The problem identified for my course project, and possibly for future projects, is deficient critical thinking in our youth, and more especially the dramatic deficiencies in cognitive/critical thinking amongst ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) learners.
Current Research Questions:
The current research question(s) being addressed in my course project are:
(1) Can computer assisted instruction improve cognitive thinking/critical thinking of ADHD learners between the ages of 6-13?
(2) Can video game instruction improve cognitive thinking/critical thinking more than computer assisted instruction in ADHD learners between the ages of 6-13?
Formal Academic Research Study:
There are numerous benefits to be discovered via a formal academic research study, and more precisely, several studies in a series as most research requires meticulous planning and often results in baby steps towards new knowledge. First, although ADHD has been studied for a number of years, there are still a number of misconceptions regarding diagnosis, causation, symptomology, and treatment. Second, this disorder affects an ever increasing amount of people, primarily because it has been determined to be typically genetic in origin, far more likely in “first degree biological relatives” (Aupperlee, Swank, Lien, & Ripinski, n.d.). Anecdotally, I can attest this is makes a great deal of sense. My father has ADHD, I have ADHD, and my oldest son has ADHD. There is now ongoing research looking into exactly what gene carries the ADHD genome. Further, various research indicates the prevalence ranging from 3% to 8% of children (Aupperlee et al., n.d.; Brown, 2002). Third, although, the DSM-IV-TR has provided a unifying criteria for diagnosing ADHD, including three subtypes (Aupperlee et al., n.d.), there are still many unanswered questions and/or theories regarding the depth of the disorders effect of individual cognition. Prevalent theories include arousal activation deficits, neurological chemistry dopamine issues, deficient attentional networks, deficient executive function, brain wave deficits and/or excesses and/or combinations thereof. Further, treatments are as varied as the nuances of the disorder itself. Typical treatments include medical intervention (stimulants), cognitive intervention, behavioral intervention, neuro/biofeedback intervention, and/or combinations thereof.
There are many questions I would seek to answer. First, a very thorough literature review needs to be conducted. I have only barely scratched the surface. Yet, I am surprised there are not more studies coalescing together. For instance, there are studies in support of brain wave alteration and positive results from neurofeedback; yet, there are not any replicative studies. Similarly, there are numerous studies regarding CAI improving children cognitive function in general, with a slight foray into studying the effects in ADHD learners, but not nearly the number I would expect.
Some important questions:
1. Do ADHD individuals have excessive slow brain wave activity and reduced fast brain wave activity? Relatedly, is the brain wave activity related to the dopamine delayed response?
2. Can biofeedback/neurofeedback be used to alter the brain wave activity towards the typical? How effectively? How long? What kind of feedback works? Video games? Auditory? Etc.
3. Is ADHD primarily a result of deficiencies in the attentional networks and/or executive function? How deeply is cognition affected?
4. Does computer assisted instruction (CAI) improve cognitive thinking in ADHD learners? Relatedly, does video game instruction improve cognitive thinking significantly more? Relatedly, what are the elements of these instructional programs can be identified as being the contributing factors?
5. There is some research evidence in support of ADHD individuals maintain more typical inhibitory response behavior (appropriate) when playing video games. Why? What specific elements are allowing the individual to successfully inhibit their behavior, when in all other instructional situations, they cannot?
6. Yet another series of studies should investigate the effectiveness of the various types of treatments comparatively: medical, cognitive, behavioral and/or combinations. However, it would be unwise to begin this type of investigation without the foundational questions in 1-5 answered first. It is entirely possible that once those questions are answered clinically, the answers to 5 will become more readily apparent.
7. Lastly, all of these various questions should be expanded for long-term analysis. What appears to be an excellent treatment today, may in fact, be damaging in the long-run.
It is clear to me through my research and reading the various resources, my academic research designs would tend to be mixed method in design and approach (Locke, Silverman, & Spirduso, 2010) for a number of reasons. First, there would necessarily be qualitative data gathered in the form of observations, interviews, formal questionnaires, and very likely video. Second, there would also be a great deal of quantitative data collected and analyzed such as brain wave readings, pre-/post-test results of task performance, and training, etc. There would even be quantitative data of the qualitative data. This deserves a little explanation.
My son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 4. That is highly unusual. Typically, doctors prefer not to diagnose ADHD until children are little older because toddlers have a tendency to be a little inattentive at times. However, 45 minutes into the consultation with me, and my son just being in the room, the doctor changed his mind and requested a formal evaluation by a specialist. There are behaviors of ADHD children and individuals that can inform a trained eye what they do not know themselves.
For instance, although I had always known I was ADHD I never sought treatment for it until my son’s doctor commented that she wanted me to speak at one of her seminars because I was a “classic unmedicated ADHD adult.” Mind you, she had never examined me and did not have access to my medical chart, which did not have a diagnosis of ADHD in it at that time anyway. When I went to see a psychiatrist to determine if I “diagnosable” I was not surprised she was blind. However, she did surprise me with something she said. She typed up notes as she asked me questions. At one point I asked her if she thought I was ADHD. She told me, “absolutely, I’m certain of it.” I asked how she could be so certain, just because of my answers to some questions. I will never forget her statement. “I may be blind, but I could hear all of your impulsive/ behavioral movements. You have not sat still since you walked in this office.” It was true. I tap, I pick, I squirm, I skootch. Sitting still and waiting for anything is like pure torture.
These experiences, mine and those of my son, have enlightened me to the possibility that there is much to observe, as well as test. Both sets of information will prove invaluable in helping ADHD individuals learn to live with the disorder. Further, if there is a way to keep children from suffering through academia with a disorder resulting in falling behind academically, hating school, having poor self-esteem, and being ostracized, then perhaps I am just the someone to investigate it. Although, I will be very careful to report every one of my possible biases. The research must be as bias free as possible, hence eliciting the help of very intelligent, qualified, and (hopefully excellent statisticians) research partners.
I am certain I have missed something in this tale. Please feel free to provide me any feedback you can. I have become absolutely enamored with this entire topic and look forward to spending a great many years with it.
Aupperlee, J., Swank, M. G., Lien, M., & Ripinski, A. (n.d.). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Retrieved July 20, 2011, from https://www.msu.edu/course/cep/888/ADHD%20files/Home.htm
Brown, T. E. (2002, November). DSM-IV: ADHD and executive function impairments. Advanced Studies in Medicine, 2(25), 910-914. Retrieved from http://www.drthomasebrown.com/pdfs/ef_article.pdf
Locke, L. F., Silverman, S. J., & Spirduso, W. W. (2010). Reading and understanding research (3rd Ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.