Examining Medical and Natural ADD Remedies

add remedy needed

The Brave New World of ADD Therapies


ADD Treatment Can Be a Drug Free Zone

For several decades ADD has been treated as an incurable medical condition, primarily managed with narcotic-grade drugs. Despite research about the adverse side-effects, according to a Center for Disease Control study  in most of the US, >75% of children diagnosed with ADD are taking meds. This use of ADD drugs is continuing despite many new natural ADD remedies becoming available based on advances in neuroscience, nutritional, cognitive and medical research in two categories:

  • Managing the symptoms
  • Treating the underlying causes of ADD

Natural ADD Remedies That Manage Symptoms

There are several ways to manage the symptoms of ADD including neuro-feedback, nutrition, meditation, and focus exercises.  These approaches can help improve focus while they are in use, but once stopped, symptoms of ADD tend to return.  In this regard, these therapies are directly comparable to meds.

  1. Neurofeedback, also called biofeedback, uses real-time displays of brain activity to teach self-regulation of focus. Sensors (or a helmet) are placed on the scalp to measure activity with changes in focus being represented as movement on a screen.  This gives the student real-time feedback on changes in concentration, focus and lack of focus.  While some providers of neurofeedback claim this is a one and done learned skill, there are no studies to back this up, and most anecdotal evidence suggests that the effect is more akin to exercising for fitness — once you stop exercising, fitness declines.
  2. Nutrition. There are two strategies related to diet.  One is so called elimination diets as recommended by Dr. Eugene Arnold and others, where foods are eliminated from the diet of an ADD child, looking for signs of improvement.  Arguably, avoiding sugar, is part of this approach.  Second, there are a growing number of dietary additions, omega 2 in fish oil being the most famous, being recommended to help improve focus.
  3. Meditation and focus exercises.  Meditation or “mindful awareness” — as put forward by the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center and others — improves your ability to control your attention. In other words, it teaches you to pay attention to paying attention. This is a tough skill to teach children but has had some success with adult ADHD.

Managing symptoms to change daily behavior can be successful short term, the remedies, natural or medical, are only helpful while they are in effect. There are not lasting impacts.  Also, most of the natural approaches — exercises and meditation — require quite a significant effort from your child that is perhaps not commensurate with the long-term reward because of the temporary nature of the gains.

Natural ADD Treatments That Target The Causes

There are several approaches that aim to resolve ADD once and for all. They include a variety of learning software, sensory exercise, and brain training. No doubt, treating the cause of ADD in children is somewhat speculative mainly because pinpointing the exact difficulty is complicated. However, if the ADD remedy is successful, it has a lifetime impact — no more taking drugs or doing exercises –surely worth taking a chance on.

All children with ADD should be tested for nutritional allergies and remedies. Beyond that, your choice of remedies depends mainly on the suspected cause and that is best detected using non ADD related symptoms:

  • Sensory integration issues that cause ADD. If your child has hand to eye co-ordination, balance or spatial issues (e.g., gets lost on a sports field), chances are there are sensory integration issues behind the ADD.  Your best natural remedy choices here are Interactive Metronome, occupational therapy (including Brain Gym) or possibly Learning Breakthrough (Balametrics) which uses balance board-based exercises.
  • Learning delays that cause ADD. If your child has had speech issues, processing delays, difficulty following directions, learning or reading issues, chances are he will not be an engaged learner either in class or when reading or doing homework.  This lack of engagement in something that he finds difficult, even tortuous, is often diagnosed as ADD.  The remedy for these ADD like symptoms is to tackle the underlying learning difficulty, and in this regard, the best approach are treatments that take advantage of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to rewire.

The two leading brain training programs that target learning delays are Learning RX and Fast ForWord software.

Learning RX is a chain of learning centers that uses intense in-center exercises to improve a wide range of learning skills.

Fast ForWord is more narrowly focused, using adaptive exercises that target language based cognitive skills — processing, attention, working memory and sequencing — to improve reading and learning efficiency.  Gemm Learning is the leading provider of Fast ForWord as a program for ADD  in North America.  It uses Fast ForWord to tackle the underlying learning issues as well as train attention skills — improving attention stamina as well as reducing distractibility and impulsiveness and BrainWare Safari, which helps ADD using exercises that build sensory integration.


