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Neurofeedback as an Intervention to Improve Reading Achievement in Students With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Inattentive Subtype


Attention deficit disorders are among the most prevalent and widely studied of all psychiatric disorders. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 9.0% of children (12.3% of boys and 5.5% of girls) between ages 5 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. Research consistently demonstrates that attention deficits have a deleterious effect on academic achievement with symptoms often appearing in early childhood and persisting throughout life. Impairments in attention, and not hyperactivity/impulsivity, are associated with learning difficulties and academic problems. To date, most studies have focused on addressing symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity with relatively little research being conducted on efficacious interventions to address the needs of students with ADHD, inattentive subtype. A growing body of literature now supports EEG operant conditioning (neurofeedback) as an evidence-based practice for improving attention. This study is the first to examine the use of neurofeedback as an intervention to improve reading achievement in a public school setting. A multiple-baseline-across-participants single-case model was used to assess five fourth grade students who received 40 daily sessions of neurofeedback. Following the intervention, quantitative electroenchalographic (qEEG) assessments revealed positive changes in most participants' EEGs. Improvements were observed on measures of attention; on the IVA+Plus, a continuous performance test, and/or on the CNS-VS Shifting Attention Test. While results on tests of reading fluency, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) test of Oral Reading Fluency (ORF), and the Gray Oral Reading Tests - Fifth Edition (GORT-5), revealed little change, all participants expressed gains on the GORT-5 measure of reading comprehension. These results suggest that neurofeedback may have helped participants to become more accurately engaged with the text (thus reading speed was not increased) and yet they read with more focused attention to content. Furthermore, four of the five participants continued to express gains and one participant maintained observed growth on the GORT-5 during follow-up (conducted approximately five and a half months subsequent to posttest assessments). Similarly, four of the five participants also expressed gains, and one maintained previous performance on the IVA+Plus. These findings indicate that neurofeedback may be a viable option to assist children with attention deficits as an intervention strategy for improving both attention and reading achievement.

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