Monday, June 18, 2012

Driving and Brain Speed

Maggie doesn't drive.   When she was approaching the age when kids are allowed to take drivers' ed, I couldn't put my finger on the reason why we weren't going to allow her to get behind the wheel.  After the psychological evaluation she had recently, now I know why. 

If your brain processes things slowly, it's hard to take in all the things you see when driving, consider not only what's happening but also what is likely to happen in the next several seconds, then make decisions about what to do with your couple-of-tons of metal, and then do it.  And that would be even harder when there's extra traffic or when you're driving in an unfamiliar area, trying to watch for stop signs while navigating unknown roads to your destination.

After our IEP meeting, I've been wondering if there's something that can be done to help Maggie increase her processing speed.  The IEP which the school offered doesn't really have anything designed to achieve higher processing speed.  The remedial reading, writing, and math they're offering look to me as if they're trying to help her catch up to closer to "where she should be" according to the school's timetable.  When I look online for information about increasing neurological processing speed, I am skeptical.  Someone provides a service that purports to help increase a student's processing speed.  Will it work?  Or are they hawking a service that will line their pockets?  How can we know? 

Too often, I've seen "tests" which purport to measure a certain aspect of a person's ability.  The test is supposed to represent/reveal how a person performs in one area of thinking.  Then the person is trained and drilled and drilled and trained.  The person improves his score on the test.  But (!!!) does that mean the person has actually improved in thinking ability or reasoning ability or brain speed?  Or does it just demonstrate that the person has trained his brain to do a particular task quicker?  I found an online exercise for "increasing your brain's processing speed."  But I'm suspicious as to whether practicing this exercise will actually increase the speed of neurological connections in any area except the one which has been rehearsed and drilled.

So what's the solution?  Do we just keep plugging away with the kind of activities and books we've been using?  Do we assume that trying these therapies might actually change Maggie's brain speed instead of merely speeding her up on the exercises?  Will increased speed in one task generalize to increased speed in hearing & decision-making & academics & overall problem-solving?  Or will this kind of therapy just take time away from activities that might be more interesting and beneficial in the long-run?


  1. I liked Sandra Bullock's comment in "The Blind Side." "What do you need a driver's license for? You don't have a car." Or something like that. :)

    Jane S.

  2. Do not know if you do video games at all. But the very old ones, on a PS2, or now on computer, like frogger, tetris(where you learn to turn items quickly) would certainly help her make choices more quickly.

  3. But does practicing those kinds of games translate into being able to "listen faster" to instructions about cooking or sewing? Does it enhance reading comprehension? Does it help a person learn to problem-solve when it comes to laundry or cooking or babysitting or weeding?

  4. Is there a neuro-scientist at the Medical College who could answer your questions? I think that's where I'd look .

  5. Huh. Y'know, I don't think neurologists and neuro-scientists are part of the "vcfs team." Hmmm. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't recall seeing them listed when there are vcfs-specific clinics. Good idea, Pam.

  6. I know that there is a neuropsych associated with CHOP (Philadelphia). Dr Ed Moss is his name. Syracuse also had Dr Antshel. My daughter is on a waiting list for COGMED which is a program for neuroprocessing and works on executive function skills. Do I know it works? Not yet...but the studies (including peer reviewed research, MRI before/after images) give me hope.

    I'm looking into homeschooling my daughter this fall. I'm very nervous about it which is why I look at blogs (like yours) to see how others have done it. I know it isn't one size fits all, but....

  7. So, Kathi, how old is your daughter? (I'm wondering if COGMED is more effective for little kids rather than near-adults.)

    Kathi, the thing I stumble over again and again is math. Everybody says Saxon is great. I hated Saxon for my other kids, but I finally decided to try it for Mags. And she can work through it -- albeit with loads of mistakes. But she doesn't UNDERSTAND what she's doing or why, which means she forgets everything when she's been away from it for more than a week or two. Right now, we're trying "Life of Fred." We're only on Book 2 of the elementary stuff, but I have hopes (??) that it will help gel some concepts of arithmetic so that it makes sense to her.