Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Corey’s Story: My Son No Longer Needs Intervention After Using Fast ForWord

December 8, 2011 by Norene Wiesen

This post is the seventh in a series aimed at sharing the success stories, both personal and professional, that Scientific Learning employees witness every day.

“My son personally was identified in kindergarten as a struggling learner.  He is a July baby and he started kindergarten at a very young age five.   Right away, red flags were going up for the teacher.  Emotionally, academically, developmentally, we realized that he might not have been ready to acquire the skills that were being taught in the kindergarten classroom.

We worked really hard over the summer to put Zack through [Fast ForWord] Language Basics and [Fast ForWord] Reading Prep*.  These products are really appropriate for a kindergarten-aged learner.

When he returned to school in the fall and he was re-assessed for intervention, the teacher made a comment: ‘I don’t know what you’ve done with Zack over the summer, but his scores are now above where he needs to be and we no longer will need to provide him with any intervention support. We are just going to continue to monitor him and watch and make sure he continues to grow along the right pathway.’

It brought tears to my eyes knowing that we continued to do the right things and the only one variable that changed was using Fast ForWord with him.  It built his confidence and built his self-esteem.”

*Note: Fast ForWord® Language Basics and Reading Prep are no longer available.  Current Fast ForWord products for kindergarten-aged learners include Fast ForWord Language and Reading Readiness.

Article retrieved from:

Toddler Vocabulary Development: Shopping With Your Child

October 11, 2011 by Martha Burns, Ph.D


There is no better time to teach your toddler the names of things than when you go out shopping together. The wonderful thing about shopping with your child at a grocery store or clothing store is that he can sit in a shopping cart and interact with you while pointing to all the interesting colors, shapes and objects around him.
Never mind that as he gets closer to two years old he may want you to focus on the candy aisle, or buy everything fuzzy or toy-like.  Use the time to provide names for all the wonderful objects you can see.

“Wow!  Look at these oranges today—they are so big. They look like big balls don’t they?”
“Hey, those peppers are green and red and yellow, just like Christmas lights—what fun!”
“I see blue shirts and white shirts. What color do you like?”

As you talk about all the shapes and colors, your tot will begin to want you to tell him more names. If he can’t ask you “What is that?” yet, he will start to point to objects he wants you to name or let him touch. (Of course you don’t want him touching fresh food items or knocking down items on shelves, but there is no harm in letting him feel a soft cloth or looking more closely at the funny picture on a box of cereal.)
Here are some tips for making shopping both fun and educational for your child:
  • Color, shape, and size: Notice colors, shapes, and sizes as you shop the fruit and vegetable aisle with your toddler. Tell your child that bananas are “long and yellow,” and that oranges, apples, limes and lemons look like “orange, red, green and yellow balls.” At the clothing store, “big pants” may be for “big daddy” and tiny shoes may be “just the right size” for your child.
  • Texture and touch:  Clothing stores are all about touch. PJ’s are usually “soft,” and raincoats are “smooth and stiff,” while some coats may be “furry.” Your child will love feeling all the different textures.
  • Questions: Note that celery has “leaves” and broccoli has “flowers.” Ask questions, “Why do you think cauliflower is named that way?” Point out that potatoes have “eyes” and wonder aloud, “Why do they have so many and we have only two?”
  • My shopping cart: Some grocery stores have begun offering small grocery carts for young children to push around. You may want to wait until your tot is two or a little older, but it can be fun to let him choose apples, oranges or boxed cereals and push them in his own cart. At home you can use empty boxes to “play store” on a rainy day.
You might hear yourself saying, “not today” or “not now” as your child wants you to add everything to your basket (or his), but giving him the opportunity to explore the world around him is a valuable experience for both of you.  You get to cross a few items off your to-do list, while your toddler works on vocabulary development through conversation and play, with his favorite person—you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How the Brain Strings Words Into Sentences

ScienceDaily (Nov. 28, 2011) — Distinct neural pathways are important for different aspects of language processing, researchers have discovered, studying patients with language impairments caused by neurodegenerative diseases.

While it has long been recognized that certain areas in the brain's left hemisphere enable us to understand and produce language, scientists are still figuring out exactly how those areas divvy up the highly complex processes necessary to comprehend and produce language.

Advances in brain imaging made within the last 10 years have revealed that highly complex cognitive tasks such as language processing rely not only on particular regions of the cerebral cortex, but also on the white matter fiber pathways that connect them.

