environments,” wrote co-authors Frances E. Kuo and Andrea Faber Taylor. “Overall, our findings indicate that exposure to ordinary natural settings in the course of common after-school and weekend activities may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit symptoms in children.”

ADHD is a neurological disorder that affects some 2 million school-aged children, as well as up to 2 to 4 percent of adults, in the United States. Those with ADHD often face serious consequences, such as problems in school and relationships, depression, substance abuse and on-the-job difficulties.

“These findings are exciting,” said Kuo, a professor in the departments of natural resources and environmental sciences and of psychology at Illinois.

“I think we’re on the track of something really important, something that could affect a lot of lives in a substantial way,” she said. “We’re on the trail of a potential treatment for a disorder that afflicts one of every 14 children – that’s one or two kids in every classroom.”

If clinical trials and additional research confirm the value of exposure to nature for ameliorating ADHD, daily doses of “green time” might supplement medications and behavioral approaches to ADHD, the authors suggest in their conclusion.

Kuo and Faber Taylor, a postdoctoral researcher who specializes in children’s environments and behavior, recruited the parents of 322 boys and 84 girls, all diagnosed with ADHD, through ads in major newspapers and the Web site of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Parents were interviewed by means of the Web and asked to report how their children performed after participating in a wide range of activities. Some activities were conducted inside, others in outdoor places without much greenery, such as parking lots and downtown areas, and others in relatively natural outdoor settings such as a tree-lined street, back yard or park.

The researchers found that symptoms were reduced most in green outdoor settings, even when the same activities were compared across different settings.

“In each of 56 different comparisons, green outdoor activities received more positive ratings than did activities taking place in other settings, and this difference was significant or marginally significant in 54 of the 56 analyses,” Kuo said. “The findings are very consistent.”

The two researchers have been pursuing the ADHD issue as an extension of a long line of previous research they’ve conducted on the nature-attention connection among the general population in mostly urban settings.

“The medications for ADHD that are currently available work for most kids, but not all,” Kuo said. “They often have serious side effects. Who wants to give their growing child a drug that kills their appetite day after day and, night after night, makes it hard for them to get a decent night’s rest? Not to mention the stigma and expense of medication.”

Simply using nature, Kuo said, “may offer a way to help manage ADHD symptoms that is readily available, doesn’t have any stigma associated with it, doesn’t cost anything, and doesn’t have any side effects – except maybe splinters!”

There are a number of exciting possible ways in which “nature treatments” could supplement current treatments, she said.

Spending time in ordinary “urban nature” – a tree-lined street, a green yard or neighborhood park – may offer additional relief from ADHD symptoms when medications aren’t quite enough. Some kids might be able to substitute a “green dose” for their afternoon medication, allowing them to get a good night’s sleep.

“A green dose could be a lifesaver for the 10 percent of children whose symptoms don’t respond to medication, who are just stuck with the symptoms,” Kuo said. As Kuo and Faber Taylor wrote, a dose could be as simple as “a greener route for the walk to school, doing classwork or homework at a window with a relatively green view, or playing in a green yard or ball field at recess and after school.”

The National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council, U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service supported the project.

Exercise Improves Learning and Memory
Chalk up another benefit for regular exercise. Investigators from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) have found that voluntary running boosts the growth of new nerve cells and improves learning and memory in adult mice.
"Until recently it was thought that the growth of new neurons, or neurogenesis, did not occur in the adult mammalian brain," said Terrence Sejnowski, an HHMI investigator at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies. "But we now have evidence for it, and it appears that exercise helps this happen."
USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-03-26-adhd-treatment_x.htm)

ADHD treatment is getting a workout

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-03-26-adhd-treatment_x.htm
Doctors haven’t done many definitive studies about exercise and ADHD, says David Goodman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. But Goodman says it makes sense that working out would help people cope with the condition. Studies show that exercise increases levels of two key brain chemicals — dopamine and norepinephrine — that help people focus.

"Your cognitive function is probably better for one to three hours after exercise," Goodman says. "The difficulty is that by the next day, the effect has worn off."

