The Treatment of Learning Differences - By Lynn Ayres, M.Ed. and Linda Narun, M.A., CCC-SLP
Learning differences are frequently experienced by students at all stages of their academic careers. learning disabilities can have a profound effect on the well-being and emotional health of students. Professionals and parents are always looking for ways to assist children who have ADHD and/or learning disabilities and minimize their difficulties.
The Tarnow Center is committed to treating the "whole" child in order for interventions to be effective. Part of the treatment that we have provided over the last 10-15 years has included programs that depend on the concept of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections and pathways throughout life. Recently, the concept of neuroplasticity has become "fashionable". Clinicians in the community are now embracing the concept of neuroplasticity and using programs that they claim change the brain. When a new concept becomes popular, greater caution must be exercised when choosing intervention programs. This concept is not new to the Tarnow Center. The scientific efficacy of neuroplasticity was obvious to us many years ago so that in our treatment of learning differences, we have included programs like, Fast ForWord, Interactive Metronome, and Cogmed with great success. Because we have so much experience, we are able to provide the interventions as part of integrated therapy plans more effectively than most.
We have examined many programs that are being offered in the marketplace but do not have adequate scientific research to back them. At the Tarnow Center we have carefully chosen programs that work effectively and are based on documented scientific principles. The center chooses only programs which have significant research documenting changes in the brain.
We are fortunate that the Tarnow Center is a multidisciplinary practice. Consequently, we are able to provide integrated, comprehensive treatment plans. Neuroplasticity is a concept that is integrated into all treatments and not only into the formal programs we use. Because of the success of our integrated approach, students remain with us for many years and we are able to observe their progress through different developmental periods. Students who completed the programs during the last 15 years have recently returned for follow up. Many are applying for Graduate School and need re-testing for accommodations for entrance exams. They have returned as successful adults who shared profound changes that occurred after their treatment. One student describes the programs as a "watershed" that changed his ability to learn and to feel positive about himself. It is, indeed, gratifying and rewarding to observe their growth and success. Their success is our success!
We would like to share a few of the experiences of these students. Although the information is anecdotal, for clinicians, parents, and students, the information is very powerful.
The Scientific Learning family of proven language and reading intervention software products strengthens auditory processing, oral and written language skills in students of all ages. Fast ForWord helps struggling students improve vocabulary, reading comprehension, fluency, and memory. This program was one of the first programs that combined extensive scientific research with technology.
John, a second grader, was struggling with reading. he was a bright boy whose reading skills were well below his intellectual level. His math skills were developing well. He was becoming anxious about his difficulties.
Fast ForWord was a new intervention, so his parents decided to try the program. Eight weeks later, John was reading street signs and seeking out books that he previously avoided. Within six months, he was reading competently. john went on to a rigorous college preparatory school where he did well. Recently, John returned to the Tarnow Center as he was applying to graduate school and needed to be re-tested for accommodations. John and his mom described Fast ForWord as "providing a turning point in his academic career".
We wish John continued success.
Cogmed Working memory Training is a computer-based solution for attention problems and poor working memory. A strong working memory is essential for learning. Poor working memory contributes to significant impairment in learning. Working memory capacity is a very god predictor of academic success. Working memory capacity is strongly correlated with students' performance, particularly in reading and math.
Susan, a ninth grader, had been treated at the Tarnow Center for ADHD-Inattentive Type for several years. She required a re-evaluation to continue obtaining extended time on tests when it was demonstrated that her working memory was not at the same high level as other skills. Susan completed the Cogmed Program during the summer before tenth grade. When she returned to school in the fall and after the first week of report cards were issued, Susan was summoned to the Principal's office. He had noted her improved grades and wanted to know how such dramatic changes could have occurred. The only change was in her improved working memory and ability to better understand the ADHD.
Susan went on to college and is now very successful. Way to go Susan!
The Interactive Metronome Program (IM) uses a patented auditory guidance system to systematically exercise and thereby improve a person's timing, processing speed, and capacity to plan action. It therefore promotes self-management and improves executive functioning. Benefits of IM improves attention and focus, motor control and coordinatin, balance and gait, language and processing, and emotional control.
Jeff was a seventh grader who had been diagnosed with ADHD. Although he tried several stimulant medications, h experienced significant side effects. Jeff completed the IM program and noted significant gains in attention and organization. His team of middle school teachers called to inquire about the program because Jeff's grades had improved so much. He no longer left books and papers in class and was far more organized and attentive.
Jeff is currently a college student who continues to excel.