Metronome said to help ADHD
WESTON, Florida (CNN) -- A new study suggests that a metronome device may help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder concentrate better. But many ADHD experts are questioning the results of the research.
ADHD is thought to affect 3 percent to 5 percent of school-aged children in the United States, most of them boys. The developmental disorder, characterized by inattention and behavioral problems, is generally treated with medications such as Ritalin or with various behavioral therapies.
One of those therapies involves performing various tasks -- clapping, tapping the foot -- to the beat of a metronome.
The technique originated with Tom Eggleston, whose 14-year-old son Jimmy has ADHD. Eggleston noted that Jimmy seemed to improve after taking piano lessons with a metronome.
He was so impressed, he started a company, Interactive Metronome, to market a metronome device as an ADHD treatment tool.
The new research, published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, appears to bear out Eggleston's experience. Fifty-six boys took part in the study.
"Their attention improved, their motor planning and sequencing improved. They had improvement in selected academic skills involving reading and some math capacities," said Dr. Stanley Greenspan, a child psychiatrist who conducted the research. Greenspan is also an advisor to Interactive Metronome.
Not all ADHD specialists are convinced. They say the study was too small to draw conclusions and point out that children who used the metronome did little better than those who played video games instead.
"There's probably no harm in doing it," said Dr. Rebecca Fewell of the University of Miami. But she stresses more study is needed to determine whether it's truly effective.
"Let the researchers experiment and provide us a little more evidence on these new techniques before we expose our children to them and think it will make a big difference," she said.
But many parents aren't waiting.
Alyssa Loeffler tried the therapy with her 8-year-old son, Ryan, with good results.
"His teacher was telling me, 'This is a different child,'" she explained. "She couldn't believe Ryan was doing all his work and that he was sitting in his seat and he was attentive."
The interactive metronome is available in 300 hospitals and clinics across the U.S., administered by therapists who have had 15 hours of training. It's not designed to replace existing therapies, but to complement them.
For parents who believe they've seen a difference in their children, the therapy has been worth it, despite lingering questions.
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