If kids could exercise strenuously three to five times a day, they might not need medications at all, says John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Ratey is so intrigued by the question that he’s writing a book about how exercise can reduce symptoms of ADHD or at least help patients cope.

Team sports might help children with ADHD in several ways, says James Perrin, a professor of pediatrics at Boston’s MassGeneral Hospital for Children. Children with the condition benefit from following a regular schedule. Coaches who lead kids through structured exercises also might help build concentration and organizational skills.

Immediate rewards and the ADHD brain

A Nottingham University research team in the United Kingdom found that the brains of children with ADHD appear to respond to immediate rewards in the same way as they do to medication. Their research was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

“Our study suggests that both types of intervention [medicine and immediate reward/reinforcement] may have much in common in terms of their effect on the brain,” said Professor Chris Hollis, the lead investigator of  the study.

The research team used an EEG (electroencephalograph) to measure the brain activity of children as they played a computer game that provided extra points for less impulsive behavior.

The researchers devised a computer space game which rewarded the ADHD children when they caught aliens of specific colors  while avoiding aliens of designated colors. The game design actually tested the children’s ability to resist the impulse to grab the wrong colored aliens.

To test whether immediate reward/reinforcement made a difference, one iteration of the game rewarded the children fivefold for catching the right alien and penalized them fivefold for catching the wrong one.  All of this was done while activity in different parts of their brains was monitored with an EEG.

Hollis found that the immediate rewards helped the children perform better at the game. This was verified by the EEG which  revealed that both medication and immediate reward/reinforcement were "normalizing" brain activity in the same regions.

Many parents of ADHD children are aware that giving a reward to an ADHD child a week after their good behavior is insignificant to that child. ADHD children respond better to immediate reward, not delayed reward.

"Although medication and behavior therapy appear to be two very different approaches of treating ADHD, our study suggests that both types of intervention may have much in common in terms of their effect on the brain. Both help normalize similar components of brain function and improve performance,"  said Hollis.

"We know that children with ADHD respond disproportionately less well to delayed rewards – this could mean that in the ‘real world’ of the classroom or home, the neural effects of behavioral approaches using reinforcement and rewards may be less effective."

It’s obvious that providing immediate rewards/reinforcement 24 hours a day and 7 days a week would be impractical and impossible. But what does this research tell us? It tells us that if we are to train an ADHD student, feedback, reward, and reinforcement need to be immediate if we are to get their brain to rewire.

We at Play Attention have known this for many years. This is why we integrated immediate feedback/reinforcement for attention training, cognitive training, memory training, and behavioral shaping by using feedback technology. We patented this method years ago because of its inherent strength. While we knew this was the best way to achieve success, we feel research like this rather reinforces our approach. It’s about time the world caught up!

Should I play or should I grow?

PART TWO OF THREE

Entertainment vs. learning
Entertainment is usually a passive act that includes an activity which provides a distraction to everyday events or provides amusement. A good example of entertainment is watching a movie or concert. However, one may also actively participate in recreational entertainment  such as playing video games or sports. One does not participate in an entertaining activity to be educated. That is far from the goal of entertainment. In fact, we participate in entertainment to be relieved of having to work, having to learn, or having to be actively engaged for those purposes. We seek entertainment for fun and pleasure.

Entertainment is a vast industry. The modern American video game industry made about $18.85 billion on video-game hardware, software, and accessories in 2007. That’s nearly twice what movie theaters made and triple what the video game industry made in 2000. Most authorities on video games estimate that 70 to 80 percent of boys and approximately 20 percent of girls play video games daily.

Learning is on the other end of the spectrum from entertainment. In order to learn, we need attention, challenge, and deliberate practice. We need to be actively engaged. To apply the mind with the intent of long-term retention, assimilation, and application of new information. This implies both effort and commitment. While we may employ some of these elements, the purpose is far different in a learning environment. The purpose of learning in Star Trek: Bridge Commander is to keep the ship from exploding by using the controls correctly.  Learning is there to benefit your game play.  While this takes some reasoning and trial and error, is this useful in the classroom or at the office? Not likely. It’s not likely transferrable or to generalize either unless your child’s job is commanding Star Fleet.

