Story Photo

SCHS freshman Ben Wagner concentrates as he maneuvers a ball while playing the Mindflex at the Survivor Health Fair on Friday.


SCHS freshman Ben Wagner concentrates as he maneuvers a ball while playing the Mindflex at the Survivor Health Fair on Friday.

By Rod Haxton, editor

Exercise can help control

attention deficit in youth

Ben Wagner was completely focused on making a sponge ball follow a circular path, carefully maneuvering it through a pair of hoops.

The ball was riding a cushion of air that was controlled by Wagner’s mind.

“It picks up your brain waves,” said the Scott Community High School freshman after about five minutes of the mental exercise.

“The more you concentrate the higher the ball moves. When you relax your mind the ball drops,” he explains. “You think it’s real easy to clear your mind, but it’s not.

“People walking around or talking aren’t a real distraction. But, if someone was in your face doing something, then it would have more effect.

The 14-year-old had just tested his skills on a Mindflex at the Area Mental Health Center’s booth during the annual Survivor Health Fair last Friday morning at Scott Community High School. The Mindflex was a popular stop for many high school students.

A student wear only a headset with two wires clipped to their ear lobes. The greater the brain activity, the faster a fan operates below the base of the obstacle course, which elevates the ball. As a person slows their brain activity, the fan slows down and the ball drops.

By operating a dial, a person can close off tunnels of air as the ball moves counter-clockwise.

Brain power does the rest.

“The first girl who did this earlier this morning went through every obstacle without any problem. It only took her a couple of minutes,” says Jordan Duff, a facilitator at AMHC. “There’s no way I could have gone through it that fast.”

While Mindflex isn’t a diagnostic tool, it does help in the treatment of youngsters with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

A lot of people think of ADHD as an inability to remain focused or to pay attention to anything, says Kent Hill, regional director with AMHC in Scott City.

“The fact is, kids with ADHD pay attention to everything,” he says.

Hill likens it to someone sitting in the ESPN Zone looking at a wall of TVs, each with a different basketball game. The screens are all the same size and the volume on each is the same. And you tell a kid he needs to focus only on the Kansas State and Iowa State game.

He points out that someone with ADHD won’t be able to stay focused on just that one game for very long. They start looking at the KU game on another screen and the Kentucky game on another. They’re trying to take in everything.

When a person’s mind is active and taking in everything around them, they are emitting beta waves. When they relax, those convert to alpha waves. And in a meditative state one is emitting theta waves.

“When someone with ADHD tries harder to concentrate, rather than emitting beta waves, as one might expect, their mind is emitting theta waves,” explains Hill.

This is where an exercise, such as Mindflex, can be valuable.

While this is a game on one level, it’s also an exercise in the ability to help an individual control and train their brain waves. The real benefit is that they can see results when they change their brain activity.

“They get immediate feedback and, at the same time, gain a better understanding of how it feels,” notes Hill.

With the help of Mindflex, and a similar computer software program known as Play Attention, a “good percentage of kids can get off medication” for conditions, such as ADHD. It doesn’t happen immediately. It may require 20 to 40 brain training sessions, but the results have been documented.

The programs have been in use at the Scott City AMHC for several months.

“We’re still in the process of gathering and analyzing data,” says Hill, who sees Mindflex and Play Attention as additional tools in helping youngsters deal with attention deficit disorders.

“You get a therapeutic benefit and the kid’s having fun. I’ll take that combination all day long.”

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