Brain Fitness Pro Jr, our journey begins

My son started using Brain Fitness Pro Jr last week. He is 9 years old, and has been diagnosed with ADHD, primarily inattentive. His test scores show major deficits in the areas of working memory and executive function, and he struggles with basic skills such as memorizing multiplication tables, spelling, etc., though his verbal scores are very high as are his math problem-solving skills. When he was about four years old and I started teaching him to read and play piano, it was like groundhog day: he would forget a word he’d read in the previous sentence and have to sound it out each time he encountered it. The next day would be the same thing again. While he did learn to read and play piano, it was slow-going, hard work for him, despite his love of books and music. Printing and cursive writing were more of the same, it took a lot of one-on-one training sessions to get his cursive writing to a functional level–he would often forget what a letter should look like.

Our psychologist recommended trying CogMed, but due to the high cost involved, I decided to try Brain Fitness Pro Jr first as I have the time to spend with my son to ensure he completes the exercises, and feel I have a good understanding of the subject from the reading I have done. I am hoping to see some improvement in his working memory and focus. He is beginning to understand that he has issues in these areas, and is somewhat self-conscious and intimidated at school as a result.

Week 1: He started with Straightahead. His scores for the first five sessions were: 4.63, 6.13, 6.5, 5.63 and 5.75. He was curious and motivated for the first few days, but the tedium set in fairly quickly.The sessions last 12 minutes, and that’s enough for him. I see his focus start to wander after the first five minutes or so and his performance declines. Next week we still try Switchback.

Week 2: My son’s scores on Switchback were 2.63, 3.88, 5.38, 4.00, and 4.63. Interesting that it follows the same rise-fall-rise pattern as the first week on Straightahead. I haven’t timed it, but it seems that my son starts to lose focus after the first 5-6 minutes, I see his performance decline after that point. As a note to the software designers, while my son and I both find the Looney Tunes voices of Daffy Duck and Yosemite Sam cute when they are encouraging, I have to say that I didn’t care for the “No, no, no, you’re doing it all wrong!” message you get after giving too many incorrect responses. Being blasted with “You’re doing it all wrong!” when struggling with a┬átedious but hard task didn’t do anything to boost my son’s spirits, even if it was said by Daffy Duck. He KNOWS he’s doing it wrong and already feels badly about it.

Next week we will go back to Straightahead.

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