Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"How Can Parents Identify ADD or ADHD?"

The question to be answered is; "Who can identify and remediate ADD - ADHD to help parents"? Is it a physician, a school psychologist, a brain scientist, universities’ special education or psychology departments, the school, the teacher, the parent, or a special education specialist?

Unfortunately, each has a small piece of the puzzle, and often, many of the pieces do not interface.

The author's qualifications: I am the parent of three children of whom I conducted auxiliary home schooling as I developed The Bridge To Achievement cognitive skills brain building program. They were: an ADD - ADHD student, an average grade school student, and a gifted student (all who later excelled remarkably and who are now VPs of major national companies (two of them), the third, a finance Director of an Irvine, CA company. They, and 2500 others seeking information processing acceleration, propelled to upper limits through cognitive skills retraining, which is applicable for all of us.

I have been a special education specialist/clinician heavily trained in measurement, assessment, and evaluation; a teacher with years of experience in 7 school districts, including a special education classroom, an Itinerant Learning Disability teacher, a researcher and private program administrator who set up 14 national testing sites observing that most people have deficient cognitive areas of their brain, and who conducted small group and school investigations for many years without funding support. I also set up a nonprofit parent-teacher literacy organization in 1980 to help all individuals learn more efficiently and be more productive.

According to J. R. Ramsay, "ADHD management usually involves some combination of medications, behavior modifications, lifestyle changes, and counseling. Its symptoms can be difficult to differentiate from other psychiatric or other disorders, increasing the likelihood that the diagnosis of ADHD will be missed. Additionally, most clinicians have not received formal training in the assessment and treatment of ADHD, particularly in adult patients." (Ramsay, J. Russell. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adult ADHD. Routledge, 2007).

Brain scientists can verify that there is a physical problem with a lack of dopamine, and that with ADHD, the receptors and transporters are significantly less abundant in mid-brain "reward" structures. (Arias-Carrión O, Pöppel E (2007). "Dopamine, learning and reward-seeking behavior". Act Neurobiol Exp 67 (4): 481–488. A recent (October 2009) Dana Foundation's Brain in the News p. 6 article, "Brain Scans Link ADHD to Biological Flaw Tied to Motivation" offers some contemplative thought. The article reveals 4.5 million U.S. Children have received diagnosis for the disorder, and more than half of these children take prescription drugs. There is much controversy on medication (the long-range effects on the brain and behavior) and remediation, and "how to remediate" approaches. (National Institutes of Health (NIH) "Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)". NIH Consensus Statement 1998 Nov 16(2): Reason R (1999). "ADHD: a psychological response to an evolving concept. Report of a Working Party of the British Psychological Society". Journal of learning disabilities 32 (1): 85–91.

The Dana Foundation continues (October 2009, p.6) that these scientists are "years away" from a biological test for the disorder, but their studies are a step in the right direction. In the frontal lobes, dopamine controls the flow of information from other areas of the brain. "Dopamine disorders in this region of the brain can cause a decline in neurocognitive functions, especially memory, attention, and problem-solving. Reduced dopamine concentrations in the prefrontal cortex are thought to contribute to attention deficit disorder and ADHD" (Biederman J (1998). "Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a life-span perspective." Journal of clinical psychiatry 59, (Suppl. 7): 4–16.)

Waiting for a biological measurement is not necessary, as there are many high ranking psychological batteries, which will determine cognitive weaknesses. These include: The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Revised (WISC-R) and the Woodcock-Johnson Psycho Educational Battery (WJ); Test 1 Cognitive Skills Test Battery and Test 2 measures Academic Achievement among others. In the 1970s- to 1980s, these tests were widely used by schools to identify learning disabled students in accordance to Public Law 94-142 in 1975. (the first predecessor was PL 89-750, 1966). Gradually, these tests gave way to simpler measurements, if any. Students were placed in remedial classrooms to receive tutoring. Abilities were not changed. The the learning deficient status quo was maintained, and often test scores stagnated. Lives became limited.

