ADHD is typically defined as a problem with inattentiveness, lack of concentration, hyper-activity, impulsivity or a combination thereof. Most current strategies for addressing these symptoms are behavioral or pharmaceutical. The behavioral approach is a good start but it relies on the cognitive processes of the cortex, our “thinking brain,” which are often ineffective when it comes to self-regulation and impulse control. Pharmaceuticals can be very helpful, but the negative side effects can create a whole host of new problems.
The one thing experts agree on is that there is no single solution to this complex thing called ADHD. Most people require multiple strategies. The Focus System complements both behavioral and pharmaceutical approaches by working at the physiological level, requiring the “thinking brain” to attend while simultaneously ‘exercising’ areas of the lower brain (sub-cortical) and body involved in regulation and information processing. Specifically, clinicians report the Focus System to be successful in improving the following symptoms:
- concentration: staying on task for longer periods of time
- communication: paying attention during conversation; improved listening
- organization: planning and following through on tasks; less procrastination
- physical regulation: calmer demeanor, less fidgety
- anxiety: reducing nervousness and improving sleeping patterns
ATTENDING & FOCUSING
Brain scans of ADHD individuals show the cortex as being hypo‐ or under‐active, particularly in the frontal and temporal lobes. This suggests that the cortex is the source of the problem, which is not necessarily the case. In fact, the cortical (higher brain) function in ADHD individuals is often normal. In many cases, the problem is that there is insufficient input reaching the cortex. Higher brain functions such as reading are dependent upon adequate input from the brain stem and cerebellum. The Focus System combined sound/movement approach stimulates subcortical activity, improving the ability of the brain stem and cerebellum to process sensory information leading to the cortex.
Targeted Skills: regulation, attention, focus, learning ability
PROCESSING INFORMATION, LEARNING NEW TASKS
The cerebellum has 10% of the volume of the brain, but it has 50% of the brain’s neurons. In computer terms, it’s our processor, receiving input from sensory systems and various parts of the brain, and integrating these inputs to fine-tune motor activity. Most neuroscientists agree it is involved in motor functions, cognitive functions such as attention and emotional functions such as regulating fear and pleasure responses. The The Focus System Playbook’s repetitive activities are believed to stimulate cerebellar function. Inputs from the visual, vestibular and auditory systems, session after session, train the cerebellum to become efficient at processing multi‐sensory information.
Targeted Skills: motor control, “automaticity” (motor activities becoming automatic), processing
EMOTIONAL REGULATION, BODY AWARENESS
Directly connected to the cochlea of the inner ear, the vestibular system is primarily responsible for balance and coordination, but also has a strong impact on sensory modulation and emotional regulation. Once the vestibular system is functioning well, children are better able to participate in higher brain functions such as reading, writing and expressive language. The Focus System provides specific and comprehensive stimulation to the vestibular system through bone conduction delivered via headphones, balance board activities and body movement exercises.
Targeted Skills: coordination, balance, focus, self‐regulation
MOTOR PLANNING, REGULATION, AWARENESS OF PERSONAL SPACE
By improving the sense of one’s own body ‐ where it is, how to control it, how to move it – to the point where we don’t need to think about it, we are freeing up the brain to focus on higher-order activities. Children and adults who improve their proprioceptive abilities are able to approach learning and communication tasks in a more relaxed and regulated manner. The Focus System movement program focuses on building proprioceptive abilities with specific exercises in each session.
Targeted Skills: attention, calm, athletics, coordination, daily movement, confidence
SENSE OF CALM, “GROUNDED”
The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) controls many organs and muscles that work in an involuntary, reflexive manner. The ANS is important in two situations: emergencies that require us to “fight” or take “flight” and nonemergencies that allow us to “rest and digest”. The part of the ANS which governs the latter is the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). The Focus System auditory program stimulates the PNS through the Vagus nerve (auricular branch). Many children and adults beginning iLs programs are in a state of hyper‐arousal, not far from “fight or flight”. The gentle stimulation of the PNS brings about a balance of the ANS which is reflected by increased calm and self‐regulation.
Targeted Skills: behavior, ability to focus, the calm state which allows one to better focus on higher cognitive functions
Receptors in the body deliver sensory information to the brain (and vice versa). If these receptors and the pathways leading up to the brain are not working because they were damaged or did not develop properly, the activity level of the brain decreases and different areas of the brain may not communicate with each other properly. In addition, connections between the right and left sides of the brain must be robust in order to allow for proper communication to take place between the different areas involved in higher brain function. The combination of listening and cross‐lateral activities in the The Focus System Playbook require the almost constant transfer of information from one hemisphere to the other, “exercising” the bridge that transfers information, the corpus callosum.
Targeted Skills: processing speed, cognitive functions, emotional health
ALERTNESS, ATTENTION, AND A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is a network of neurons deep in the brainstem that receives input from all sensory systems. It sends nonspecific information to the brain to “wake it up”. It is involved with regulating arousal, sleep‐wake transitions, alertness, appropriate arousal to attend to the task at hand and even prepares the motor system for action. The RAS is engaged through both the auditory and movement components of The Focus System multi‐sensory training.
Targeted Skills: ability to attend and focus, behavior