"With this new technology, scientists started to realize that in the language network, there are a lot more connecting pathways than we originally thought," said Stephen Wilson, who recently joined the University of Arizona's department of speech, language and hearing sciences as an assistant professor. "They are likely to have different functions because the brain is not just a homogeneous conglomerate of cells, but there hasn't been a lot of evidence as to what kind of information is carried on the different pathways."

Working in collaboration with his colleagues at the UA, the department of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco and the Scientific Institute and University Hospital San Raffaele in Milan, Italy, Wilson discovered that not only are the connecting pathways important for language processing, but they specialize in different tasks.

Two brain areas called Broca's region and Wernicke's region serve as the main computing hubs underlying language processing, with dense bundles of nerve fibers linking the two, much like fiber optic cables connecting computer servers. But while it was known that Broca's and Wernicke's region are connected by upper and a lower white matter pathways, most research had focused on the nerve cells clustered inside the two language-processing regions themselves.

Working with patients suffering from language impairments because of a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, Wilsons' team used brain imaging and language tests to disentangle the roles played by the two pathways. Their findings are published in a recent issue of the scientific journal Neuron.
"If you have damage to the lower pathway, you have damage to the lexicon and semantics," Wilson said. "You forget the name of things, you forget the meaning of words. But surprisingly, you're extremely good at constructing sentences."

"With damage to the upper pathway, the opposite is true; patients name things quite well, they know the words, they can understand them, they can remember them, but when it comes to figuring out the meaning of a complex sentence, they are going to fail."

The study marks the first time it has been shown that upper and lower tracts play distinct functional roles in language processing, the authors write. Only the upper pathway plays a critical role in syntactic processing.
Wilson collected the data while he was a postdoctoral fellow working with patients with neurodegenerative diseases of varying severity, recruited through the Memory and Aging Center at UCSF. The study included 15 men and 12 women around the age of 66.

Unlike many other studies investigating acquired language disorders, which are called aphasias and usually caused by damage to the brain, Wilson's team had a unique opportunity to study patients with very specific and variable degrees of brain damage.

"Most aphasias are caused by strokes, and most of the strokes that affect language regions probably would affect both pathways," Wilson said. "In contrast, the patients with progressive aphasias who we worked with had very rare and very specific neurodegenerative diseases that selectively target different brain regions, allowing us to tease apart the contributions of the two pathways."

To find out which of the two nerve fiber bundles does what in language processing, the team combined magnetic resonance brain imaging technology to visualize damaged areas and language assessment tasks testing the participants' ability to comprehend and produce sentences.

"We would give the study participants a brief scenario and ask them to complete it with what comes naturally," Wilson said. "For example, if I said to you, 'A man was walking along the railway tracks. He didn't hear the train coming. What happened to the man?' Usually, you would say, 'He was hit by the train,' or something along those lines."

"But a patient with damage to the upper pathway might say something like 'train, man, hit.' We found that the lower pathway has a completely different function, which is in the meaning of single words."
To test for comprehension of the meaning of a sentence, the researchers presented the patient with a sentence like, "The girl who is pushing the boy is green," and then ask which of the two pictures depicted that scenario accurately.

"One picture would show a green girl pushing a boy, and the other would show a girl pushing a green boy," Wilson said. "The colors will be the same, the agents will be the same, and the action is the same. The only difference is, which actor does the color apply to?"

"Those who have only lower pathway damage do really well on this, which shows that damage to that pathway doesn't interfere with your ability to use the little function words or the functional endings on words to figure out the relationships between the words in a sentence."

Wilson said that most previous studies linking neurodegeneration of specific regions with cognitive deficits have focused on damage to gray matter, rather than the white matter that connects regions to one another.
"Our study shows that the deficits in the ability to process sentences are above and beyond anything that could be explained by gray matter loss alone," Wilson added. "It is the first study to show that damage to one major pathway more than then other major pathway is associated with a specific deficit in one aspect of language."

The study was primarily funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and included the following co-authors: Sebastian Galantucci, Maria Carmela Tartaglia, Kindle Rising, Dianne Patterson (both at the UA's department of speech, language and hearing sciences), Maya Henry, Jennifer Ogar, Jessica DeLeon, Bruce Miller and Maria Luisa Gorno-Tempini.

