ADD / ADHD, Dyslexia

Growing up dyslexia leaves you ill-equipped for the world. Your education success is generally low, your poor short-term memory puts in you at a disadvantage in most situation and often poor social skills limit your ability to make friends. Add all the normal teenage problems of hormones, acne and trying to work out who you are, and the transition from child to adult can be very difficult. Fortunately I found an unlikely support group that gave me a chance to develop friendships, social skills and the concept of who I was. This group involved assassins, fighters, thieves and hoard of monsters. It was my local Dungeons & Dragons group.

The name Dungeons & Dragons (or D&D for short) will be familiar to most. A few years ago they made two films under the name and in the nineties it was a Saturday morning cartoon. But to me and millions of others around the world, it will always be a roleplaying game. A game of imagination, dice and arcane rules that is the haunt of intelligent but awkward teenage boys everywhere.

The premise of the game is simple. Each player has a character modeled after one the great heros of the Grey fantasy literature. e.g. a Barbarian like Conan, a noble fighter like Aragorn or a cunning thief in the mold of Mouser. The game is lead by a Dungeon Master (DM) who describes the action and controls the monsters. It’s he who plans the lost cities for the players to explore and interprets the hundreds of rules that make up D&D. Individual sessions of the game last many hours and completing a single adventure often takes weeks.

In this unlikely, fantasy setting I learnt skills that the real world had failed to teach me. In a group of similarly social inept teenagers, my lack of social skills did not impede me, allowing me to build friendships that have lasted 25 years. The D&D fantasy setting also taught me problem solving skills and teamwork as often a deadly trap or a fiendish puzzle would block the adventurers path and could only be overcome by cooperation. Even the mass of rule books with their pages and pages of dry text helped. Normally the requirement to read and remember so much would drive me away but with Dungeons & Dragons, I was motivated to learn. I spent many happy hours reading those books, expanding my vocabulary and pushing my literacy skills in a way that school never did.

Having mastered the basics of the game I was keen to be DM and create my own adventures. With this step, D&D opened new and previously unimagined doors for me. My imagination had always been highly active but I had never had an outlet. With my poor spelling & grammar, writing stories had never been an option, neither had art been an option with my cackhandedness. But in creating fantasy adventures and worlds for my players, I could exercise my creativity without being held back by my inability to express myself. Through this I learnt how to be creative and to turn those creative thoughts into something useful. Skills that have been a consistent benefit to me in designing software and web sites.

Over the years D&D has received some very bad press. Some right-wing nut jobs think its linked to satanic worship and black magic. Others have linked it to suicide and violence. All this is rubbish. Dungeons & Dragons gave me a safe environment to learn vital life skills that because of my dyslexia, the education system had singularly failed to provide me. For tens of thousands of bright teenagers with dyslexia, asperges, ADHD and other educational problems, this fantasy game has provided a safe haven in which to learn, explore and to grow.

D&D is made me who I am and it is why I still play, 25 years on. In fact I now run a company that create RPG miniatures and D&D Adventures to use in the game.

ADD / ADHD, Food and Drink

Judging by the comments on Caffeine and ADHD some parents are considering using caffeine to treat ADHD instead of medication such as Ritalin. One possible source of caffeine is energy drinks, such as Red Bull, but there are risks with these drinks.

According to a research:

Since Red Bull, the first energy drink to hit the U.S. market, launched in 1997, the market has boomed, Griffiths says, now totaling at least $5.4 billion a year in the U.S. Hundreds of brands are available.

Although the FDA limits the caffeine contents of cola-type soft drinks to 71 milligrams per 12 fluid ounces, no such limit is required on energy drinks, Griffiths tells WebMD.

“Makers of so-called “energy” drinks generally market them as dietary supplements,” says Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokesperson. Dietary supplements are regulated differently than food. The FDA does not approve or review the products before they are marketed.

Source: Energy Drinks: Hazardous to Your Health?, Safety issues associated with energy drinks

ADD / ADHD, Dyslexia

Colic, extened but unexplained crying in a new born infant, effects around 20% of western babies. Whilst apparently harmless it does cause a get deal distress to parents and the baby. Despite its prevalence, Doctors do not know what causes it though many explanations have been suggested.

There have been some suggestion that colic babies tend to develop educational problems in later life though there is no direct evidence for this. However an article in the New Yorker may add some weight to this. Professor Barry Lester has been studying colic for most of his professional career suggest that some colicky babies are “hypersensitive to normal stimuli” and over-react to normal stimulus. He has also studied 3 – 8 year-olds who had colic as a child and found the 75% “suffered from behavioral problems, including a limited attention span, tantrums, and irritation after being touched or coming in contact with particular fabrics or tags in their clothing”. Lester speculates that “Colic threatens to cause problems in the child’s ability to form relationships, because the child doesn’t learn behavioral regulation and develops problems with impulse control,”.

Source The Colic Conundrum (with thanks to Mind Hacks)

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Diagnosis, Dore Achievement Centres

The Dore theory of Cerebellar Development Delay has attracted a fair degree of criticism over the years. It is the idea that educational problems such as ADHD and dyslexia are caused by an underdeveloped cerebellum. There has been little direct evidence for this but new research using fMRI scanners shows it has potential.

In a long-term study of normal and ADHD children, researches have found that ADHD brains develop as much as five years slower than those of normal children. I haven’t got the paper’s reference yet but this science-lite video clip from Discover Magazine gives a quick overview of the project.

