Caffeine, adhd and dyslexia - Can it help?

Share your experiences or ask for help with special needs students

Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Sep 13, 2005 7:41 am

As many of you know, my wife teaches special education science at the local high school. Because she runs a program for special ed students who exhibit behavioral problems, ADHD (Attention Deficit - Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder) students are over-represented in her classes. She is a coffee-lover and keeps a pot available in her classroom. In that context, she has made the interesting observation that coffee seems to help her ADHD students to the point that she allows them all to drink coffee whenever they need to "chill out."

I find this observation interesting, though, by the same token, I don't want to imply that the use of coffee (or, for that matter, any other form of caffeine, such as diet sodas) is a medically proven aid for ADHD students. I've searched the Web and found a large number of similar observations.

This is interesting because caffeine is a stimulant for most of us. However, just as the prescription drug Ritalin, often used in the treatment of ADHD kids, is a stimulant for most people, it has a calming influence on ADHD kids.

I'm putting this observation on the Board in the hope that it might be helpful to the many piano teachers who have ADHD students. Caffeine in moderate amounts is generally considered safe for consumption and is present in most soft drinks and tea in large amounts. While I suspect that most younger kids would not want to drink coffee, they could get that caffeine from diet soft drinks. I think you would want to talk to parents about this issue before doing it with kids, or, alternatively, ask them to consider letting the kids have some caffeine containing drink before the lesson. If it helps ADHD kids concentrate during the lesson, it might be worth a try.

P.S. I spent a little more time on the Web and found that there are several well-controlled scientific studies which suggest that caffeine can be useful in helping ADHD kids focus. It works as a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (which, in turn, helps reduce levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine). It's not as powerful as Ritalin, but isn't habit-forming (even for people who think they're addicted to coffee) and doesn't have the appetite suppressant side effect that Ritalin has. Caffeine is generally considered safe in moderate amounts.

P.P.S. ADHD is one of the most over-used terms and poorly diagnosed disorders. Lay people tend to refer to any especially active child as having ADHD. However, the critical part of the ADHD syndrome is the attention deficit. True ADHD children cannot focus, untreated, on any one thing for more than a minute or so. ADHD cannot be properly diagnosed without medical laboratory tests and the involvement of a medical professional.




Edited By Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor on 1126707135
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Sep 14, 2005 7:27 am

It occurred to me that someone reading my earlier post and seeing my Board name might think that I am a medical doctor offering medical advice. As most regular visitors to the Board know, my Ph.D. is in organic chemistry. The information offered here is not medical in nature and should not be construed as such. The studies I refer to are readily available on the Web, either in full or summary form, and can be read by anyone. My posts on this subject are merely intended as possibly helpful tips for teachers of piano with ADHD students. :)
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Sat Dec 10, 2005 3:54 pm

I have a student who is just 8 years old and dyslexic. He is balking and having trouble reading music - he will memorize as quickly as possible. He knows the reading is hard for him and gets discouraged. I have not had a student like this in a while. Do you have some tips to help him?/me? I give him rote and familiar pieces and he puts chords, he knows, with the melody. His younger brother, 7, is beginning to read music, so it may become more of a problem.
Thank you
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Postby Beckywy » Sun Dec 11, 2005 12:44 pm

I have a student who use to read the music backwards - is that the same thing?
"The real purpose of studying music-to unite ourselves with our special gifts in such a way that one would add strength to the other" Seymour Bernstein
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Tue Dec 13, 2005 6:57 pm

Beckywy,
Backwards.. really?Could make for an interesting new piece! What did you do?
I am not sure as I guess it could present itseelf in different ways. Ask Dr. Z. This boy has problems telling the difference between up and down on the staff. I have had students like this before. This is where you try hard to have them find success with music as school is often rough for them. This is where rote helps a lot! He has a good repertoire of memorized pieces with both hands.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Dec 14, 2005 8:28 am

I'm not really an expert on dyslexia (the disorder in which people perceive text as reversed or scrambled) and how to deal with it. I'll ask my wife, who teaches special ed. If she can help, I'll have her post on it.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Tue Jan 10, 2006 10:32 am

Please don't add any more topics unrelated to ADHD to this thread. Just start a new topic from the forum topics screen (click on the forum name on the main welcome screen, then click on the new topic icon). This will make the topics more easily found and searchable. Unfortunately, there is virtually no way to move single posts to a new topic. I can delete or edit them, but that's all.



Edited By Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor on 1136919117
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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