If I may paraphrase the late martial artist and film legend Bruce Lee, you cannot learn to swim by kicking your legs and stroking with your arms on land. You have to jump in the water. You cannot learn to run a marathon by jogging around the track. 

In other words, if we want to learn something, it has to be taught with a purpose or aim, and we have to practice it deliberately to improve. If we closely examine what video games our spouse, child, or clients are playing, then we might just be alarmed at the violence, the lack of humanity, and gratuitous sex involved.

The most popular video games are those that are visually intense and graphically frenetic. It’s important to mention here that paying attention to visually stimulating and frenetic activity is another hallmark of an ADHD individual. Offer a 3-ring circus and their brain is quite capable of attending to it. Ask them to clean their room, a much less stimulating activity, and it’s very difficult. This predisposition towards highly stimulating activities seems to involve the brain’s reward and gratification systems as well as its processing and other regulatory systems.

Thus, a high stimulation Xbox or Play Station game is quite satisfying; ADHD individuals can hyperfocus on these games for hours on end. What does that teach? Research tells us that people who play these games do learn visual recognition skills, i.e. they can rapidly determine the number of opposing characters on screen far faster than the average human being. So, if the only thing they’re going to be is a fighter pilot, then these games might be suitable.

Other research tells us that if one chronically plays these games (chronically would be classified as one hour or more per day), one is more likely to report lower grades at school, diminished attention at school, and a greater probability of being addicted to these games or the Internet itself. Good Japanese research also noted that entertaining, highly stimulating video games that involve little else than pointing and shooting can lower both the metabolic rate and EEG in the frontal lobes of the brain. The frontal lobes, among other capacities, govern attention, aggression, and impulsivity. This is important to know especially if you have an ADHD person in your household using these games.

It seems that most ADHD children and adults are prewired to pay attention to overly stimulation things. That seems to be a hallmark of the trait. They frequently become hyperfocused on them for hours at a time. Taking these games away is probably not practical. However, limiting play time is quite sensible.

If one is to learn skills, techniques, or methods that will strengthen the brain, then the video game must be quite different than the Xbox or Play Station most popular list.

Upcoming, part 3, Play Attention vs. off the shelf video games.

Play Attention Excels in a Controlled Study

In late 2009, the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom performed a study on Play Attention. Children in the school system near the university used Play Attention 3 days per week for twelve weeks.  Also see: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100107083904.htm

We’ll discuss this study at our free webinar on January 13th. Please register here to attend.

These students were compared to a control group of students who did not use the system.  Play Attention students showed significant improvement in behavior and attention. One of the authors of the study said:

“Children with a diagnosis of ADHD find it hard to control their impulses and inhibit inappropriate behaviour,” said Professor Pine, “This can lead to educational and behavioural difficulties. The Play Attention method may prevent long-term problems by helping the children to be less impulsive and more self-controlled.”

The study will be published in a peer reviewed journal shortly.  The full press release from the University of Hertfordshire:

New Treatment for Hyperactivity in Children

07 January 2010 Hertfordshire, University of

A new thought-operated computer system which can reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children will be rolled out across the UK this month.

Professor Karen Pine at the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Psychology and assistant Farjana Nasrin investigated the effects of EEG (Electroencephalography) biofeedback, a learning strategy that detects brain waves, on ten children with an attention deficit from Hertfordshire schools

They used a system called Play Attention, supplied by not-for-profit community interest company, Games for Life, three times a week for twelve weeks.

The system involves the child playing a fun educational computer game whilst wearing a helmet similar to a bicycle helmet. The helmet picks up their brain activity in the form of EEG waves related to attention. As long as the child concentrates they control the games, but as soon as their attention waivers the game stops.

The researchers found at the end of the study that the children’s impulsive behaviour was reduced, compared to a control group who had not used the system.