When I have more time, I will find the actual paper and look further into it to see what information it has on the cerebellum’s development. Potentially is has evidence to seriously prove or disprove the Cerebellar Development Delay hypothesis.

Thanks to Mind Hacks for finding this.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Medication

The Bonkers Institute for Nearly Genuine Research takes a satirical look at the science and marketing of psychiatry and its medication. Like all good satire it mixes humour with laser sharp observations about the products and how doctors works. Mock scientific papers like Therapeutic Efficacy of Cash in the Treatment of Anxiety and Depressive Disorders and entirely factual reposts, such this list of all 1195 side-effects reported by users of Ritalin and Concerta in a two year period, sit side by side.

One particular page may interest Myomancy though, a gallery of adverts for medication aimed at children. Several adverts for medications aim at treating ‘problem children from the early 1960’s shows how little has changed apart from the terminology. Ritalin adverts feature several times and demonstrates how good drug companies are at inventing new problems, such as Tired Mother Syndrome. The advert below is from 1988.

Ritalin Advert

Thanks to Mind Hacks for the link.

ADD / ADHD

Spotted on the LJ Adult ADHD community, this 1954 film tells the story of Barbara, a disorganised teenage girl who doesn’t fit in. When invited to a popular girl’s house she embarrasses herself because of her poor hygiene and social graces.

The voice over is a patronising, authoritarian woman berating Barbara for failing to fit in with social norms. Nowadays someone like Barbara would be diagnosed with ADHD and given medication.

Watch the film: Habit Patterns. Its about 15 minutes long but you only need to watch 3 or 4 minutes to the idea. The comments and discussion are interesting as well.

ADD / ADHD

This is all over the news media at the moment. At some I will find the orginal study and compare the news reports to what the research actually found.

Adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder do 22 fewer days of work per year than people who do not have the condition, a study says.

The research, which looked at 7,000 workers in 10 countries, found an average of 3.5% had ADHD.

Writing in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the Dutch team said workplace screening should be used to pick up people with the problem.

A UK expert backed the idea, but warned they should not be stigmatised.

Source: Adult ADHD ‘linked to lost work’

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Diagnosis, ADD / ADHD Medication, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Digital Fitness, Dore Achievement Centres, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Testing & Diagnosis, Dyslexia Treatment, Dyspraxia, Medication, Memory, Music, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, Rhythm Games, Wii Fit

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I was interested in creating a cerebellum training program that was quicker, more effective than Dore. Myomancy was my notebook of interesting technology and relevant science. Over the years I’ve examined many different approaches to the treatment of dyslexia and ADHD. Some were simply nonsense, others had promise but were lacking the scientific, technological or business resources to make them viable. Some lacked the ethical honesty necessary when selling products to parents desperately worried about their children.

Slowly overtime I refined my ideas about how cerebellum training should work and how a independent company without much in the way financial resources could develop and sell such a product in an ethical manner. One main stumbling block has been the cost and availability of the technology necessary to track a user’s limb movements and balance. So I’ve been watching the progress of the Wii and latterly the Wii Fit with interest. The technology needed for cerebellum training was finally cheaply and readily available. What’s more many people already own it.

Originally I intended to make an announcement after slowly develop a proof of concept over the next few months but with the collapse of Dore and the shadow that will cast over the cerebellum training field, I’ve decided to move my plans forward. So I’m pleased to announced the creation of WyyMi, a project to create a free, open-source, open-science cerebellum training program.

What is WyyMi?
WyyMi is a project to develop a cerebellum training program to help people with dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia and similar educational problems.

Project Goals
To develop a system that cost nothing (or as close to nothing as possible) to use; to do it using open-source software; and to make freely available as much scientific evidence on its effectiveness as possible.

How Will It Work?
The idea is to use cheap and easily available computer hardware that can monitor and assess gross motor movements and balance. At the moment the Wii Remote and Wii Fit Balance Board seem the best candidates but they need to be adapted to work on PCs and Macs because the Wii console itself is difficult to develop for.

Using this hardware and software on the website, users will be perform a series of exercises. The amount of time spent training and the accuracy of the user’s movement will be logged on the server so that the user can track their progress and so the server can inform the user which exercises to do next. This data will also be aggregated, made anonymous and published so that it can be analyzed by any interested 3rd party. Ideally, symptom specific measures (e.g. spelling tests) will also be included so that the training programs effectiveness in treating educational problems can be measured.

Other than a broad statement of goals and the planned route for achieving them, there is nothing else on site at the moment. Progress is likely to slow, not least because I am working on another project at the moment as well maintaining my existing portfolio of web sites. If you wish to help in anyway, please see the announcement for ways you can contribute, not matter what your skills are.

Myomancy will be continuing to report on anything and everything I think is relevant to dyslexia, ADHD and autism. Obviously as I am planning to create my own training program, that might create a conflict of interest when discussing other people’s approach. I will try and be as unbiased as possible and make my conflict of interest clear.

ADD / ADHD

Creative thinker and business man Roger von Oech has had a letter from a school scoial worker about using his Ball of Whacks with ADHD sufferers. The Ball of Whacks is somewhere between a magnetic lego set and an executive toy. Here is a video:

Monica writes:

I am a school social worker and have used the Ball of Whacks to demonstrate the ability to re-organize, calm, increase self-esteem and cope with difficulties.

In teaching re-organization to students with ADHD, I’ve found the Ball of Whacks to be a good teaching tool. You break the ball down, and then you put it together one piece at a time, just as you would complete one problem at a time on a worksheet. And before you know it it’s put together or done.

There is more on Using the Ball of Whacks With ADHD Students