Thursday, July 14, 2011

iBrain Chapter 4 ADHD and Beyond

Being a father, former special education teacher, and regular education teacher, I really appreciated this chapter. Small introduces the chapter with an anecdotal scene of our regular "bombardment of technology" - iPods, T.V. with Scrolling Bars on the bottom of the Screen, Computer with multiple windows in action, etc. Many consider this to be multi-tasking. However, at question is the quality of the task performance being done. At a Discovery Education workshop earlier in the spring, one discussion we had was about the differences between "Multi-Switching" and "Multi-Tasking". From my observations, I see students do more "Multi-Switching". Small goes on in the chapter to provide the DSM-IV criteria for ADHD. For the past 10 years, especially since being in education, I have had various criticisms of this diagnostic method. First of all, it is subjective and based on rating scales provided to Parents and Teachers. There is no blood test or other objective technique. Second, unlike other disorders, ADHD does not cross contexts very well. Individuals with Down Syndrome, Arthritis, Crones Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, or Turrets don't cease having these conditions when they are playing soccer, engaged in a video game, talking with a friend on the phone, working on their Mustang (ha!! :) ). Not the case with ADHD - where symptoms pop up in specific contexts, often non-preferred, while in other contexts, the symptoms are non-existent. Small provides some evidence to suggest that technology impacts parts of the brain that link to ADHD through over stimulation. While some stimulation/arousal is necessary for general function, technology can become "maladaptive".

I didn't take particular interest in the section of Indigo children. Again, this seems to be a case by case scenario. I did however find the section on Autism very interesting. I have seen similarities within my own kids. As my oldest is more engrossed in television on a given day, the weaker his social skills become - ceases to verbally communicate, doesn't participate in group/family meals, becomes easily irritable, fixates on programming. However, my wife and I try to take our kids camping/hiking a few times during the summer. On these 2 or 3 day adventures, I'm glad to say my son is completely different. He is social, helpful, part of the group, involved in conversation, makes eye contact and, my favorite part, will put himself to bed [in the tent]. This is also true on days when his exposure to television or video games has been limited. In this way, I can see how Technology is like an amphetamine. When we are on it, it stimulates portions of our brain. We like that feeling and so we don't want to leave that "high". The social world around becomes secondary. I'm not all in that technology causes Autism Spectrum Disorders, but I do see the correlation between anti or non-social behaviors. Correlation doesn't necessarily mean cause and effect, and I'm quite certain, if I took an Autistic child camping, he would continue to show typical symptoms. That being said, I think Small addressed one of the best treatments for initial interventions - "Turn off the computer [or television, Xbox, iPad, etc] and go outside].

15 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. I also found the links between autism and TV to be very interesting. The whole notion that technical media stunts what we know as traditional communication is fascinating. The research by Waldman and his colleagues, making a link between TV and autism, is interesting but not conclusive. (pg. 72)

    This paragraph made no sense to me:
    "Functional MRI studies of young adults (aged eighteen to twenty-six years) who average fourteen hours a week playing video games have found that computer games depicting violent scenes activate the amygdala. It is perhaps no accident that many autistic individuals, with their small amygdalas and poor eye contact, are almost compulsively drawn to and mesmerized by television, videos, and computer games." (Pg 73)

    Is Small trying to say that children are trying to stimulate their small amygdalas with TV and computers or is he suggesting that TV and computers are the treatment for autistic children?

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  3. I think it is making a false connection. I eat Apples in the morning and not Oranges that must mean I hate Oranges. Autism is not fully understood so I would hesitate to try to support any ideas from their suggestion. I find it interesting to talk about ADHD because I know if I was a child in school today I would have been on every med known to man. Actually, I believe most of our famous minds/inventors would be labeled by the establishment in this manner. I do agree with Jesse that the kids need multiple experiences. That is where I believe our society is failing, not that we let the kids watch tvs and play games, but that we don't have the kids doing that AND going outside, building, designing etc... everything in moderation

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  4. I am in agreement with everyone. Kids today need more active outside time. How many students have we had in our classrooms who just can't sit still? Sending them to get a drink or do an errand often helps, but they need more physical activity. We might also blame artificial ingredients in foods for the increasing problems today's students have. But I think Jesse said it well when he said,basically, Turn off the technology and go outside! I think I'll do just that!

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  5. Kids do need more active time outside. They also need to be engaged. For what ever reason, and for the better, students are just not willing to sit through pablum that served as education when we were students.

    How does this connect with the internet? Perhaps this is the competition that our educational system needs. Maybe we have finally created something that is changing our culture so rapidly that we feel out of control.

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  6. I too found the connections with autism interesting, but inconclusive. I have seen a definite lapse in social skills with my niece and nephew when they are allowed to watch an excess amount of television. School should be a balanced place where kids are getting the moderation that might be lacking in their own homes. I was listening to a radio show that was outraged by the plan in a handful of states to replace cursive writing instruction with typing. They urged their callers to call in and suggest what should be taught instead. Every single thing that the callers talked about for over an hour were things that should be being taught at home, but aren't in many cases. (personal finance, manners, hygiene, dressing yourself, personality, etc.) Interesting what is becoming our job.