Who can administer these tests and how is it diagnosed? Tests can be given by any professional trained and certified at the master's or doctoral level having educational and psychological testing and measurement proficiency. This includes physicians, psychologists, special education clinicians, and university experts. Evaluators look for high and deficient or low cognitive areas, which can be improved through a specific therapy regimen.

What do they charge for a full battery? The fees usually run $2,500-$4,000 depending on how many subtests are given, and how many hours it takes to administer them. Since many object to these measurement fees, they prefer amphetamine medication.

However, you can request some of these tests from your school at no cost. Unfortunately, they are backed up with measurement requests, and are reluctant to do the WISC-R and in depth Woodcock Johnson Psycho Educational Batteries as they are labor intensive and time consuming, let alone the time it takes to score, evaluate, and report the complete results in special meetings.

Yet, according to the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement (PL 108-446) schools are required to furnish independent evaluations and evidenced-based management techniques (Turnbull, H. R., Stowe, M.J., and Huerta, N.E. 2007, Free Appropriate Public Education 7th edition, Denver, Co: Love Publishing Co. p. 362).

It was most unusual that I was conducting scientific inquiry testing since 1980, for overly nominal fees or for pro bono, in order to gather important data for thousands of individuals. For twenty years, a series of publications documented the progress. With the fortitude to continue the investigations, additional scientific reports are in publication process. Testing and reporting a specific protocol with various ages, abilities, and demographic groups for nearly three decades was deemed landmark in 2001 (International Alliance for Learning publication, June 2001). How can you find a program that will "actually work?" That will take research.

Examine the program’s research, and how long they have been practicing and collecting results that show academic achievement gains longitudinally. Longitudinal results are difficult to come by, as it takes roughly 7-8 years for any experiment to be administered, evaluated, concluded, and published. The good news is that everyone can step forward whether there are minimal or more serious cognitive skill deficits. Plus the consideration that behavioral remediation is possible as an alternative to medication!

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Cognitive Skills Training or Brain-Based Learning; Which Is It?"

Cognitive Skills training has a long history from the 1960s into the 1970s. Since it is a scientific, technical term, the average lay person is not sure as to what it really means. It can convey a detrimental underlying meaning that something mentally is wrong with the person.

This is not the case. Unless you understand the psychometric testing that measures the information processing and cognitive skill components, the subject becomes complicated. Unless one has advanced course work in this area, it is difficult to explain memory and cognitive processes in simple terms. Yet, we all have a particular cognitive profile, and most of us do not realize or know what it is.

For years, cognitive psychologists tested for problems, and gave medication or remediation. Little assistance was available for the average person. Teachers knew they had learning and behavioral difficulties in the classroom. Yet, it became too tedious and time consuming to complete full psychological batteries on the many children requiring identification. And, only the certified School Psychologist could administer the complex testing batteries. Yet, something had to be done.

In jumped "Brain-Based Learning" into the typical classroom. Many teachers and lay people came up with an irrational exuberance of solutions. The problem was that these techniques or methodologies were randomly implemented and not scientifically tested. It became a "hit and miss" proposition.

Interestingly, it requires minimally 12 hours of pre- and post-testing and a few more hours of evaluation to arrive at solid conclusions. This level of work becomes mind-boggling, and psychologists and specialists deservedly charge solid professional fees.

Since people are not willing to make large investments unless there is a real nagging necessity for it, subsequently the average person is not often, or ever, tested for cognitive skills weaknesses.

Yet, I conducted these exhaustive, comprehensive, standardized measurements and evaluations on thousands of high average, average, low average, and gifted individuals as part of the course pro bono because of my scientific curiosity. Each had a unique profile, which could be improved.

Importantly, I could see dramatic change with my intervention, although experienced at different time intervals by each individual. I knew how important it would be to document it completely.

Living in a university town, full professors and statisticians volunteered their services for this important analyses work, that entailed twenty years of publications and almost thirty of applied research practice. I had many scholarly advisors. As the work progressed through publications and peer review, additional psychology and education professors from different universities analyzed and followed the unique data compilations.

Scientific discovery was in process.

