Friday, April 25, 2008

Non medical approach to ADHD

I got this email after posting a story earlier this week on ADHD medications and heart problems in kids:

"You should consider informing your audience that there are alternatives to battling ADHD, other then medication. Play Attention is a computer based attention training program that has been helping clients develop attention skills since 1996. Thousand of people have graduated from the program and have gained success in coping with attention programs."

The goal of this blog is to help parents stay informed, not make people money who are selling kid related products. That has really been a challenge. I get so many emails each day from people asking me to plug their product. It's hard to determine which products parents would like to know about and which ones are a waste of time. That being said, I do feel like "non-medical approaches" to treating ADHD is a good topic. I have no idea whether the product mentioned above works, but it is very interesting. There is an interview with the product's inventor at the end of this post.

Here's some information on Non-medical approaches to treating ADHD.
Several intervention approaches are available for ADHD such as:
  • Psychotherapy works to help people with ADHD to like and accept themselves despite their disorder. As they talk, the psychologist tries to help them understand how they can change.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people work on immediate issues. Rather than helping people understand their feeling and actions, it supports them directly in changing their behavior. The support might be practical assistance or to encourage new behaviors by giving praise or rewards each time the person acts in the desired way. A psychologist might use such techniques to help a belligerent child to control his fighting, or an impulsive teenager to think before she speaks.

  • Social skill training can also help children learn new behaviors. In social skill training, the therapist discusses and models appropriate behaviors like waiting for a turn, sharing toys, asking for help, or responding to teasing, then gives children a chance to practice.

  • Parenting skills training offered by a therapist or in special classes gives parents tools and techniques for managing their child's behavior. Parents may also be taught to give the child "quality time" each day, in which they share a pleasurable or relaxed activity.
Now to the product mentioned above called Play Attention.

Play Attention uses special games that don’t require a joystick to play. Instead they work off brainpower. The student can control video games through a sensor-lined helmet. The child's mind power controls screen action.
Play Attention is based on the same technology that NASA uses to train astronauts to increase
attention during flight simulator training to insure peak performance during flight.

Typically within the first 30 days, minor changes will appear. These may include better listening skills, beginning homework on one's own, or staying more organized. It is important to understand that these are significant positive leaps forward for ADHD students and must be rewarded/reinforced so that they are likely to be repeated.

Jen: How did you come up with this invention?
CEO Peter Freer: I was teaching children in rural Appalachia and met John. He had severe attention problems and his family could not manage him. Even though I had a Master’s in Education, I was not trained to teach ADHD students. I went back to university to ask my professors what to do. They told me to do the same things we do now: move John closer to my desk, give him and IEP, rewards program, behavioral shaping program, checklists, etc. I was reasonably successful when I incorporated these strategies. John’s family was not satisfied as John could not comply at home. He came in one day and placed his head on his desk which abutted mine. I asked if he were sleepy. He pushed a note across his desk without saying a word or lifting his head.
His pediatrician had placed him on medication. They could never get John’s dosage correct or the medication was just not right for him. I couldn’t determine which. I had special training in educational computer programming from my graduate work. I began to research what I could do to help kids like John do to increase attention. I knew that computer programs were intrinsically interesting to students. I also stumbled across the fact that NASA was using feedback based technology to increase attention in pilots and astronauts. I closely examined their work and actually began speaking with the scientists who developed the work there. Six years later, I had Play Attention. However, I had watched John struggle through the educational system. He had been incarcerated twice and I think he’s in jail now for impulsively stealing and fighting. Watching many intelligent children and adults struggle and fail galvanized me, pushed me to find a solution.

Jen: How much does it cost to purchase the system and get training? Do you take insurance? Peter: The home system is $1795.00. The price includes everything a family needs to train including: full 2 hour telephone tutorial with a Master’s level educator who serves as a dedicated family support agent; free data analysis from our educational staff to help every step of the way; free technical support; free educational support should the parents need an IEP developed at school; a full behavioral shaping plan to extinguish fidgeting, etc.; cognitive training to improve skills lacking like finishing tasks, organization, memory, filtering-out distractions, auditory processing, etc.; and of course, attention training. Some insurance companies cover educational interventions, other do not.

Jen: How do you measure how successful the product is?
Peter: All data are stored in Play Attention related to cognitive training. So we assess improvements to short-term memory, time-on-task, ability to discriminate visually and audibly, visual tracking, working memory, spatial memory, attention perseverance, auditory processing, reaction time, and data chunking capability. These data can be printed and viewed as graphs so everyone can watch improvement over time. We also specialize in Academic Bridging. This is the act of generalizing time-on-task to an actual homework assignment. Academic Bridging is something we may want to chat about as it is too complex to describe here.

Jen: Your website mentions Play Attention and autism. How has it helped these kids?
Peter: I’ve attached an article that demonstrates this. It’s quite compelling.
(If you want me to forward you the article, email me at newsanchormom {at} gmail {dot} com.)

Jen: Does play attention have a better success record with kids than it does with adults? ( because kid's brains are still developing)
Peter: The brain in highly malleable, even in adulthood. We term this neuroplasticity. If one wishes to rewire or make change, the brain can accommodate through deliberate practice in either children or adults.

Jen: Anything else you want to mention?
Peter: We are in thousands of homes, over 450 school districts in the US, psychologists’ offices, doctors’ offices, learning centers, TBI (traumatic brain injury) hospitals, and even work with the US Women’s Olympic Bobsled Team. NASA invited me to speak at the National Space Society Conference to discuss enhancements to their space technology which have aided terrestrial citizens of Earth. We’ve received three patents with one pending based on these enhancements. I spoke at the United Nations in Vienna, Austria last year as a recognized expert in the field of human performance training.

If you are interested in this device, there is a live webinar showing how it works next Wednesday, April 30th on

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


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