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Working Mem and Proc Speed


brownie
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Are there any studies showing that these can actually be improved long term? Or is it just something you have to deal with? I know there are programs out there that *claim* to help, but I'm not sure I've read that any are proven to make a long-term difference.

Brownie

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You know there's a lot of cynicism in general about therapies for this, because, as you say, there are retention issues. However SpyCar I think had a post many moons ago I came across where he pointed out that anything where you stretch AND THEN CONTINUE TO USE IT was more likely to stick. I think Doodles just had a comment in that vein in the unschooling thread on the LM board, where she pointed out the Eides' comments about multiple paths to improving working memory.

 

So anything where you get the stretch AND continue to use it is going to be self-reinforcing. Now I'm also a little dubious on n-backs and whatnot *in isolation*. They don't use the skills *in isolation* so practicing them in isolation isn't realistic. You want the skills to be in the context of the way they'll be used. That means the work needs to involve *distractions* and *motor control*. They could zoom ahead and look really sharp on say n-backs in isolation but not be able to handle them with distractions or while writing. Then they still aren't to the point of being useful and self-reinforcing.

 

It would be similar to speech therapy for apraxia. Teaching a dc to say a bunch of sounds isn't the same as teaching him to SPEAK. For speech it all has to come together into one useful package. In our therapy we don't treat individual sounds as aggressively; we do less sounds and get them in context, in context, so they're immediately being used.

 

That may or may not make sense to you, sorry. N-backs in isolation aren't as useful as n-backs plus motor control or plus distractions. Then you're getting to how they'll actually USE them. And when it's something that's getting USED, it's not a parlour trick that gets lost.

 

Also, sometimes what they're doing when they work on these things is trying to get some development going in the EF portion of the brain. When they do that, you get growth that isn't directly proportional to the exact thing you were working on. Then you get carryover that just plain improves life and is, again, self-reinforcing. They worked on EF stuff and working memory (plus distractions) in VT, and my dd started doing things like remembering to feed the dog. She didn't stop remembering to feed the dog just because time elapsed post-VT, lol. It was self-reinforcing. You got growth and you built on it.

 

But yes, what you're seeing is what I saw, that most people I called about IM had stories of kids doing it and losing the gains. I don't see us losing what we've gained, but it's not isolated skills. It's all stuff that gets incorporated into her life and built on and that was done with lots of attention to being useable.

Edited by OhElizabeth
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Cogmed and n-back training have scientific studies showing they improve working memory as long as you keep using them. Here is a link to a few of the scientific studies in full. It's a no-brainer to first try dual n-back since it's free, while Cogmed costs $1,500-$2,000. It's a waste of money to pay for Lumosity and other unproven programs before trying n-back.

Are there any studies showing that these can actually be improved long term? Or is it just something you have to deal with? I know there are programs out there that *claim* to help, but I'm not sure I've read that any are proven to make a long-term difference.

Brownie

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Brownie, with a lot of the therapies, after you search them enough, what you find is people saying they got xyz results (25% increase in working memory, whatever) and it held for x amount of time. They went back a period later (say a year later) and that number had gone back down. Maybe not to 0, but back down. I found this type of thing happening in IM, cogmed, etc. when I looked into them. Some of the therapies were known only to bump working memory by 25%. Well thanks, but for $2K, I better see a whole lot more improvement than going from 4 digits to 5, kwim? That's not even a significant increase for improving life and how someone functions, kwim?

 

I finally gave up. I couldn't keep throwing $$KK$$ every time some "professional" thinks up a new thing. Wii for processing speed (since it's known through multiple studies that video games affect processing speed) and a metronome app with books for working memory. Our VT place throws a lot of PACE stuff into the VT sessions. PACE is good becomes it combines distractions and working memory and visual or auditory processing into one task that the student uses and can be built. That's real life and something that will get reinforced on as you do your living and school work.

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Are there any studies showing that these can actually be improved long term? Or is it just something you have to deal with? I know there are programs out there that *claim* to help, but I'm not sure I've read that any are proven to make a long-term difference.

Brownie

 

I was recently talking to a psychologist who offers Cogmed. She says there aren't any longitudal (sp?) studies on Cogmed in part because it's very hard to keep study participants participating long-term. She did Cogmed herself; I think that's part of the training. And though she had no working memory deficits, she noticed an improvement in herself and she she feels those gains have stayed with her and it's been over a year since she did it herself.

 

The one thing I heard that can help with processing speed is video games...but we haven't tried that.

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My dd11 had success with a program called LearningRX. It improved her processing speed and working memory tremendously. (I wrote a post about it on my blog is you want to search there) But we have seen that if we don't continue to challenge those areas, she gets rusty. I would still do it in a heartbeat as it helped her so very much, but it's true that you need to keep using it or you will lose it. I'm sure that's true in everything though. :)

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Alright - I need to research some of these options. If it's cheap, it can't hurt :) The VT recommended something called PIggyback I think? But they were going to charge something like $200 for the software and honestly it seemed like a dumbed down version of lumosity.

