MindFit program helps treat students with ADHD
Published: Monday, October 17, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 17, 2011 23:10
The MindFit program at West Virginia University helps diagnose and treat students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other learning disabilities.
The goal of the program is to help students with ADHD and other learning problems cope with the disorder while still excelling in the classroom.
"Our greatest hope is that we can better educate students – not only about the disorder itself, but also to inform them of the various treatment options that exist for ADHD," said Dr. Daniel Long, the program's coordinator.
Approximately 30 percent of students' concerns presented to the WELLWVU Carruth Center for Psychological and Psychiatric Services over the past year involve ADHD, Long said.
Students can receive medication from the program; however, MindFit also treats students by utilizing tools such as cognitive training and neurofeedback, which do not require medication.
"There was a time when people heard the label ‘ADHD' and thought of it as a medical disorder for which only a medication could treat," Long said. "There has been substantial research in this field over the past decade or so, and what we have learned is that attention and impulse-control are brain skills that can be developed and cultivated like any other."
Although these methods may seem unconventional, Long insists they're worth trying.
"Just like medication, it doesn't work for everybody. But, for many people, the effects can be just as good as medication," he said.
Since its start in 2009, the program has seen an increase in demand from students.
"At first, we just saw a few students to pilot the program," Long said. "When we saw that it could be effective, we opened the doors to serve a greater number of students."
The program first uses cognitive training to improve the attention span of students with ADHD by presenting them with mental exercises that are set up like a game.
These mental exercises try to get students to improve working memory and executive functioning skills in addition to attention span.
All of these things have shown to be impaired in patients with ADHD and can greatly hinder a student's ability to perform well in class.
"ADHD is a disorder that can cause clinically significant impairment in academic functioning," Long said. "For example, students that we see often report difficulty paying attention in class, during exams, and when reading or doing homework."
Neurofeedback teaches students how to adjust brain wave activity to find their peak attention span and cognitive functioning.
Studies have shown that patients who used cognitive training and neurofeedback together have made great improvements on the problems associated with ADHD, Long said.
"Our MindFit interventions do not have side effects, and unlike medication, the symptoms return after medication is discontinued. There is research that demonstrates that improvements incurred from cognitive and neurofeedback training remain even after training has ended," Long said.
Long said the program has made a difference in the lives of students coping with ADHD.
"We have a number of really exciting success stories of students who tell us that our services have really made a difference in their lives," Long said.