Using magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, researchers can visualize the two main language processing regions, Broca's region (yellow) and Wernicke's region (purple). (Credit: Stephen Wilson)

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Arizona. The original article was written by Daniel Stolte, University Communications.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

Stephen M. Wilson, Sebastiano Galantucci, Maria Carmela Tartaglia, Kindle Rising, Dianne K. Patterson, Maya L. Henry, Jennifer M. Ogar, Jessica DeLeon, Bruce L. Miller, Maria Luisa Gorno-Tempini. Syntactic Processing Depends on Dorsal Language Tracts. Neuron, 2011; 72 (2): 397 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.09.014

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How To Help Your Child's Brain Grow Up Strong

September 14, 2011

Babies may look helpless, but as soon as they come into the world, they're able to do a number of important things. They can recognize faces and moving objects. They're attracted to language. And from very early on, they can differentiate their mother from other humans.
"They really come equipped to learn about the world in a way that wasn't appreciated until recently," says neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt. "It took scientists a long time to realize that their brains are doing some very complicated things."
Aamodt and fellow neuroscientist Sam Wang explain how the human brain develops from infancy to adolescence in their new book, Welcome to Your Child's Brain. The two researchers also offer tips for parents to help their children eat their spinach, learn their ABCs and navigate elementary school.

Before all of those things, however, children have to learn how to talk. Babies can differentiate syllables and new sounds from very early on, but there are ways for parents to help their children develop their language skills faster and more efficiently.
"The most simple way is to talk to your baby and around your baby a lot," says Aamodt. "And the other thing that parents can do is to respond when the baby speaks, even if the baby isn't forming the words correctly or you don't understand it. Just act like some communication has occurred — smile and give the baby a little pat — and that encourages the baby to continue to try to communicate."
But because language is so social, says Wang, passive exposure to words really doesn't help babies learn in any way.
"For instance, videos that are often shown to babies containing language are not nearly so effective," he says. "In some cases, people try to teach babies language by showing them videos in a foreign language. It doesn't work very well at all because these are not social ways of exposing a child to language."
Parents should also realize that their children may reach certain intellectual milestones at different times — and that's OK.
"Language is acquired quite well before the age of 6, but trying to force your children to read before the age of 4 is an effort that doesn't work very well because the brain is not very well-equipped to tell the letter 'b' from the letter 'd' and so on," says Wang. "[But] it's something that older children can do without any effort at all."
And children who grow up in bilingual households have a distinct advantage over their peers.
"Kids who learn two languages young are better able to learn abstract rules and to reverse rules that they've already learned," says Aamodt. "They're less likely to have difficulty choosing between conflicting possibilities when there are two possible responses that both present themselves. They're also better at figuring out what other people are thinking, which is probably because they have to figure out which language to use every time they talk to somebody in order to communicate."

Teaching Self-Control
Aamodt and Wang also emphasize the importance of teaching your children self-control from an early age.
"This is really critical because there are so many things parents want to do when they read parenting books," he says. "They take steps to teach their children math or reading ... but a big thing we can do for our children is to do the best to foster the development of self-control and willpower. Self-control and the ability to restrain impulses is associated with success at every age, whether it means being able to read at age 4, or being able to restrain impulses at a later age, or even what your peers think of you in high school. At all of these ages, willpower and self-control is a stronger predictor of academic success than IQ."
When children are young, they can learn self-control by focusing on any fun activity — whether that means studying martial arts or playing with dolls and planning a make-believe tea party.
"It gives the child practice at planning and organizing a series of topics to achieve a desired goal," says Aamodt. "When you're planning a tea party, you can't be acting like a fighter pilot. You have to be acting like a lady having a tea party. So pretending is one of the earliest types of exposure most kids get to planning and organizing their actions. And the more you practice that, the better you're going to be at it."
Making sure your child has fun while learning self-control is vitally important. Aamodt and Wang recommend, for instance, telling your child to pretend he or she is protecting a castle instead of just saying, "Stand still."
"Taking advantage of a child's natural sense of fun is a terrific way to instill these things," says Wang. "This is not the kind of thing that works well if it's forced. It can be something as easy as pretending to guard the castle or playing a take-turns game where you say, 'I'm going to draw an ear on this piece of paper, and when you see an ear, then it's your time to listen. And if you see a mouth on this other piece of paper, then it's your time to talk.' So all of these things can be done in very simple ways — in ways that are often fun — and the more fun it is, the more likely the child is to pay attention for a longer period of time. These things are fun, they don't cost money, and anybody can do it."
Dr. Sam Wang is an associate professor of neuroscience at Princeton University. Dr. Sandra Aamodt is a former editor-in-chief of Nature Neuroscience. They are also the co-authors of Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life.

