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ADHD Evaluating Executive Functions and Cognitive Skills
The past decade had been called the “decade of the brain” and it truly has been. The Neuro- Sciences have exploded. The bedrock of neurology just ten years ago (that the brain is hard-wired early on in development and that I.Q id fixed) has crumbled.
New sophisticated sensing and computer imaging equipment now make it possible to observe the brain at work.
We now know that the brain is in a constant state of remodeling based on the stimulation it receives.
This work starts not long after conception and continues until death. With programmed stimulation Neuroscientists have found I.Q. can be increased 15% or more. Ronald Kotulak, author of Inside Brain State, “ Research indicates that certain exercises can build up specific brain areas, and some scientists are setting up programs to use this knowledge to help learning disabled children. Our porgram is one of those programs and works as follows:
First neurological pathways are stimulated to a slight overload by doing physical, sensory activities.
These activities are similar to physical therapy used to create new pathways or replace damaged circuits when treating people with brain injuries.
As new cognitive neurons connect, information is processed more efficiently. Rockefeller University’s Bruce McEwen says,” The most important thing is to realize that the brain is growing and changing all the time. It feeds on stimulation, and it is never too late to feed it.”
Second each of us is born with an incredible mind, but it doesn’t come with an owner’s manual that tells us how it operates. We create an awareness of how the brain receives, processes and stores information, thus giving and individual the opportunity to select the most efficient process option available. This makes learning easier and advancement surer.
Third, when one struggles with learning behavior traits develop which markedly slow or stop a person’s willingness to keep trying. They feel like a victim with no control. Attitude and behavior are improved through the use of Life Management
Concepts. Through these principles, students learn how to navigate their world. They learn how to articulate their needs and to overcome potential barriers. This change is permanent.
Frequently parents, spouses or friends will say: “ I know he is bright, but sometimes his mind just seems to short-circuit. “
In very simplistic terms that is exactly what happens. But as mental skills develop, the old circuits are strengthened to replaced by more efficient ones.
The brain actually grows and becomes denser as circuits are added.
The reverse will also occur from lack of stimulation. The brain is similar to a muscle in that it can be developed to perform previously impossible tasks with proper training but will deteriorate with non-use.
Executive Function and Cognitive Mental Skills
Focus- The ability of a student to keep the eyes and mind one task long enough to gather all pertinent information can have a profound effect on how the student learns. If the eyes and mind cannot focus long enough to collect all relevant pieces, the brain must guess at the information and fill in the blanks. This can be one reason a student repeatedly misreads words or misunderstands concepts because vital parts of needed information are missed. Students with poor focus are often labeled ADD or ADHD
Cross-Patterning- It has long been known that certain kinds of information may become trapped in various areas of the brain by ineffective processing. It is also known that a strong dominance of one side of the brain over the other can cause processing difficulties. Through the activities used in this program. Communication between the various parts of the brain improves, and the information is released. These activities enable the non-dominant side of the brain to become more active and its processes more accessible. These exercises are sometimes called “cross-patterning exercise.
Motor Match-Motor Match is the ability of the brain to respond within a given time frame. A weak motor match is often a problem for students who have difficulty with reading fluency. This means that all involved parts of the brain do not coordinate to process information efficiently during the course of reading. When this occurs, the student will read with an extremely choppy or uneven rhythm. The student may also repetitively misread words.
Mental Picture (Visual Memory) - Mental Picture or visual memory is of particular importance in the process of reading. The brain treats each word as a shape. Each word creates its own unique form, which the student must immediately recognize. A person with good visual memory will begin to initiate an instant recall after only 6-7 exposures to a word. A person with poorly developed visual memory might need 45-50 exposures to a word before he develops this instant recall. Consequently, the individual will learn to read, but at a much slower rate and only with great effort.
Visual skills have other important functions as well. As we read, we must put words and phrases together to conceptualize the meaning of words. If we can form a clear“mental picture” or visualize what is taking place in the text, we are easily able to conceptualize meaning. If we can imagine the step-by-step procedure as a math concept is being explained, we can easily understand and recall the method for later use. These skills also play a major part in helping us remember the correct spelling of words. We must remember what a word looks like (bouquet, for instance) in order to correctly spell it. (If you spell words phonetically, you are not good at spelling.) These skills can even help you recall where you put your keys.
