You remember Jason the 26 year old young man who hope to return to college. He participated in Cogmed for Adults and his results are startling! It has been awhile since he finished and we had our follow-up final session. The reason for that is that Cogmed is set up to look for “far transfer,” or long term results. We don’t have our final session until 4 – 6 weeks after the program is completed.
A criticism of other computer assisted programs for working memory and attention is that they measure how well participants did in the program, not necessarily how their achievements transferred to real world changes. That is why in Cogmed we meet after 4-6 weeks to talk about changes in real life as experienced by participants and others in their lives.
Training results can be described in three different ways. First is a Training Index which is calculated continuously throughout the program. Index Improvement is calculated by comparing the beginning index with the highest index achieved during training. Average index Improvement of trainees aged 18 and above lies somewhere between 15 – 41 units. Jason’s Index Improvement was 79! He still attributes this to “…being really awful at the beginning….” but I don’t think so – I think he needed a disciplined training experience to tap into his real capacity.
The Cogmed Progress Indicator, the second way to describe results, measures percentage of improvement on three separate tasks: Working Memory, Following Instructions, and Math. Jason had a 26% improvement in Working Memory, 77% improvement in Following Instruction and a 26% improvement in Math.
The third way to describe results is by using Behavioral Assessments (rating scales) for the Executive Skills of Inattention and Impulsivity. The larger the decrease in severity the stronger the training effects. Cogmed also takes into account verbal opinions in this case from Ryan and his mother. Jason had a decrease of 7 points in a measure of Inattention and 5 point in Impulsivity. Jason described the most prominent effects of his training this way: “I feel more focused and aware. I’m able to stay focused and I definitely remember more.” His mother said that she doesn’t always have to keep reminding him to do things, and he does them well. Jason takes care of an elderly relative’s medications and routines. His mother used to always have to check to see it was done correctly, but she doesn’t feel she needs to do this anymore. Jason has also started taking action. He has enrolled in an online speed reading class to prepare to begin college in January.
Jason is also planning to take a face to face reading and reading comprehension class in about two weeks. He says the face to face will be a challenge because, “I’ve always been uncomfortable in groups.” This social uncomfortablility is not uncommon in people with working memory and attention difficulty. I predict Jason will be better able to focus on conversations and so respond appropriately to peers. He will be better able to stay on topic and remember what has already been discussed.
Jason’s progress was impressive. Better yet – he’s not finished improving. Continuous follow-up with Cogmed trainings has taught us that 25% of training effects are subtle right after training. Transfer effects to areas like reading comprehension and math may take a few more months to establish. Also, research shows that many users continue to improve on different skills related to working memory up to one year after training.
We have another follow-up scheduled for March 15, 2015. Jason’s new working memory capacity will offer him many natural opportunities to use his improved ability. He will likely read faster so reading will be more fun and he will do it more often and for longer periods. If he is able to remember what to do and is given positive feedback for this, he will be more engaged with others. He will listen to them and follow-through on tasks and keep commitments.
I am so pleased with Jason’s Cogmed progress so far. I predict more success in the future. Will let you know in March of 2015 when college student Jason returns!