Interview Highlights

On rewards vs. punishment

Dr. Aamodt: "With a child, you're not only concerned with getting a child to behave. You're also concerned with building a good relationship with your child. You want your child to think of you as a wonderful person to be around. You also don't want to teach our kids that the way we solve our interpersonal problems is with violence."
Dr. Wang: "Negative reinforcement is often not very effective with deterring behavior. ... negative reinforcement punishment tends to not be very general. So the child will avoid doing the specific thing that led to the punishment and not learn some broader rule. From a practical standpoint, negative reinforcement is not terribly effective."
On time out

Dr. Wang: "One thing that's similar between how children and nonhuman animals learn best is the phenomenon of timeout, which has entered the lexicon as a means of getting a child to avoid doing something later. It comes from technical literature from which the long phrase is 'timeout and reinforcement,' which is if the kid does something undesirable, you simply take the child, go to the corner, and just sit there. And you don't say anything at all. You don't have to be negative. You don't have to mete out a punishment. You just have to say, 'Sit there for 3 minutes, and when I come back, we're done.' And then you forget about it and move on. This works at all ages."
On stress and pregnancy

Dr. Aamodt: "Stress is not good for babies. No ethics review board in the world would approve [an experiment] in which we deliberately damaged [pregnant women's] babies. But there are these so-called experiments of nature. One experiment that was done looked at women who had been evacuated from a hurricane in Louisiana when they were pregnant. What that study found was a substantially increased rate of autism in babies who had been in their fifth or sixth month of gestation at the time they fled the hurricane. The effect was stronger in cases where the hurricane was more dangerous."
On 'tiger parenting'

Dr. Wang: "I'm not very much of a tiger mother. I'm more of a pussy cat dad."

Images retrieved from:


 Images retrieved from:

  Article retrieved from:

Monday, October 10, 2011

The many health perks of good handwriting: Not only does it help the brain develop, it can also improve grades and confidence

By Julie Deardorff, Tribune Newspapers
June 15, 2011, 1:23 p.m.

Children are texting, tapping and typing on keyboards more than ever, leaving less time to master that old-fashioned skill known as handwriting.

So will the three "T's" replace a building block of education? It's not likely. The benefits of gripping and moving a pen or pencil reach beyond communication. Emerging research shows that handwriting increases brain activity, hones fine motor skills, and can predict a child's academic success in ways that keyboarding can't.

"For children, handwriting is extremely important. Not how well they do it, but that they do it and practice it," said Karin Harman James, an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University. "Typing does not do the same thing."

Here's how handwriting makes its mark:

Handwriting can change how children learn and their brains develop. IU researchers used neuroimaging scans to measure brain activation in preliterate preschool children who were shown letters. One group of children then practiced printing letters; the other children practiced seeing and saying the letters. After four weeks of training, the kids who practiced writing showed brain activation similar to an adult's, said James, the study's lead researcher. The printing practice also improved letter recognition, which is the No. 1 predictor of reading ability at age 5.

Good handwriting can mean better grades. Studies show that the same mediocre paper is graded much higher if the handwriting is neat and much lower if the writing is not.

Handwriting is faster. Researchers who tested second-, fourth- and sixth-graders found that children compose essays more prolifically — and faster — when using a pen rather than a keyboard. In addition, fourth- and sixth-graders wrote more complete sentences when they used a pen, according to the study, led by Virginia Berninger, a University of Washington professor of educational psychology who studies normal writing development and writing disabilities. Her research has also shown that forming letters by hand may engage our thinking brains differently than pressing down on a key.

Handwriting aids memory. If you write yourself a list or a note — then lose it — you're much more likely to remember what you wrote than if you just tried to memorize it, said occupational therapist Katya Feder, an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa School of Rehabilitation.

Handwriting proficiency inspires confidence. The more we practice a skill such as handwriting, the stronger the motor pathways become until the skill becomes automatic. Once it's mastered, children can move on to focus on the subject, rather than worry about how to form letters.

Handwriting engages different brain circuits than keyboarding. The contact, direction and pressure of the pen or pencil send the brain a message. And the repetitive process of handwriting "integrates motor pathways into the brain," said Feder. When it becomes automatic or learned, "there's almost a groove in the pathways," she said. The more children write, the more pathways are laid down. But if they write them poorly, then they're getting a faulty pathway, so you want to go back and correct it," Feder said.