Tracking- One of the primary visual skills needed to perform the act of reading is the ability of eyes to track. During the act of reading, the eyes must accurately follow the lines of the text and move precisely from one word to the next. If a student has not developed this skill, he may consistently lose his place or skip lines or words. It is a surprising fact that some students do not naturally develop this critical skill. In one study (Koslowe 1995), “Visual tracking was found to be the significant visual deficit in a group of 100 elementary school children referred to a center for reading disabilities
Figure Ground- The process of figure Ground is the ability to focus on the ‘Figure” or the relevant stimuli against a background of competing stimuli. This volume of stimuli coming to the brain at any given time is incredible. The brain must automatically and rapidly sort the pertinent incoming information from the insignificant. (If a student responds appropriately, he will ignore the person tapping a pencil in the next seat or the noises in the hall and focus on the relevant information being given by the teacher.) If the sorting of information does not properly occur, the brain is bombarded with an overabundance of stimuli and a student tends to respond inappropriately or may react with inappropriate behavior. The mental focus may vary depending on an individual’s level of interest I the information being given and the amount of competing input the brain is required to filter out. People with attention deficit hyperactive disorder or ADHD have low figure ground.
Directional Discrimination- Directional discrimination is the skill of movement or sequence. Seeing “b” as “d”, or “p” as “q,” reading “was” as “saw” writing from right to left and not knowing right from left are all symptoms of low directional skills. When directional discrimination is low even two or three simple directives at once can be confusing and setting a goal with a sequence of steps can seem impossible. People that struggle with directional discrimination are sometimes called dyslexic.
Position In Space- This is the skill we use in determining where we are in relation to our physical and emotional world. When this skill is low, one may become physically disoriented. This may occur when trying to find your car in a parking lot or you may lose your place on the page as you read. Frequently, low position in space will cause an inaccurate perception of one’s relationship with others. “ How close is our relationship?’ One may often vacillate between shy and obnoxious. This skill is essential to understand Geography (where are things located) and History (when did various events occur) and how they all fit together.
Size- The skill of size is the skill we use in understanding volume. It is used in concrete as well as abstract environments. It is used to interpret information arriving in the brain from all senses. We use it in interpreting how loud, how sweet, how pungent, how far, how large a task, how much time it will take and how significant a situation is.
A misperception in size will cause major problems when associated with a task, schedule, or reaction to others. When perception is too lager, tasks may be seen as overwhelming. When perception is too small, a task may be left to the last minute when completion is impossible. Schedules can be incredibly frustrating when “ They don’t give me enough time!” Over or under reacting to others may be seen as insensitivity or extremism.
Shape - Shape is the mental skill we use to give structure to our world through categorization. All information fed through our senses to our brain processed according to shape. Our linguistic system is based on shape. Speech is sound symbols attached to a shape, i.e., a cow is initially identified by its shape. The written language is merely a series of shapes we call the alphabet, with their accompanying sound symbols placed in varying orders. If a person has trouble with shape, he will often have difficulty with conceptualization, the structures of life, language, reading, math, and some speech.
The difficulty is often inconsistent. For example, a parent knows a child understands the material because he had correctly responded a moment earlier.
Unfortunately when asked for the same information a second time it may be processed incorrectly.
The parent or teacher, not understanding the weak underlying processing skill, will assume the child is not paying attention or daydreaming and both become very frustrated.
Hearing Discrimination- Hearing discrimination is the mind’s ability to process combinations of sounds that make up language. Sometimes (for many reasons) these neuronic connections do not properly develop. The result is the inability of a person to mentally hear/process some of the sounds used in communication. When this happens the use of phonics is impossible; spelling suffers, and verbal exchanges (particularly instructions) are misunderstood. Frustration is often high when a person feels that he understood what was required, worked hard to perform and then is told his work is wrong.
Learning Preference- We do not use our sense equally when gathering information. For most purposes the eyes, ears, and a sense we call muscle memory are used. At an early age, we all develop a preference for one of these senses over the other two, and this choice generally stays with us for a lifetime. This preference is more pronounced in a child.
Visual -People who prefer to use their eyes to gather information will read instructions or detailed information on a subject first. They may not like or understand verbal instruction. Frequently they will stay away from physical activities. Often an “eyesight” person will be sensitive to the visual order of their environment.
Auditory - Individuals who prefer to use their ears to gather information will tend to be strong conversationalists and may relax by listening to music. They will prefer listening to informational topics rather than reading the material. Reading instructions or directions will be difficult, and they will much rather be told what is needed. They will tend to require some verbal instructions before starting a task.
Kinesthetic - Muscle memory is the way we learn most physical activities. People who prefer to learn by muscle memory are doers first. They will prefer little or no instruction but would rather figure it out as they go along. Their hobbies will be ones that require Manual dexterity, particularly sports and handicraft-type activities.
The world we live in does not oblige us and give us information in the form we prefer. This frequently makes informational input more difficult for us, particularly muscle memory people, because over 80% of all information is directed to eyes or ears. This percentage is even higher in a school setting and many vocations. It is not unusual for and eyesight person to have problems with oral lectures or instructions while an ear person may have difficulty with the written word.
It is interesting to note that we give out information in the same manner we prefer to receive it. This fact can make our communications more effective if we communicate using the receiving person’s preference, rather than own.