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  7. I wish that Dr. Small would have been able to link more peer reviewed articles and studies in this chapter than in any of the other ones. I find it hard to swallow that watching TV and/or playing on the computer will lead to autism. Maddy, my two year old daughter is in the process of learning her ABC's and 123's with the help of Erin and I, some iPad games, and Nick Jr. Now granted she doesn't do just those activities but they are certainly helping her because she's not only seeing them but manipulating the screen to engage more parts of the brain to encode that information into deep, long-term memory. She still plays and acts like a (type a personality) two year old with the same set of social skills as one of her friends that doesn't watch TV at all.

    As with my post on chapter 3 however I do see some of the children that I teach revert back to more childish social interactions. I wonder though if that is because of technology or their home environment...

    To respond to Kate's comment I would like to see personal finance come back into the schools. I can remember my 7th grade math class where we had checkbooks and had to write checks correctly to buy silly things like candy and stickers at the end of the week during an auction. It was fun and I learned how to write checks sooner than needed but it stuck with me. Although who writes checks anymore?

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  8. Publication of inconclusive studies, false connections, and unsupported "facts" is so damaging, I'm not sure why it's allowed to happen. I dislike this idea of TV, internet, video games, or technology in general being considered the "cause" of any condition other than eye strain. Certainly, overuse of anything may exacerbate a preexisting condition, but blaming technology for our problems is a tough pill to swallow. I had a teacher once tell me that she saw a kid "cured" of autism after he was switched to a gluten free diet. It's hard to tell who or what to believe when it comes to something that seems to be so intangible.

    I have to wonder about the rise in autism spectrum disorder and ADHD diagnosis. A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology stated:
    "More than 3,000 new cases of autism were reported in California in 2006, compared with 205 in 1990. In 1990, 6.2 of every 10,000 children born in the state were diagnosed with autism by the age of five, compared with 42.5 in 10,000 born in 2001," as quoted in Scientific American. The study goes on to cite possible environmental factors, such as pesticides, viruses, and chemicals. TV didn't make their list.

    I have had quite a few ADHD diagnosed kids in my classroom, but in four years of teaching, I've only ever had one student who really fit the bill from all angles. Most teachers considered him an "extreme" case, but I really think he was just a true case.

    To expand on what Mike had said about what we're doing with Maddy (because I can't resist an opportunity to talk about this kiddo), we closely monitor the television she is allowed to watch, and we don't let her veg out all day. She's definitely a very active child who spends lots of time swimming, bouncing in her trampoline, and generally running amok. But the other day she surprised us by telling Mike that he had an "m" on his keyboard, and then pointing it out. She knows probably half of her alphabet and the numbers from zero to nine because she has (mostly) free reign of an iPad at certain times during the day. Her little friend who is not allowed to watch TV was over recently, and Maddy tried to show her one of her favorite puzzle games. The other kid (who is four months older) had a complete meltdown because she couldn't grasp the concept of how to manipulate the images on the screen. Maddy, who is really quite impatient, patted her hand and said, "Don't worry. It's going to be okay." She then proceeded to teach the other child how the game worked. I'm constantly amazed at how adept she is when it comes to technology, and her social skills are not lacking in the slightest.

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  9. Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.... as they text each other on their ipads

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  10. I am sure all of you have had a phone call that involves a third person who is shouting comments to the person on the phone. That person then relays the comments (which is sometimes redundant because you heard the yelling).

    At any rate, if say two kids are say sitting in a car and want converse with a third kid in another car, what are they going to do? Text, of course. Is this behavior really different?

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  11. @ Mrs. M
    Perhaps, in a situation where social skills are taught and nurtured, there is no link between social skills and technology use.

    However, in environments where social skills are stunted or lacking, technology use acts as a substitute and an inversely proportional situation develops. More tech = even less social interaction

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  12. @Laura
    I agree with you. My example is really meant to illustrate the idea that it's not a software/hardware issue. It's the users. Kids whose parents hand them the technology and expect them to be entertained for the day, well, yeah, they're going to be underdeveloped socially. But that's just bad parenting. The technology is not to blame.

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  13. As I was reading down all the comments, it just kept occurring to me over and over, that parents need to be parents. No TV might be better than too much but moderation and guidance is what our students really need. As our economy changes, expectations of lifestyles are greater, more income is needed and a single parent rarely earns enough to meet the new lifestyle expectations. So time and energy for parenting is declining as well. I've been reading the next chapter and all this ties into it as well. Bottom line is our culture and society is changing, due in part, great part?, to technology and we need to figure out how best to accommodate those changes.

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  14. In today's climate with the childhood obesity epidemic, it is clear that kids don't get enough exercise. If anything, I think TV and computers definitely play a major factor in that aspect. I highly doubt that they cause ADHD or autism. What I don't doubt is that the constant stimulus from TV and computer might aggravate the symptoms of ADHD or autism. Who isn't easily distracted by cable TV and surfing the web? The only people I know who don't watch a lot of cable TV are the ones who don't have cable. How can doing boring school work or even old fashion playing compete with 300 channels of TV and video games that cost 100 million dollars to develop? Mostly they can't. Now you throw in all the social networking and on-demand streaming content, kids don't stand a chance. I think parents need to be better at turning off the TV and controlling computer time. It is easy for parents to let kids spend too much time in front of a TV or computer, because it keeps them occupied and quiet.

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  15. I see hope in the new style games that are more interactive (Kinetic, Wii) that is the next step to realism... more interactive physical games.

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