By Sherri Richards, Published January 06 2003
Metronome training aids athletes, children with attention deficit disorder
It's clapping your hands with the crowd at a game.
It's rhythm, an internal sense of timing that has been linked to more than just good dance moves.
HealthSouth Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinic in Fargo began offering a technology designed to improve rhythm and timing for children and adults with cognitive difficulties, such as Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, in September.
The Interactive Metronome training system was originally developed by recording engineer Jim Cassilyto help professional musicians improve their timing and rhythm.
"They've found that motor planning and sequencing is the basis for all the activities you do in a day," says Jacky Berg, an occupational therapist at HealthSouth. "By increasing this internal rhythm … people are able to attend to activities for longer periods of time."
This can lead to improvements in concentration, motor planning, control of aggression, language processing and reading.
How it works
A switch button, which is connected to the metronome, is strapped around the palm of the hand. Headphones deliver a computer-generated musical beat, which the user tries to match by clapping or tapping another sensor with his foot.
The difference between these responses and the beat are measured in milliseconds. If the user is in sync with the beat, a pleasant noise is transmitted through the headphones. If he is off the beat, a clanging or buzzing noise lets the user know if he is ahead or behind the beat. A therapist also wears a set of headphones.
There are 14 movement patterns that the user trains with, including clapping, slapping the hip, tapping the sensor with toes and stepping backward with their heel.
Berg says if a user is consistently ahead of the beat, she will alter the exercise, encouraging him or her to go after the beat.
Some children need verbal cues to stay on the beat. Others need her hands over theirs, making the motion for them.
"The first time they do it they're below average and within a few sessions they're up to average," Berg says.
Shirley Kulla, a certified occupational therapy assistant, says her second patient, 13-year-old Michael Dahl, saw improvements when he was halfway through the Interactive Metronome training.
"He thought it was helping him," Kulla says. "He saw improvement with taking a test in class and being able to finish it in more of a timely manner."
A doctor's referral is not needed; those interested in the training can call and schedule an evaluation.
The training is useful for children 6 and older, and involves 12 to 15 sessions, which are scheduled for an hour, three to five times a week.
Athletes, especially golfers and football players, have found the training beneficial.
A study by the Central Michigan University psychology department found that golfers who underwent Interactive Metronome training improved shot accuracy by almost 20 percent compared to a control group.
Football players from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., completed the training after the 2000 season. In 2001, players had 24.2 percent fewer fumbles, 26 percent fewer penalties, scored 52 percent more points in the first half and had 24.2 percent more third-down conversions.
The therapy is also said to benefit those with autism, Asperger syndrome, Parkinson's disease and stroke patients.
At HealthSouth, training for cognitive learning disabilities costs $50 per training session, plus $50 for the initial evaluation.
Athletic and performance art training are $30 per session, in addition to the $50 initial evaluation, because clients can monitor themselves.
Kulla says the training is beneficial because therapists can measure a patient's progress.
"As you're going through the program, it's a motivation factor because you have goals you want to reach," Kulla says.
The Interactive Metronome is portable thanks to a laptop computer, which allows HealthSouth to educate more people about it. Berg says she hopes more parents consider this option for their children.
"I think it's another treatment for ADHD that's non-medicinal. I think it's one more thing to add on, hopefully to increase students' ability to focus in school, interact with peers," she says.
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525