American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth edition: DSM-5. Washington: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

Evidence-Based Information on the Clinical Use of Neurofeedback for ADHD.  Tais S. Moriyama, Guilherme Polanczyk, [...], and Luis A. Rohde


Keeping Up With Common Core Reading Proficiency

Reading To Learn

Changing Definition of Reading ProficiencyReading proficiency

Reading proficiency for elementary age children in the US has long been measured in words read per minute. But proficient reading is much more than that. As identified in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), students across all grade levels are now expected to read with comprehension and use critical thinking and abstract thinking in their reading practice.

Thinking and Reading

Consequently, “reading proficiency” actually refers to all of the thinking behind reading; what happens in our brains before, during, and post reading. The different ways in which we think critically about what we read is the skill now being measured. Proficient readers preview text, make predictions, activate prior knowledge (commonly referred to as schema), and even set a purpose for their reading (what am I trying to figure out?).

Proficient readers think beyond the text and the Common Core Standards support this practice from an early age. Readers are encouraged to make connections with other texts, themselves, and the world around them. Good readers don’t stop when the story is over or the book ends, either. They ask questions and respond to what they read, exercising their brains to think abstractly both during and post reading. Often readers take lessons or morals from what is read and then apply what is learned in a form of problem solving.

Think about adults as readers. We practice critical and abstract thinking when reading, without even realizing it. We read to evoke emotion, empathize, learn something new, achieve self-help, etc; all of which require the use of critical thinking skills.

The Common Core Standards require that students are now expected to think while reading, making connections, inferences and/or predictions from 1st grade.  While phonics, fluency, and decoding need to be practiced, so do the higher level skills which Common Core emphasizes. The brain needs to be trained to think critically and not just attempt to read words on a page.  This is a very new way of thinking about reading instruction for elementary age children.

Literacy & The Broader Curriculum

The Common Core State Standards are introducing another important aspect of literacy, used overseas but not so much in the USA until now.  It is the idea that the curriculums of all subjects should include the opportunity to improve literacy.  Instead of teachers feeding information to students in the classroom, they will include large amounts of “read to learn” content.  This approach of course takes longer, but it exposes students to a real value of reading, i.e., as a way of learning new material and new ideas.

While this will inevitably lift US reading proficiency levels over the long-term, it raises the near term risk of lost momentum in these subjects where reading skills are not good enough to handle the material.  It raises the stakes of getting to reading proficiency at an earlier age, by 4th grade when read to learn will start to appear throughout the curriculum.

New Reading Programs

This dramatic change in the thinking around reading proficiency in the USA will lead to a new wave of reading programs that have a  reading comprehension focus from an early age.

It should also lead to more aggressive reading interventions.  Programs and therapies based on word lists and other work arounds that help reading fluency but not reading efficiency  are no longer good enough.  The new reading comprehension standards can only be achieved when decoding is automatic and efficient — anything less is not going to cut it.

Existing programs are adjusting to these new reading proficiency requirements.  One interesting development in this regard was the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) patent awarded to Scientific Learning for the development of a novel method for building critical thinking and vocabulary knowledge through the use of analogies in the Fast ForWord exercise, Gator Jam.

Our recent blog highlighted this news and expanded on the patent and  its significance in relation to the Common Core Standards. This game challenges the student to think analytically while reading, a skill that transfers to critical thinking for comprehension. This analytical thinking while reading technique exists in many other Fast ForWord exercises, at all age levels. For instance, Quail Mail in Fast ForWord Reading Level 1 uses a categorization task to teach reasoning and abstract thinking while reading. Twisted Pictures in Fast ForWord Reading Level 3 focuses on critical thinking through a comparing and contrasting task that requires matching similar sentences to a picture.

No doubt, the Common Core State Standards is taking reading in the US to a new level, requiring high level thinking and deep comprehension at a much earlier age than prior standards. This puts an emphasis on mastering reading decoding skills at a younger age and creates a demand for reading programs that can go beyond reading fluency. Our online reading program, Fast ForWord, as signaled by its recent patent win, is well placed to lead that movement.