 

It wasn't just a working memory/processing speed thing. There was definitely spatial awareness and eye-hand coordination and I don't know what else.

Brownie

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Hmm, well video games are not an option in our house because they worsen outbursts from the SPD. How about playing piano? That would seem to integrate processing speed and a ton of other skills. Also, if IIRC, I thought our neuropsychs said that doing dictation and memorizing verses or poetry was exercising the working memory as well. I'm just not convinced I need more gadgets to do something like this, and that it can't just be improved through little tweaks with routines or skills that are already in our day.

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This is all pretty discouraging. My nephew just got back the results from his cognitive testing post chemo and radiation. Scores in all areas, except processing speed and working memory, are very high. Those other two areas are down in 1st and 2nd percentiles. They are not sure if these are permanent (he is about 5 months out of treatment) or if he will gradually recover some of these losses. He loves video games, though, so he'll be happy to hear about that :)

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Here's a short video of dual n-back.

It's nowhere as exciting as a video game, but it taxes your working memory capacity and MAY even improve fluid intelligence. The FREE version I use is at Brain Workshop. I have my 11-year old do around 20 rounds for 20 minutes every other day, and will continue to make time for it even when I start teaching her Orton-Gillingham.

 

I tried the Lumosity ADHD and Math Tutor courses for my child (along with AttenGo), but she seems to have gotten even worse at school this year. :(

OK I'm sorry - I understand the logic of "if you learn it and then use it, it will stick long-term", but what is n-back? We tried Lumosity briefly a couple of years ago. I liked some of the games. I have considered trying it again for ds.
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Hmm, well video games are not an option in our house because they worsen outbursts from the SPD. How about playing piano? That would seem to integrate processing speed and a ton of other skills. Also, if IIRC, I thought our neuropsychs said that doing dictation and memorizing verses or poetry was exercising the working memory as well. I'm just not convinced I need more gadgets to do something like this, and that it can't just be improved through little tweaks with routines or skills that are already in our day.

 

Do you remember the Little House on the Prairie episodes where the kids would do those massive long division problems in their heads? That's an amazing example of working memory. I can't think of a better one. And they worked up to it, not through any high tech gadget but through exercising their memories on a daily basis.

 

(Not to oversimplify...)

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Do you remember the Little House on the Prairie episodes where the kids would do those massive long division problems in their heads? That's an amazing example of working memory. I can't think of a better one. And they worked up to it, not through any high tech gadget but through exercising their memories on a daily basis.

 

(Not to oversimplify...)

 

My dd has this propensity to do it in her head, which I think is common to kids with the mix labels. She's doing it even for these really long BJU problems that you would not *think* should be done in their heads, mercy. Her working memory can't *quite* keep up on the multi-step word problems (they're REALLY complicated!), so I've been teaching her how to use the whiteboard as external RAM. We actually call it that. :D Anyways, if we ever get her working memory high enough to allow her to do fully in her head what she TRIES to do in her head, that would be pretty astonishing and, as you say, self-reinforcing.

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My dd11 tested at the 3rd percentile for working memory, and there's no doubt in my mind that it really was that bad. Her visual memory was a little better than auditory, but they were both poor. Her memory is amazing now, though. When we lose something, she's the one we go to because she's most likely to remember where the item was last seen.

 

We use Barton Reading and Spelling, and before that, we used LiPS (Lindamood Bell Phonemic Sequencing). I remember talking or emailing with Susan Barton once, because I wasn't sure we were getting anywhere. One of the exercises dd had to do was tap the sounds in a 3 letter word, then bring down 3 colored tiles to represent the 3 sounds. If 2 of the sounds were the same, she'd use the same color for those 2 sounds (ex. pep). Well, by the time she tapped the 3 sounds, she couldn't remember what the first sound was, so she didn't know whether she needed 3 colors or 2 colors. Then when we got to the point of using letters instead of blank tiles, she would have the same issue. When I would dictate words for her to spell, by the time she got the first letter down, she couldn't remember the word. Susan told me to keep going her and remind her of the word as many times as she needed it; these exercises would build her auditory memory. It took a long time, but Susan was right!

 

The other thing that helped was getting points at church for memorizing Bible verses, then getting to spend the points at the Kidztown store. I'm not really a big fan of using candy and prizes to get kids to read and memorize the Bible, but I have to admit that the motivation really helped K's brain development.

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I was just writing about that in this post:

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/showpost.php?p=4425258&postcount=6

 

I would only add that my ds's working memory was so bad that he would not have been able to get off the ground with activities like dictation, poetry memorization, or even the kind of phonemic segmenting that LizzyBee is describing. He really did need to start with something very easy and straightforward like digit spans.

 

 

K's speech therapist did digit spans with her, too. Another thing I just remembered, her first speech therapist told us to get the game Guess Who. K and her sister used to play that game a lot! We had one of those electronic color games from the 70's that we used a few times, too. I can't remember what it's called, but you have to remember the sequence of the colors that flash/buzz. The chains keep getting longer until someone makes a mistake.

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