Today, there are programs that have statistical results, but few that have longitudinal findings. In other words, does the training intervention "last"? It takes years to collect this type of data, especially among various demographic groups. It is also difficult to locate the same individual years down the road for subsequent testing. Additionally, even if they are located, are clients willing to be retested years later?

Of my seven experiments, six studies, with a variety of ages and demographic groups, had 1-3 years longitudinal tracking with complete positive findings.

For further information, see the link "scholarly publications" on the nav bar. For comment, click on:" Respond Further on Jan's Blog."

Monday, August 31, 2009

"Connecting Creativity Applications into the Classroom"

In July, I entered a blog commentary regarding adding creativity through puppetry with choral speech into the classroom to help children learn faster. Unfortunately, there are still teachers and schools who resist creative applications, even if they are so-called "proven." This factor has always been a puzzling factor to me, as I have instructed critical thinking skills with creative applications for many years successfully with various demographic classroom groups and ages.

This resistance is because they are unsure of what to protocols use and how to use them. Administrators and educators also worry they will be criticized for being creative when there are pressures for making annual yearly progress achievement with their students.

Recent educational change articles published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's Educational Leadership, September 2009 | Volume 67 | Number 1
Teaching for the 21st Century Pages 22-26 "Why Creativity Now? A Conversation with Sir Ken Robinson," by Amy M. Azzam. Subtitled: " Creativity: It's been maligned, neglected, and misunderstood." But it's finally coming into its own. Here, creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for creativity as the crucial 21st century skill we'll need to solve today's pressing problems.

It goes on to say, "It's interesting that people see creativity and critical thinking as being opposed. It's partly because people associate creativity with being totally free and unstructured. But what we really have to get hold of is the idea that you can't be creative if you don't do something. Creativity is a process of having original ideas that have value."

It is important that the applied creative applications are not mere time consuming "fluff," but are used as a tool for teaching critical thought central to academic achievement.

Teachers now have the resources for finding both creativity and critical thinking. Of course, they are pressed for time with budget constraints to find and use them. What professionals and parents can do is find reliable, documented resources such as this website, where it is all spelled out for them. This site can point parents and educators in the right direction to achieving success both at home and in the classroom.

This may sound like a "no-brainer," but creative applications are the tool for how you make annual yearly progress (AYP), or showing student academic yearly improvement. Now, I am not trying to sell my own researched The Bridge To achievement program. Unfortunately, it is at this time unavailable for implementation, as it will be adapted to a e-Learning platform.

At some point in the future it will become available through publishing houses. Nevertheless, it is crucial for parents, teachers, and schools to become informed of "what works," and how to use proven methods to make their own lives more fruitful.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"Multi-Sensory Training in the Traditional Classroom?"

Many schools today are embracing change to help learner's perform easier and at a faster rate. There are multitudes of commercial programs, yet few have in-depth scientific documentation. This is because it takes years and years of experimentation to obtain it.

Multi-sensory education has been around for many years, even before I applied it in 1980, nearly thirty years ago, having learned from the experts and textbooks of that time.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was a push for sensory integration through auditory-visual-motoric-kinesthetic applications, led by Jean Ayres, Chalfant and Scheffelin, and others. (in Lerner, J. W. 1976, 1971; Children with Learning Disabilities, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston p. 180). Inter-sensory exercises were emphasized during the 1970s, then they were abandoned. Other, often lesser effective, methods replaced them.

The missing link was the creative inter-sensory Accelerated Learning applications that could be applied to these theories. In 1980, I applied them with The Bridge To Achievement program, and it has taken me nearly thirty years to show documentation that they work. Traditionalists were skeptical and children , especially those with learning difficulties, often floundered, as they stayed within a narrow educational mindset.

Now, brain science is verifying the early works of the eminent professors and the practitioners, like myself. The last several issues of Brain in the News by the Dana Foundation, Washington DC, tout how Neuroaesthetics and Neuroeducation are moving forward together. They state that the elements of the theater through simultaneous use of several sensory inputs, work for activating the brain for learning (July 2009, p. 3).

The multitudes of published learning applications may very well move in this direction, because they do create the academic achievement change that is now not only necessary, but mandatory.