Auditory, Dyslexia, Memory, Visual, Web/Tech

During my recent visit to Bramhall to see the Interactive Metronome in practice I also had the opportunity to try out the Lucid Adult Dyslexia Screening software which the centre uses to gain an objective assessment of the clients abilities. The software, from Lucid Research, is a way of quickly identifying adults who may have dyslexia. It is part of a range of software that Lucid produce aimed at detecting dyslexia at all stages of the eduction system. They even have a version that is targeted at children as young as four where as most dyslexia related tests cannot be used on under sevens.
The adult test consists of four stages. The first is a reasoning test where you have to identify the missing symbol. This is similar to questions found in many IQ tests. The second test is a word recognition test in which half-a-dozen words are placed randomly on the screen and you have to click on the only real, correctly spelt word. The third test focuses on word construction. Nonsense words are spoken by the computer’s speaker and you have to identify the three syllables, in the correct order, that make up that word from a palette of nine syllables. The final test is a short-term, auditory-loop test. The computer reads out two or more digits and then you have to type those digits in backwards. So if the computer says "3 8 4" you must enter "4 8 3".
Based on the combined scores Lucid assesses the probability of dyslexia summarised into four grades: High, Moderate, Borderline and Low. With the grading teachers can decide if its appropriate to involve educational psychologists and how to adapt their teaching to fit the child’s needs. The manual with the software [ PDF ] goes into some depth on how the tests were calibrated and the studies done to ensure the results have a high degree of reliability.
For my test results the software classified me as borderline risk of dyslexia. Looking at the individual scores my reasoning, word recognition and memory test were all very good. The one test I did poorly on was the word construction test. Here I scored five, where a score of one is very good and a score of nine is very poor. This suggestions that I still have relatively weak phonological skills which is common in dyslexics and what some academics consider all that dyslexia is.
This software is very good at producing a quick assessment, the whole process only takes about 20 minutes and it tests those abilities that are often weak in dyslexics. The software is well made but does have one or two minor quirks and its a shame that its aimed at schools and practitioners rather than parents. An online version of this software that was free, or even if it cost about £10 to use, would be a fantastic resource for everyone worried about dyslexia.

Memory, Science, Web/Tech

Memory problems play an important part in learning disabilities such ADD / ADHD and dyslexia. It is also an area of psychology that has generated large amounts of research. To understand more about how your memory works (or doesn’t) have a read of The American Psychological Association’s publication Montior . The September issue has several articles on Memory Flexibility which includes ‘A Workout for Working Memory‘ on how to improve your memory, a discussion of RoboMemo software and links to a few games to train your memory.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Medication, Memory

A study on Robomemo which Myomancy covered a few months ago (Memory Training Aids ADHD) has been covered in Scientific American. The article, Training the Brain – Cognitive therapy as an alternative to ADHD drugs, has little new to say about the software but does mention the Multimodal Treatment Study. This study has published results after 14 months (A 14-Month Randomized Clinical Trial of Treatment Strategies for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and concluded that a well designed drug treatment program was the best approach to ADHD treatment. However the Scientific American article has this to say: “Unpublished data from the Multimodal Treatment Study … show that after two years, kids treated with behavioral therapy only (parent training, school intervention and a special summer camp program) functioned just as well as kids on high-dose medication, says lead researcher William Pelham of the University at Buffalo“. Suggesting that over the long-term, 2+ years, training ADHD sufferers to think and behave differently is as effective as giving medication.
The National Institute of Mental Health has a FAQ on the Multimodal Treatment Study.
(Thanks Intelligence Insights).

Memory, Web/Tech

On Brain Connection they have a very readable article on the role of working memory and reading. It explains why working or short-term memory is important and how having a bad memory handicaps children.
Eight-year-old Jennifer listened carefully as the teacher said, “After you are done with your math worksheet, get out your reading book and finish answering the questions on page fifteen, at the bottom of the page.” Other children quickly went to work but Jennifer timidly raised her hand and asked the teacher to repeat the directions. Even though she is a bright child, routine oral directions such as this are hard for Jennifer to follow. Was Jennifer having trouble paying attention or did she simply forget what was said? The fact is that Jennifer is a bright child who has problems with working memory. This makes routine tasks, such as following lengthy oral directions, complicated and frustrating.
Brain Connection also have a selection of memory games and brain teasers.
See Also: Memory Training Aids ADHD, Stress and Memory, RoboMemo Memory Training for ADHD, Working Memory

ADD / ADHD, Memory, Science

The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (February 2005) is reporting a study that shows that training children’s "working memory" results in identifiable changes in the brain.  Around 40 kids with ADHD completed more than 20 days of training using the computer program, their parents reported they had significantly fewer problems with attention and hyperactivity, both immediately and three months after the program ended.  Study author Dr. Torkel Klingberg of the Karolinska Institute, Sweden describes this type of memory is what we use to keep information in our minds for short periods of time, and to complete day-to-day activities.

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Autism, Memory, Science

A study by NICHD Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism (CPEA) at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University has found that autistics recall letters using different parts of their brains than non-autistic people. Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to measure the brain activity of 14 individuals with high functioning autism while they performed a simple memory task involving letters of the alphabet. The volunteers were shown a sequence of letters. After each letter, they were asked to name the letter that preceded it. In some cases, they were asked to name the letter that appeared two letters previously. The autism volunteers’ brain activation patterns were compared to a control group of people who did not have autism, but were of a similar age and I.Q. level. The scans revealed different brain activation patterns between the two groups. Compared to the control group, the volunteers with autism showed more activation in the right hemisphere, or half, of the brain, and less activation in the left hemisphere. The left hemisphere takes the lead in processing letters, words and sentences, whereas the right hemisphere plays a larger role in processing shapes and visual information.
Original press release.

Memory, Science

Stress is a major factor in many dyslexics’ school life due to the noisy, busy environment, bullying or struggling to keep up with the lessons. The importance of stress to a child’s learning is highlight by a new study by Dr Shari Birnbaum and colleagues at Yale Medical School that demonstrates that stress effects short term memory. The short term memory is vital for concentration and as part of the process of storing long term memories. The impact of this is to make it even harder for the child to learn, so they fall further behind and they spiral into educational failure.