Tag Archive for 'ADD'

Could digital devices make attention worse?

Ever wondered if using digital devices is harmful to kids?

For those who just popped into this century, it is obvious that the education press is ripe with discussion of digital devices in classrooms. For the rest of us, the number of stories about the promise of tablets, games, and all their brothers, sisters, and cousins has just grown greater every year.

All this growth of technology has led people to voice reservations about technology in education, including education for students with learning disabilities. Some people probably needlessly fret that digital devices might deter children from learning to read and write (as noted at # 10 in “10 Big Concerns about Tablets in the Classroom”), and common complaints are that the devices are inherently distracting, that multi-tasking will reduce productivity, and that students will use them to do things other than assigned tasks (e.g., messaging each other). Probably most of these are overstated.

In fact, psychologist (and friend of LD Blog) Dan Willingham published an opinion piece in the New York (NY, US) Times entitled “Smartphones Don’t Make Us Dumb” that debunked the idea that devices disrupt attention, if not promoting inattention.

AS much as we love our digital devices, many of us have an uneasy sense that they are destroying our attention spans. We skitter from app to app, seldom alighting for long. Our ability to concentrate is shot, right?

Research shows that our intuition is wrong.

You should read Dan’s entire column (see link at the title), however, to get his full take on these ideas. You’ll have to concentrate, of course. (Also, watch for his forthcoming book, Raising Kids Who Read. I bet it’s going to be a good one.)

Block those bullies

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQp8N7P8zsU&hl
Language Warning!
Do not click play if the words n- – – – or
f- – – – offend you.

As the beginning of school approaches, many schools will be considering what to do about bullying, a problem the plagues many students with Learning Disabilities (LD). But, what do we know about the connections between special ed and bullying? Can bullying mess up a student’s IEP? Here’s a little background and some suggested resources.

As one might suspect, one of the difficulties for students with LD is that they are perceived as victims of bullies. Nabuzoka and Smith’s (1993) analysis of sociometric data from ~180 pre-adolescent students, about 20% of whom had LD, showed that those with LD were more likely to be victims of bullying than their non-disabled peers, despite not being judged more aggressive. Estell et al. (2009) reported that teachers considered fifth-grade students with high-incidence disabilities likely to be victims of bullies. However, both teachers and the students’ peers rated them to as likely to be bullies. Those students with disabilities who behaved aggressively were the ones who were more likely to be nominated as bullies.
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LearningRx in the popular press

Sandy Hausman, Charlottesville (VA, US) reporter for WVTF (one of the local public radio stations available in my listening area), carried a story about LearningRx and Learning Disabilities this morning. Unlike the credible coverage provided by many reporters for popular-but-unproven therapies for LD and other disorders, Ms. Hausman provided a sensible and balanced story about LearningRx. Here’s the blurb from WVTF’s Web site

Americans spend millions of dollars keeping our bodies in shape. Now a Charlottesville man is offering a workout for the brain. His center–part of a nationwide franchise–promises to help children and adults improve their concentration, memory, reasoning, and other mental skills. Sandy Hausman has the story.

Unlike many reporters who too-often fall for pop-psych and pop-ed theories (as regularly noted in other posts here on LD Blog), Ms. Hausman gets many facts right (e.g., prevalence of LD), phrases her report carefully (describes LearningRx reports as “internal studies”), includes appropriate caveats along with personal-interest angles, and even incorporates alternative explanations from the experts she interviews.

This is an example of journalism done better. Listen to an MP3 of Ms. Hausman’s report and explore WVTF.org.

More on smoking and neuropsych disorders

New research shows that using nicotine during pregnancy affects genes involved in myelination and, consequently may help explain why the children of mothers who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to develop such psychiatric disorders as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, autism, and even drug abuse. In a paper presented at Neuroscience 2010, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Professor Ming Li, Ph.D., of the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA, US) reported that when rats were given nicotine during pregnancy, their offspring manifested changes in myelin genes for the limbic system, especially the prefrontal cortex, a brain region important for decision-making.

“Our research shows that gestational treatment with nicotine significantly modifies myelin gene expression in specific brain regions that are involved in behavioral processes,” according to Professor Li, leader of the study. “Myelin deficits have been observed in adults with various psychiatric disorders. Our findings suggest that abnormal myelination may contribute to the psychiatric disorders associated with maternal smoking.”
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K. Ellison again

For those who haven’t been paying attention, Katherine Ellison has appeared on multiple media outlets promoting her book, Buzz. She had another entry, this time in the Washington Post yesterday (20 November 2010). Given the recent release of the US Centers for Disease Control prevalence study, this is pretty timely and, award-winning journalist that she is, Ms. Ellison notes the connection in her lead.

As the mother of a teenager who got a diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in 2004, I wasn’t surprised to read the new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said the number of ADHD cases in children jumped by 22 percent between 2003 and 2007 – an increase of 1 million kids.