Technology may help invigorate the practice. Handwriting applications that allow users to hand-scribble notes on the touch screen rather than paper may be useful tools. Researchers are also working on software to help improve handwriting.

Image retrieved from:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Life with a Learning Disability

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

School Support for ADHD Children May Be Missing the Mark: Inattention, Not Hyperactivity, Is Associated With Educational Failure

ScienceDaily (Sep. 12, 2011) — New research from the University of Montreal shows that inattention, rather than hyperactivity, is the most important indicator when it comes to finishing a high school education.

"Children with attention problems need preventative intervention early in their development," explained lead author Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pingault, who is also affiliated with Sainte-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital. The researchers came to their conclusion after looking at data collected from the parents and teachers of 2000 children over a period of almost twenty years.
In this study, attention problems were evaluated by teachers who looked for behaviour such as an inability to concentrate, absentmindedness, or a tendency to give up or be easily distracted. Hyperactivity was identified by behaviour such as restlessness, running around, squirming and being fidgety. The researchers found that only 29% of children with attention problems finished high school compared to 89% of children who did not manifest these inattention problems. When it came to hyperactivity, the difference was smaller: 40% versus 77%. After correcting the data for other influencing factors, such as socioeconomic status and health issues that are correlated with ADHD, inattention still made a highly significant contribution which was not the case for hyperactivity.
"In the school system, children who have attention difficulties are often forgotten because, unlike hyperactive kids, they don't disturb the class," said Dr. Sylvana Côte, who led the study. "However, we know that we can train children to pay attention through appropriate activities, and that can help encourage success at school."
The results of the study have been published as mental health experts have begun to debate whether or not it would be appropriate to separate hyperactivity and inattention problems in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). "These two health issues have now been more precisely dissected, and we may now need to define a differentiated type of inattention that is independent from hyperactivity, to improve our understanding of the phenomenon and better tailor interventions," Pingault said.
The study will be published in the American Journal of Psychiatry on November 1, 2011. The research was funded in part by the Fonds Québécois de la recherche sur la société et la culture, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the US National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health and the US National Consortium on Violence Research. The University of Montreal and Sainte-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital are known officially as Université de Montréal and Centre hospitalier universitaire Sainte-Justine, respectively.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Mysteries of ADD and High IQ

The five truths about attention deficit disorder.
Published on August 16, 2011 by Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D. in The Mysteries of ADD

We recently published a study of 117 high IQ children and adolescents with ADD. (Note: In this article, the term ADD is used to refer to both ADD and ADHD). All of these very bright students were struggling in school and often also in social relationships because of their ADD-related problems. Results from that study uncovered a pattern of vulnerabilities in executive functions, the management system of the brain, that caused these bright students to have chronic difficulty in focusing on their work, in getting their work done adequately, in keeping in mind what they had just heard or read, and in organizing and completing assignments. Some have been mystified as to how very bright students could suffer from ADD. They assume that being smart protects a person from the difficulties associated with ADD. This study shows that it doesn'

Here are 5 questions that our research team repeatedly encountered from high IQ kids and their parents and teachers:

1. Doesn't a person have to be hyper or have behavior problems to have ADD?

No! Most of the children and teenagers in this study of ADD were not hyperactive and had few, if any, significant behavior problems. For decades, this syndrome now known as ADD or ADHD was seen as a behavior disorder, a set of problems seen just in little kids who couldn't sit still, wouldn't shut up and who frustrated parents and teachers with chronic misbehavior. Research over the past 20 years has dramatically changed understanding of ADD by showing that many who fully meet diagnostic criteria for ADD have never had significant behavior problems. The core of ADD as it is now understood is a developmental delay in executive functions, a cluster of cognitive abilities that regulate other functions of the mind.

2. How can someone be really smart and yet have ADD?

All of the 117 kids in this study fully met diagnostic criteria for ADD and all had IQ scores of 120 or more, placing them in the top 9 percent of their age group on basic intelligence. Some were strongest in verbal comprehension, some were strongest in visual-spatial reasoning, and some were equally strong in both.

ADD has nothing to do with how smart a person is. Some individuals with ADD are super-smart on IQ tests, many score in the average range, and some are much lower.

Students in this study, compared to others of the same age, were impaired not by lack of smarts, but by chronic inability to deploy their smarts in effective work and in getting along with other people. One of the measures used in our study was a rating scale that inquires about impairments in various clusters that describe executive functions (EF). Everyone has problems with these various functions sometimes; people with ADD have much more difficulty with these functions than do most others of the same age.


