Nine-year-old Steven looks like any active, charming little boy – or he would if he could sit still long enough for you to get a good look at him. Steven had been diagnosed with ADHD which, even with his medication, was preventing him from making progress in school. When I took on the challenge of helping Steven, I didn’t know anyone could fidget in so many different positions in their chair and not fall out!
The school had tried all of the interventions they had in their bag of tricks and he still struggled. Steven wasn’t able to do all 20 spelling words, so the school reduced the number to 5. He has had limited homework for the last 3 years.
I started working with Steven in August 2010 on a one-on-one basis. It took every bit of patience I could muster and even then, he still needed a coach sitting next to him in class to keep him focused. I knew he needed something else.
I turned to BrainWare Safari, a software program that develops skills such as attention, memory and visual processing. I put him on BrainWare Safari, and he loved it. He was so captivated by the characters and the graphics and seeing his character grow up, he would keep trying even though it has been challenging for him.
Now, Steven has passed 144 of the 168 levels of the levels in the program, and he’s still working to complete the ones that are left. Whenever he’s working on an exercise that’s particularly hard for him, I hear my own words parroted back to me as he digs in and tries again. “Mrs. Brown,” he’ll say, “If we don’t do the hard ones, it won’t train our brain.”
For Steven, the turning point was Jungle Labyrinth, a series of mazes in BrainWare Safari that require planning, mouse control and plenty of patience. It took Steven 44 attempts to pass Level 1. It forced him to learn control of the mouse and control of his attention.
Now Steven can sit and read a book. When he reads aloud and starts off on a tangent, he’ll catch himself and say something like, “Oh, I’m wasting time,” and get himself back on task. He reads with fluency and expression, something his parents and teachers weren’t sure would ever happen.
Being able to sit and read isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Steven just took his first full spelling test with 20 words. He only missed one. His overall grades are improving as well. His parents report that the morning routine is much more manageable.
Steven is very proud of how far he’s progressed, so much so that he took one of the character cards that came with the program and put it in his wallet. “When I’m in college,” he told me, “I’m going to pull this out and say, ‘I did this when I was nine.’”
Steven has made tremendous strides. I couldn’t have done his therapy without BrainWare Safari.
Carol is the founder and executive director of the Academic Success Center of Kentucky.