Thursday, 4 March 2010

Easily distracted...the Ritalin game.

The other day, I met a little boy, 5 years old. He has been placed on medication after his school wanted to expel him. He has been diagnosed as ADD or ADHD.
Not sure which but one or the other. Taking the medication is the condition of his continuing in school.
He gave me a picture he had drawn. Now framed and on my wall.
Ok. The medication leaves him calmer. But is that the only way? Why is he so easily distracted?
One of the characteristics of so many people when they are reading, is that one eye turns away from the page and ‘gazes out of the window’ or goes ‘on patrol’ searching the environment for something that might need to be looked at…studied….checked out.
My Eyetracker shows me this happening to me and again with dyslexic students, many of whom find concentrating on the words, when they are reading extremely difficult.
Many of these do not know why but if anything around them moves they stop seeing the words and instead, find themselves looking at whatever is moving! Or they turn their heads towards a new noise.
It was not until I was in Posnan, Poland, with the professor who was the developer of the Eyetracker that this all seemed to make sense.

He had a very simple way of demonstrating what was going on.
Hi used a ‘binocular viewer’, the old plastic ones where you looked at two very similar photographs, through two lenses, one for each eye. The two slightly different photos looked at like this gave you a 3-D image. Great fun in the 1950’s!
Professor Ober, Used an adjusted pair of photographs. One was a picture of an elaborate throne room in a castle. The other was a blank cyan (bluish) square.
When you looked through the viewer you only ‘saw’ the elaborate throne room, all reds and gold. Your brain completely ignores the cyan image.
But he had adjusted the viewer in another way. In front of the cyan side was a tiny piece of wire. Which he could move as you viewed. When he did this your brain immediately switches attention to the blue side. You stop seeing the throne! After several seconds your brain ‘decides that the cyan is not interesting. ‘That eye is sort of switched off’ and your brain gives attention again to the throne!

Using the Eyetracker, you can see that the eye looking around the throne and the eye looking at the cyan were not looking at the same part of the two pictures.
But as soon as the wire is moved, BOTH eyes move (called a saccade) move to the part of the picture where the wire has moved. It brings it to ‘centre stage’ focussed on your fovea or yellow spot. (The part of your retina which has the most ‘megapixels’ per square millimetre.)
Now this is a reflex beyond your control. It is what we have evolved to do. It protects us from ‘dangerous things around us while we are concentrating. BUT when you are reading or concentrating for a long time it can cause great problems and in schools is seen as a fault. It is disruptive to others.

So back the little boy. He has severe focussing problems; one eye is different to the other. He is very long sighted. He loves his glasses now he has them. They allow him to concentrate.
Many of the dyslexic adults I have seen have an eye which has been suppressed, often the eye needed but was not corrected by lenses when they were at school, in addition they were often very light sensitive and going with it ..Very easily distracted… With the reflex action described above, that is not really surprising!
The little boy liked it when he was wearing sunglasses over his spectacles. His optician says he should not have them...

So. What if a light sensitive boy, needing spectacles and sunglasses to thrive doesn’t get them? Perhaps some people think that medication is the best option?
I wonder what his opinion will be when he grows up.
How many people get got at by partners, relatives and friends when they reading in a darkened room? Do you/ Do you know someone like that?
The next blog will be about stamina. I have just worked with a student who has had major stamina problems.

No comments:

Post a Comment