In my previous blog, I talked about the idea that attention difficulties in children could actually be other problems masquerading as ADD/ADHD. Appropriate testing can identify whether this is the case. If testing shows that a child has genuine attention problems, there may be ways of intervening that will reduce or eliminate medications. One alternative to medication may be the Interactive Metronome (IM) program. During IM training, the student listens to a series of rhythmic beats through headphones. As he listens, the student must perform repetitive hand and foot exercises in conjunction with those beats. His hands and feet are connected to sensors, and the student receives auditory feedback that tells him whether his responses are too fast, too slow, or on time. This allows him to constantly refine his timing and movement.
Interactive Metronome was originally developed to enhance rhythmic skills in musicians. However, as it was used it was found to also have an effect on other areas, including attention span, distractibility, sequential thinking, impulsiveness, fine and gross motor control, control of aggression, fluency in reading and math, and handwriting.
IM training affects the planning, sequencing, and execution of motor impulses (movement). Because so many tasks depend upon coordinated motor control—speech, writing, general muscular coordination, eye movements, etc.—the fine-tuning of motor control affects academic areas that use those skills (for example, improved eye movements affect reading fluency). Children with ADHD have below-normal activity in the prefrontal region of the brain responsible for refined motor control; therefore, systematically training the brain’s motor planning and sequencing affects attentional skills. And, because this region of the brain coordinates with other parts of the brain, IM training has an impact on thinking, reasoning, processing, and organizational skills that involve timing and sequencing. By refining the underlying brain timing skills, many areas of performance are affected. For more information about Interactive Metronome, please refer to the website, www.interactivemetronome.com
Play Attention is another valuable program for helping children with attention difficulties. This program uses a modified biofeedback format along with behavioral monitoring to target attention and focus. A helmet with built-in electrodes monitors brainwave activity, targeting those different brainwaves that predominate during information processing and during daydreaming. The student is able to control various activities on the screen using only his focusing skills. As he focuses, certain activities occur, and as he loses focus he loses the ability to control the activities. Thus, the student is able to directly observe how disruptive behaviors and distractions affect his attention. Students who have been told all of their lives to, “Pay attention!” or “Focus!” can learn how it actually feels to do so by observing the activity on the screen.
At Restored Hope Remedial Services, we carefully test for underlying contributors to attention problems. If we find such factors, we correct them. If we think that Interactive Metronome or Play Attention could be helpful, we make those recommendations. For attention problems, as with many factors that contribute to learning difficulties, there is Hope
Ken Schmidt, Director
Restored Hope Remedial Services