Fast ForWord Reinforces CCSS Reading Skills

New Patent Issued

Educational technology continues to advance and make a difference in the lives of children and adults who are challenged with learning differences. Recently, Scientific Learning continued to make their mark in this field with a patent awarded by the United States Patent and Trade Office (USPTO). This patent focused on the development by Scientific Learning for a method of learning based on analogies.

In the Fast ForWord reading exercise, Gator Jam one of the Fast ForWord Reading Level 5 programs, focuses on higher-level thinking and reading skills. Gator Jam poses an analytical challenge, asking the participant to complete a valid analogy while reading. This promotes critical thinking while reading, a primary Common Core State Standard (CCSS) reading standard as outline at  www.corestandards.org.

CSCSS Reading Standard

The CCSS assesses and requires higher-level reading and analytical skills. These exact skills are reinforced through FastforWord which has proven successful for those students preparing for exams such as the ACT, SAT and other standardized tests across middle and high school. This program teaches targeted vocabulary in the context of analogies, while helping to build skills in analyzing their relationships.

This most recent Fast ForWord  patent marks the 80th received by Scientific Learning in their 18-year history. With continued innovation in the field of educational technology, it is programs such as Fast ForWord who use neuroscience at its core to address learning differences, which are making a difference for students and adults across the globe.  This is particularly important now, given the higher CCSS reading standard, which now requires reading comprehension at an earlier age.

Our reading comprehension software can helps students as early as 1st grade by adding analytical thinking skills as is used in Gator Jam, the newly patented exercise.  The idea is to train children to perform an analytical task while reading, such as putting a word into a category.  This helps build the skill of thinking while reading, training for reading comprehension.

Help Your Child Become a Natural Reader

Acquiring A Reading Brain

Ten Ways For Kids To Become Natural Readers

Too many children need after-school programs for reading. Getting a reading brain, being a natural reader, is one of the most complex skills we learn in our lifetime.

Children need to practice reading. But that will not occur if the fundamental reading skills are not in place. Science also shows us that the brain can change and learn at any age and, in effect, be rewired to be a reading brain.

Here are 10 steps to help your school-age child develop a reading brain:

Phonemic awareness – this skill is delayed in 90% of struggling readers. A great way to practice this skill is with rhyming — short poems or simple word games that require matching sounds.

Fluency – automatic decoding. Part of this skill is word recognition, which can be helped by having your child read along with you when you read to him.

Vocabulary – take every opportunity to build your child’s vocabulary. Encourage use of a dictionary, and help your child figure out unknown words by using context.

Phonics – this another fundamental reading brain skill. It comes down to language familiarity, and so word games, letter sound matching, rhyming are all helpful. For older children, counting the number of syllables in a word is helpful.

Comprehension – discuss books with your child to help them think about what they have read, to help them develop sound reading comprehension skills.

Focus - help your child practice sustained attention by setting time goals around projects that can expand over time. Help your child develop good study habits, such as working in a quiet room, to further build attention skills.

Processing – this is the essential phonics skill, the ability to process every sound in every word. Listening games that connect words to sounds can be helpful.

• Working Memory – concentration and other matching games are helpful, as well as encouraging your child to relate stories.

Sequencing – this skill impacts spelling and comprehension. Picture books are helpful as a way of seeing a story unfold, that later can be pictures in the mind. For spelling, unscrambling letter tiles is a helpful exercise.

The final thing that parents and teachers can do is to be vigilant, and recognize as early as possible if there is a problem that requires attention. Fast ForWord is one such research based reading intervention that targets most of the above aspects of reading, as well as rewiring the cognitive skills needed for a reading brain to develop.

Signs of Early Reading Issues

Looking for Clues

Early Signs Of Reading Difficulties

Article by Geoff Nixon published in Parent Guide, August 2008

Sarah began reading when she was 4-years-old. Her parents, Sue and Tom, were amazed at how quickly her reading improved. She whizzed through kindergarten, her only blemish being some difficulty with rhyming, and her parents could not have been more thrilled. They anticipated Sarah would continue to make great reading progress. Then came third grade. The 8-year-old dynamite reader suddenly faltered. She had difficulty with longer words, needed phonics help and started to resist reading out loud. Sue and Tom were stumped.

