The training consists of eight simple, memory-tuning exercises. The software prompts you, for instance, to listen to a string of numbers and recite them backwards, or to watch sections of a grid light up in sequence, and then copy the pattern. It’s not exactly scintillating stuff, but over time, I found myself enjoying and getting better at the drills. I suspect my son shared this experience. The program provides graphs that chart your progress, and both of us watched our lines go steadily upward. Tuckman kept telling my son how much better he was doing than I was — another powerful motivator for him.
The obvious question for consumers is how this proficiency translates into real-world skills. Cogmed representatives say 80 percent of those who complete the training experience “significant change.” I looked for signs of improvement, both in Buzz and me, and didn’t see anything dramatic. At the start of Week 3, I forgot my purse when I went out to dinner. On the other hand, after only a couple of weeks, it seemed that my son was making more eye contact, and having fewer and less intense temper tantrums. Amid one of our most difficult summers ever, full of cabin fever and conflict, we had some unusually calm conversations. Furthermore, after Buzz hacked into my Facebook account, sending goofy messages to my friends — alas, not unusual behavior for him — he apologized, which wasn’t exactly on par with teaching himself Farsi, but, for him, was extraordinary.
Tuckman tells me that the changes often take time to appear — sometimes several months after the training is completed — so I’m staying hopeful.
Meanwhile, I’m pondering two questions: 1) Might it be that anything else that was going on in our lives this summer — from family therapy to the fact that my son was out of school for a couple of months—helped improve his behavior? This is something only a controlled study could tell us, and I had only my anecdotal experience. 2) What role did our expectations play in the improvements we saw?
LA great deal of research has been done on the placebo effect, all of it suggesting that expectations matter mightily. It’s also a no-brainer that when a parent directs intense, positive attention toward a child — from closely monitoring his diet to schlepping her to violin lessons — it’s bound to have a positive effect.
Might it be that my son was being perceptibly nicer because I’d been sending him my own “You Rock!” signals every time he completed a day of Cogmed training? I’ll probably never know, but I am convinced it didn’t hurt.
This article appears in the Winter 2011 issue of ADDitude.
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