Posts tagged ‘Learning Disabilities’

Training the Brain: Why Online? (Part 1 in a series)

I see a lot of ads lately promoting various computer programs, claiming that they can cure learning disabilities, ADHD, or a number of  other maladies. Readers probably wonder what’s up with that – Do these programs really work? How do they work? Are they worth the cost? In addition to being a certified cognitive training clinician, I did some research into these programs to try to clear things up for you. There’s a lot to discuss, so please bear with me as I dish it out in small installments. After we get through the basics of what, why, and how, I’ll introduce you to a few specific programs and help you sort out which ones are worth a try for you.

First, why would you choose an online program at all? Here are a few advantages:

  1. Cost: Some computer therapies run hundreds to  thousands of dollars, giving parents extra cause to question their value. But compare it to having a professional administer the same treatment in person, at an hourly fee, and the computer wins hands-down. The only thing left to question is whether it can achieve the same results – and that is indeed a great question, which will be addressed in a future installment.
  2. Reliability: Any in-person treatment depends heavily on the individual provider. Of course, you do your best to choose the most competent person available to you, but true quality control is difficult. When you use a computer-based program, you know that the sounds, images, timing, and pacing are exactly the ones prescribed for you. You’re getting the same program as others who reported positive results.
  3. Convenience: A lot of things can interfere with the regular attendance that is necessary for good progress. All of the computer programs I’ve reviewed allow you to load your account from any computer, so you don’t need to miss sessions due to vacations, transportation glitches, or bad weather. You don’t even need to leave your house at all, or negotiate a schedule that works for your clinician as well as your entire family. You can set it up in your living room or office, and then go on with life.
  4. Engagement: Do I need to tell you that computer work holds more appeal for most? While the fun factor of computer-therapy programs varies and is usually not quite enough to keep kids motivated through a long training course, it still feels more interesting than “tutoring” or “therapy.”
  5. Discretion: As much as we try to applaud their strengths and de-stigmatize difficulties, many people are embarrassed about needing help. With interventions taking place on their home computer looking like a game, they can keep their difficulties hidden even from other family members. Instead of feeling dragged to therapy, they get to feel like the cool one for having a computer program special for them.

But is all this really enough to make up for personal therapeutic interaction? The answer, as usual, is “it depends.” Stay tuned for more discussion of what and who these programs are for, which ones are worth a look, and how to tell.

 

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November 3, 2013 at 1:15 am 2 comments

Friday Finds: Overcoming Dyslexia

This one is getting a little old, but remains one of my all-time favorites. It is a must-read for all teachers and for parents of struggling students. Also recommended for the general public.

Dyslexia (a specific brand of reading difficulty) is one of the most important and misunderstood conditions in special education. In this book, Sally Shaywitz, M.D., covers  everything you want to know about it – and she does it concisely in plain English. Overcoming Dyslexia is an easy, interesting read even if you have never thought about dyslexia before. It’s written for real people and includes illustrative stories and visual aids.

The book is very thorough and solidly research-based. Published in 2005, it’s missing the latest research, and I hope they revise it soon to incorporate the latest finds. However, there have been no contradictory findings that I am aware of – only new insights that would add to the previous understanding, without invalidating it. Shaywitz, a noted expert in the field, explains the neurological mechanisms involved in reading and what goes wrong when reading isn’t working out. On a practical level, she describes proven ways to identify and remediate dyslexia.

What I like best about this book, besides its easy readability, is that Shaywitz addresses the broad picture, not just the diagnosis and clinical treatment of dyslexia. She discusses how to find the right school and plan an intervention program, how to minimize the emotional fallout of having a learning disorder, and what parents can do by-the-way to improve their child’s reading.

Apropos to its content and target audience, the book also comes in an audio format.

November 11, 2011 at 8:00 am Leave a comment


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