“Children with a diagnosis of ADHD find it hard to control their impulses and inhibit inappropriate behaviour,” said Professor Pine, “This can lead to educational and behavioural difficulties. The Play Attention method may prevent long-term problems by helping the children to be less impulsive and more self-controlled.”

Professor Pine and Dr Rob Sharp a senior specialist educational psychologist are continuing to work on futuristic projects with Ian Glasscock, Managing Director of Games for Life. A means of assessing learning in children with
severe communication and physical difficulties by a thought-controlled computer game method is likely to have considerable potential for these children who cannot operate a computer manually.

“Attention-related difficulties including ADHD affects many children, young people and adults and has a significant impact on their lives,” said Mr Glasscock. "Mind-controlled educational computer games technology is the only intervention shown to reduce the core symptoms of ADHD, historically medication may have been prescribed for the child.”

Games for Life plans to roll out this new system across the UK this month.

Cognitive Skills Training and ADHD in Children

PRE-SCHOOL PROGRAM SHOWN TO IMPROVE KEY COGNITIVE FUNCTIONS, SELF-CONTROL

The following press release from the University of British Columbia maintains that a research study has demonstrated that cognitive training can improve attentional control, impulse control, and other executive functions.

Furthermore, the study’s authors cite that practice of cognitive skills in early development years may decrease incidence of ADHD. I have insisted that this was possible for nearly a decade.

Complicating this matter is the No Child Left Behind act (“NCLB”). It is my belief that the NCLB has added to the ADHD problem due in part to the program’s rigid adherence to test scores based on a watered down curriculum that forces teachers to teach the test. Subjects are taught quickly requiring rote memorization rather than significant reasoning or logical application. Additionally, teachers seldom have time to individualize curriculum or nurture students with learning disabilities like ADHD. Thus, rather than encouraging cognitive skills and the development of attention, NCLB has helped promote diffused attention while simultaneously discouraging the development of cognitive skills.

NCLB has also decreased recess time, children’s access to the arts like music and drama, and even physical education. Research has clearly demonstrated increased abilities in mathematics and other academic subjects when students are involved in music and the arts.

The press release:

Program Promises Improvement in Academic Achievement for Children of Poor Families

An innovative curriculum for preschoolers may improve academic performance, reduce diagnoses of attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and close the achievement gap between children from poor families and those from wealthier homes, according to research led by a Vancouver neuroscientist who is an expert on the development of the cognitive functions that depend on the prefrontal cortex area of the brain, called executive functions (EFs).

University of British Columbia Psychiatry Prof. Adele Diamond, who is Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, led the first evaluation of a curriculum called Tools of the Mind (Tools) that focuses on EFs. These functions include resisting distraction, giving a more considered response instead of your first impulse, working with information you are holding in mind, and the mental flexibility to think “outside the box.”

The program was developed over the last 12 years by educational psychologists Deborah Leong and Elena Bodrova and has been used in several U.S. states. Its value in improving EFs has not been determined until now.

The study is published in this week’s issue of Science.

“EFs are critical for success in school and life. These skills are rarely taught, but can be, even to preschoolers. It could make a huge difference, especially for disadvantaged children,” says Diamond, who is a member of the Brain Research Centre at UBC Hospital; the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Dept. at BC Children’s Hospital; the Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI); and the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP). Her work is also supported by Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and BC Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“The recent explosion in diagnoses of ADHD may be partly due to some children never learning to exercise attentional control and self-discipline,” says Diamond.

“Although some children are strongly biologically predisposed to hyperactivity and wouldn’t benefit from training, others may be misdiagnosed because what they actually need are skills in self-regulation.”

Previous research has shown that EFs are stronger predictors of academic performance than IQ, she adds. Children from lower-income families enter school with disproportionately poor EF skills and fall progressively farther behind in school each year – facts which Diamond says are related and correctible.

“Helping at-risk children improve EF skills early might be critical to closing the achievement gap and reducing societal inequalities. We showed EFs can be improved in preschoolers without fancy equipment and by regular teachers in regular public school classrooms.”

