Focus and Attention Building with
Computer Assisted Training (FABCAT)
By Gary Ames 610-668-3223
Training ADHD Away
Focus and Attention Building with Computer Assisted Feedback (FABCAT) is a generic name for a type of education used in over 500 school systems. Efficacy of attention training with students has had compelling evidence since the 1970s (see J. Lubar 1970). The hard science research results are now indeed impressive with the number of studies and successful students doubling each year.
Specific educational research within school settings dates back to 1991 at the “New Visions School” and “A Chance To Grow,” in Minneapolis. They have gathered very nice research data over the years. You can also see some research results at www.PlayAttention.com. They estimate that for Special Ed students solely with attention problems, approximately 75-80% can be mainstreamed within one year. Recently, controlled scientific studies (Monastra, 2001) have proven that about half of those with ADHD can completely end their use of stimulant medications.
In most studies, success rates vary between 60-90% of ADHD students who complete 40 hours of training sessions. Students show significant results in improved alertness, focus, and attention using any standard test. Results are readily measured with IVA, behavioral measures, classroom charts, and in reduced requirements for medication.
Once attention improvements are attained, the students’ improved capacity for learning is sustained. Related behavior issues disolve. There are only occasional requests for booster sessions.
Any Teacher, Aide, or Volunteer can be an Attention Coach. Training the Trainer can be self-study with videos, and takes as little as 2-4 hours. Phone support is required by PlayAttention. Other suppliers have different equipment, nuances, and support arrangements. Certifications are offered but not required.
One FT Attention Coach meets with each student for 30-40 minute training session 2 times per week. At 6 sessions per day with 24 students, yields about 70 sessions per student within one school year which is about 40 hours of training per student, per year.
Range of Sessions
The Attention Training generally yields very noticeable changes within a few months. Some Special Ed. students can be mainstreamed after one semester. Normal and gifted students and athletes usually required fewer sessions to notice greater mental focus and the capacity to concentrate.
Look of FABCAT
Each session looks like the student playing a video game. The student might wear a light plastic helmet that provides data to the computer about the degree of attention devoted to the current task. That feedback affects the display so the student can learn what works to succeed in the game by gathering fuller attention.
Feel of FABCAT
The student experience is typically described as pleasant or interesting. Students typically feel more alert at the end of a session. This learning is consolidated over time, generalized, and becomes a preferred way to attend to the world at large.
Content of PlayAttention
In most of the FABCAT approaches, training content is irrelevant. It is the capacity for focus and attention which is trained with computer assisted feedback. PlayAttention trains with 6 kinds of attention tasks as video game subject matter: Attention, Visual tracking, Discriminatory Processing (what’s important now) Attention Stamina, Time on Task, Short Term Memory (sequencing). While this content has some intuitive appeal, it may not be more effective than other approaches, even on these particular tasks.
Effects of FABCAT
The improved skill at focusing and attention is universally preferred by the student, teachers, administration, and parents. It only hurts the pharmacist because the need for Ritalin, Adderall and other attention medications often declines or is no longer needed, at all. There is no risk associated with FABCAT training, there are often health related or behavioral benefits, such as sleep and defiance.
Cost of FABCAT
The cost for various kinds of equipment range between $2-5000 plus one computer each and one Attention Coach for about 24 students. Some equipment needs old computers, while others make full use of the latest technology. Setting up a room with multiple Computerized Attention Trainers can handle a higher volume of students with just one Attention Coach. The upper limit is about 10 Training Units and 10 students at a time coming in at specific intervals. Add more Coaches with equipment and there is no limit.
Getting started with FABCAT
Schools can begin with one or two training units and train one or two staff. After one semester the benefits can be observed and decisions to expand the program are made on firmer footing. For certainty of early success, Play Attention has a strong implementation track record in schools. At full utilization, calculate: $3000 for Play Attention, one used computer, one Attention Coach for 25-40 students per year. Naturally, there can be a part-time commitment for trial purposes to reduce staff expense.
A more ambitious beginning is to purchase an array of equipment from several vendors. Each approach has it’s own merits. Here you provide training as appropriate to each approach, and simultaneously implement some in each school.
Since every approach works, the diversity yields the broadest local knowledge base. The experience fosters the most informed assessment and best next step. Assume $2-5000 per training unit. There is merit to paying $4000 per pupil which includes outside services to ascertain very specific training protocols. I am personally most impressed with NeuroCARE pro. See www.Zengar.com for a most impressive system – world class.
Benefits of FABCAT
The training is directly in line with school’s mission and mandates. Since attentional difficulties adds significant cost and effort, for both learning and teaching, any relief is multi-faceted. The most financially tangible benefit is in mainstreaming special education students. The return on investment is attractive by any criteria. Beyond mainstreaming those with attentional issues, all students can benefit from FABCAT training. Delighted students, parents and teachers are to be expected.