But, she goes on to add lots more good content to her op-ed piece published under the headline “Doing battle with the ADHD-industrial complex.”
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ADHD prevalence in US nears 1 in 10

Telephone surveys of parents in the US about the health and well-being of 73,123 children and youths between 4 and 17 years of age revealed that at one time or another 9.5% of the parents said “a doctor or other health-care provider had … told [the parent] that [the] child had ‘attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactive disorder, that is, ADD or ADHD.'” This represents a substantial increase from the 7.8% of parents who responded in the same way to a similar question four years earlier.

I don’t have time to dive into the details of the study right now, but interested readers can chase it through the US Centers for Disease Control. It was published several days ago as “Increasing Prevalence of Parent-Reported Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Children — United States, 2003 and 2007” in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

DLD fall conference is just around the corner

Check out the fine slate of workshop sessions available to registered guests at the annual “Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice” meeting of the Division for Learning Disabilities, which is to be held in Baltimore (MD, US) 29 and 30 October. Of course, I am biased, but I consider this one of the outstanding professional development opportunities of the year in learning disabilities, including the more specific disabilities such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and so forth (as well as related disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).
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Think Aloud redux

Over on Twitter, friend of LD Blog Liz Ditz retweeted this:

RT @Includekidswdis: Stop, Think, Do a program by Lindy Petersen http://is.gd/1FQ0h which can really help children with #ADHD

I took a quick look and immediately remembered the work of Bonnie Camp and her colleagues (especially Mary Ann Bash) during the previous millennium. Dr. Camp and her group developed, researched, and refined methods for teaching children with learning and behavior problems, including attention deficit disorders, to manage their behavior. The Think Aloud program was at the forefront of the cog-mod mania that swept through child clinical psychology and special education in the 70s and 80s.

THINK ALOUD is a psychoeducational training progtam designed to enhance social and cognitive problem solving skills for increasing prosocial behavior and decreasing impulsivity. Much of the program content was chosen to correct cognitive deficits displayed by young aggressive boys. (1,2) Research on verbal mediation indicated that before internal controls could be established, many children needed first to establish effective control by verbalizing aloud then fading to a silent level. The Think Aloud Program was designed to teach children a problem solving process (including problem identificaton, generation of alternative solutions, predicting consequences and evaluating outcomes), how to verbalize aloud, how to apply this process in both cognitive and social situations, then move to silent direction and control of behavior. The original research with the program was conducted in two controlled trials and one refresher program with pairs of 6-8 year old boys rated as hyperaggressive by their teachers. (3,4,7,8,9,12) The manual for this program, along with details of research findings, is presented in Think Aloud: Small Group Program (11).

The numerals in the quote are footnotes (not surprisingly). They refer to only a few of the dozens of sources Dr. Camp provides.

Although it is a bit rough as a Web site, Dr. Camp has created an Internet site for Think Aloud. It features citations for those sources as well as some of the original materials. In addition, she has made some new materials for the program available as downloads.

Link to the Think Aloud site.

Preschool attention predicts early literacy skills

Christie Walcott and colleagues reported that children whom preschool teachers rated as having attention problems had lower scores later on phonemic awareness, letter knowledge, and rapid naming. Here’s the abstract.

Objective: The link between significant attention problems and reading difficulties among school-age children is clear, but few have examined the impact of early inattention on preliteracy development. This longitudinal study examines this link. Method: A total of 47 children had repeated measures of teacher-rated attention problems and three key preliteracy skills (phonemic awareness, letter knowledge, and rapid naming) in both preschool and kindergarten. Results: Teacher-reported attention problems in preschool significantly and negatively predicted both phonemic awareness and letter naming scores 1 year later, even after controlling for initial language ability and preschool performance on these tasks. Levels of preschool inattention did not significantly predict rapid automatic naming 1 year later. Likewise, preschool preliteracy scores did not predict attention problems in kindergarten. Conclusion: Early attention problems may interfere with the acquisition of certain preliteracy skills. Implications of these findings and directions for future research are presented.

Walcott, C. M., Scheemaker, A., & Bielski, K. (2009). Research brief: A longitudinal investigation of inattention and preliteracy development. Journal of Attention Disorders, 13, [online first, so no page numbers yet]. doi:10.1177/1087054709333330

ADHD meds and academic achievement

Writing in Pediatrics Richard M. Scheffler and colleagues reported that elementary-aged children who took medication for ADHD had higher mathematics and reading scores than their unmedicated peers with ADHD. The research team identified individuals in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten Class data set whose parents repeatedly reported that they had been diagnosed with ADHD and compared the achievement data for those children with ADHD whose parents said their child had taken medication to the achievement of those children with ADHD whose parents said their child had not taken medication. The scores of the children who had taken medication were about two or three tenths of a school year higher than those of the children who had not taken medication.

Although these findings extend the scientific understanding of psychopharmacologic treatment of ADHD, it is important to note that they are essentially correlational, not experimental. Although the study is very well done (uses a good data set, sophisitcated statistical analysis, etc.), the children were not randomly assigned to medication and non-medication conditions. It is possible that (a) some other factors explain why some children were or were not medicated, and that other factor may be the cause of the differences in achievement or (b) that children who had higher achievement were simply less likely to be medicated.

Here’s the abstract:
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