Sarah and her family are not alone. One out of five children has some form of dyslexia, defined by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a neuroscientist at Yale University School of Medicine and author of Overcoming Dyslexia, as simply an unexpected difficulty in learning how to read. Some children struggle with their sounds right from the outset. But many others are like Sarah — they start out well and then, for no apparent reason, run into difficulties.

Therefore, it is important for parents to be vigilant. They need to understand how the brain works when it’s reading, and they need to know the clues to look for to ensure that their children really are on a sound reading track.

The Brain and Reading

While spoken language is 100-200,000 years old, reading is a relatively new invention — less than 3,500 years old. So there is no natural reading zone in the brain. To read, the brain has to create new neural circuits; the challenge is which ones?

It turns out proficient readers all read the same way. They lean heavily on their language knowledge, called their phonological vocabulary that has been developing since birth. Good readers have strong auditory processing skills that allow them to separately record each sound or phoneme within each word. This makes it easy to attach letters to sounds, that coupled with spelling conventions allows reading to be a simple extension of the spoken language.

Language is one of the fastest processing tasks that the brain has, and so it is not surprising that many children have muddy and unreliable phonological vocabularies. In these brains, the language regions of the brain are often not activated while reading — the phonemes are not clear, and so the brain has had to figure out another way to read.

Identifying Coping Mechanisms

The most common coping strategy is memorization. Confronted with the frustration of not being able to hear the sounds when being taught to decode, many young brains decide to memorize every written word. This technique can work deep into second, and sometimes even third grade, until the brain is overwhelmed by an ever-expanding word list. Since children aim to please, they add to the cover-up. It’s a common story: she was reading fine until second grade, but now the school tells me she has a reading problem. This is Sarah’s story.

Parents should not assume their child is on a good reading track because he or she likes reading or knows lots of words. It is important to look for clues indicating either a phonological awareness vocabulary problem and/or a coping strategy.

Signs of a Phonological Vocabulary Problem, Under Age Five

First, 40% of dyslexia is hereditary. So if one parent struggled with reading, then the children are at-risk readers. Similarly, if one child in a family has reading issues, then parents should pay close attention to the siblings.

Children with language delays (late to either speaking or following multi-step directions) are also at-risk readers. These delays often indicate an auditory processing glitch, which is the single most common cause of reading issues. While the language issues are normally resolved, the reading risk remains.

Another clue is difficulty rhyming. Fluent reading requires comfort and dexterity with the language. Rhyming is playing with the language — it requires dexterity also. Sarah’s rhyming difficulties were a good clue, overlooked by her parents.

Signs of Coping Strategies, Over Age Five

For a time, coping strategies can work, but they are not foundations for future reading success. The sooner they are discovered the better. Look for these clues when your first or second grader is reading aloud:

  1. Phonetically spelled words like need, mispronounced as often as harder words like enough. This is a clue that your reader may be memorizing rather than decoding.
  2. Trips over the same word more than once on the same page. This is an indication that the whole page is overwhelming, not just that word.
  3. Guesses at or skips longer words. This suggests that the word looks foreign to the child and the phonetic tools needed to decode are not present.

Clues in third and fourth grade that middle and high school reading comprehension may be at risk include:

  1. No reading stamina. If your child can only read a few pages in a sitting, that suggests a labored, exhausting and inefficient reading style.
  2. No ability to draw inferences from the text. This suggests the brain is overloaded with the task of decoding.
  3. Poor fluency in later grades. This is indicative of an inefficient reading style that takes brain capacity needed for comprehension.


Be A Sleuth

The brain’s coping mechanism is often convincing in early grades. If your child is using a coping style, a gap will develop. In most cases, those critical reading skills do not develop, and that gap does not close, making reading a life-long struggle.

So be a sleuth. And investigate reading programs if it is needed. Picking up on the clues can help prevent your child from getting deep into elementary school before discovering they have a reading problem.