Data from this study show that individuals can have very high IQ and still suffer significant impairments in each of these executive functions that are essential for working effectively and for getting along with other people.

3. How can someone be an honor student in elementary school and then struggle and fail repeatedly in high school or college?

Most of the students in this study got high grades in elementary school. Many were in special programs for talented and gifted students. Their school difficulties tended to begin when they made the move from elementary school, where they were with one teacher and the same group of classmates most of the day. Entry into middle school or junior high often brought increasing difficulties in keeping track of assignments and in completing homework. We explain that these students struggled when required to operate more independently without that one teacher who can help to keep tasks and expectations organized for all subjects throughout the day. As homework requirements escalated and parents were less able to monitor what was going on in all the various classes, many of these very bright students began to flounder.

Some of the older students in the study had managed to function well even with the demands of middle school and high school. Many of them had parents who were successful in maintaining supportive scaffolding around their sons and daughters, helping them to prioritize, plan, monitor and complete multiple assignments. Often the ADD impairments of these strongly supported high IQ students did not show up until they went away to college or university. There, lost without the strong daily support of their parents, many of these very bright students were unable to cope with their schoolwork, had plummeting grades and were required to take a semester off or transfer to another, less challenging college. Just being very smart is not enough to be successful in college, university or employment; one also needs to be able to manage oneself, to work productively and to get along reasonably well with peers, professors, supervisors, and employers.

4. How can someone focus very well on playing a sport, video games, drawing, or making music and not be able to focus enough on almost anything else?

The most mystifying aspect of ADD is that everyone who has this disorder is able to focus very well on a few specific types of tasks, even though they have great difficulty in focusing effectively on almost everything else. All of the students in this study reported that they had no difficulty in exercising executive functions very well for a few specific activities. For some it was participating in a sport or making art or music. For others, focus came easily for repairing car engines, cooking, using the computer, or designing websites. When asked to explain why they could focus on those few specific activities, but not on other tasks they recognized as important, the students typically responded by saying: "If it's something that really interests me, I can focus. If it's not really interesting to me, I just can't focus, even when I know it's important and I really need to do it."

One of our patients explained this: "ADD is like having erectile dysfunction of the mind. If the task is something that really interests you, you're up for it and can perform. If it's not something that turns you on, you can't get it up and you're not able to perform." The capacity to focus and mobilize executive functions for a task depends primarily on release of dopamine in specific areas of the brain and that release of dopamine is not under voluntary control.

5. Does anyone ever get over having ADD as they get older?

Back when ADD was seen as simple hyperactivity, it was believed that anyone with ADD would outgrow those problems by the time they were about 14 years old, if not before. That view made sense because for several decades ADD was seen as just hyperactive behavior, not as a problem with attention and EF. Often, though not always, hyperactive symptoms of ADD do go away as one gets older. But longer term studies have shown that for about 70-80 percent of those with ADD, their attentional symptoms tend to persist into adulthood, even if hyperactive problems have remitted. We published an earlier study of 157 high IQ adults with ADD. The design of that research was almost identical to this recent study of kids with ADD and the results were very similar. For many, the EF impairments of ADD persist into adulthood.

Despite the persistence of ADD, many of those affected experience less impairment from ADD symptoms as they get older. Three reasons may contribute to such improvement: for many with ADD, junior high, high school and the first few years of university are the most difficult. This is because these are the years when one is required to cope with the widest range of academic tasks with the least opportunity to escape from the ones you're not that good in. When one gets further along in education or employment it is often possible to specialize in work that is more interesting and which one can do reasonably well, without carrying so much of a burden of more challenging tasks. Second, imaging studies have shown that the course of brain development in adolescents with ADD is very similar to that of their age mates, except in a few specific regions of brain that are essential for executive functions. Individuals with ADD tend to catch up in development of these delayed regions of brain crucial for EF about 3 to 5 years behind their peers. This may account for some students who do poorly in high school and early college, then return to more advanced education a few years later and are very successful.

A third factor that helps many with ADD to improve their impaired executive functioning is treatment with appropriate medication. For about 80 percent of those with ADD, executive function can be improved significantly with a carefully managed regimen of medication approved for treatment of ADD. Medications cannot cure ADD, but, just as eyeglasses can improve vision when worn, for most individuals, regardless of IQ level, medication treatment for ADD can significantly improve executive functioning when it is appropriately used.

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