Most interventions target consequences of poor self-control rather than seeking prevention at an early age, as does Tools. “Early intervention – heading off problems before they develop – costs far less and achieves far better results than trying to correct problems once they have developed,” Diamond says.

“If throughout the school-day EFs are supported and progressively challenged, benefits generalize and transfer to new activities. Daily EF ‘exercise’ appears to enhance and accelerate brain development much as physical exercise improves our bodies,” she adds.

The research team, which includes investigators from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University in New Jersey, evaluated 147 five-year-olds in a low-income, urban U.S. school district. Researchers compared Tools with a balanced literacy curriculum (dBL) that covered the same academic content as Tools but without a focus on EF.

Both programs were new, instituted at the same time and used identical resources. Children and teachers in Tools and dBL were randomly assigned and teachers had equivalent levels of education and teaching experience. The children in both curricula were from the same neighborhood and ethnic group, and from families with very similar levels of income and parental education. Children received either Tools or dBL for one to two years.

Evaluation involved two computerized tests that measured EF. These tasks were different from anything any of the children had done before. Better performance by children in Tools shows that they were able to generalize and transfer their EF skills to new situations.

Tools encourages out-loud self-instruction and dramatic play. “Preschool teachers are under pressure to limit play and spend more time on instruction but social pretend play may be more critical to academic success,” says Diamond.

Technology Showing Promise in Treating Attention and Behavioral Problems in Children & Adults

An article from the October 6, 2005 issue of  MONiTOR TODAY!, Ottawa’s Technology Information portal:

Technology Showing Promise in Treating Attention and Behavioral Problems in Children and Adults.

Asheville, North Carolina – It’s a patented technology that is similar to that used by NASA astronauts and U.S. Air Force pilots to stay attentive in the cockpit. An innovative product called the Play Attention Learning System is using similar space-age technology that can now be used on home/school computers to help minimize attention, concentration and focus challenges in children and adults. Through the use of new computer technology, unique one-on-one support and a dynamic training program, Play Attention’s innovative learning system actually trains the brain to pay attention and focus better.

“NASA has proven that attention can be improved through feedback training. Play Attention is actually an enhancement to their technology which is successfully impacting the lives of children and adults worldwide,” says Peter Freer, Play Attention Founder and CEO. The results have been powerful throughout the United States, Europe, China, Canada, Singapore, Puerto Rico, South America, Taiwan, and Australia.

What is Play Attention? The Play Attention Learning System consists of a unique computer software program, a sensor-lined helmet similar to one used for bicycling and an interface unit that connects the helmet sensors to the computer. These sensors monitor the user’s attentive state and cognitive process while he/she interacts with the characters on the computer screen. Users complete a series of video game-like exercises that are controlled, not by joysticks or controllers, but by the brain alone. Through a process called Edufeedback, Play Attention users can see and hear real-time feedback of how they’re progressing in focusing, finishing tasks, increasing memory, and filtering out distractions.

Within a short time of using Play Attention, behavior can be modified to reduce or eliminate disruptive calling out, fidgeting, and impulsivity, all while improving time-on-task, focus, comprehension and more. The system helps reduce the effects of distraction at! home, school and the workplace, bringing life into focus. Play Attention encourages practice of key cognitive and attention skills that, in a relatively short amount of time, retrains the brain how to think more clearly, more attentively and with more focus.

The Play Attention Learning System is much more than computers and technology. In addition to the hardware & software a user receives personalized one-on-one support, motivation and guidance with Play Attention staff members, typically holding a master’s degree or higher. A mentor program for children and adults to insure goals are set and being reached. And free access to www.playattention.net, a support site loaded with newsletters, information about the rewards program, latest software downloads, coaching resources, interactive advice from the Play Attention staff.

The entire Play Attention Learning System sells for $1,795, which includes all equipment, materials and training. Complete information is available online: support.playattention.net or by calling (800) 788-6786 for a FREE demonstration CD.