Wednesday 29 June 2016

#WonderfulWednesday: The Batman Effect - Could it help kids focus?

Batman mask from ADHD child

This week's wonderful Wednesday share came from via Life with ASD & the Rest.  It's a blog post by Stephanie M Carlson called 'The Batman Effect: What my research shows about pretend play and executive functioning.'  I know, it's a bit of a mouth full.  So what's it about and why is it my wonderful share of the week?

Many kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)  and other conditions have difficulty with something called 'executive functioning' which allows us to manage our thoughts, actions and emotions.  It helps with flexible thinking, holding onto information and ignoring distractions.

Carlson's work focuses on this area and she created a test environment for children to help them develop this brain function.  In effect Professor Carlson gave some children an impossible task to do (I know, it seems a bit mean), but asked half the kids to pretend to be 'Batman' before the test began.  She even gave them a Batman cape to wear. 

Batman Effect ADHD test
Image from article

Her results showed that the kids who pretended to be Batman thought of more ideas, tried more things and stayed calmer throughout the task.. that none of them could complete.   Just like Batman?

The post looks more into the logic and details but in short, imagination uses similar pathways to the executive functioning skills and so these were accessed easier.  In a way the 'fake it till you make it' idea really works. 

Anthony came on leaps and bounds when he started being able to use his imagination and it's something we encourage. Jane is great with her imaginative play and she has great executive functioning skills.  Interesting, David still really only accesses imagination possibly via books, which is not uncommon for kids with autism.  However, as he doesn't have a diagnosis of ADHD, I would argue that his executive functioning skills sometimes appear greater than that of his brother at a similar age.

I wondered if we could take it a step further?  Should we get Anthony to pretend he's Lewis Hamilton before he goes karting or a frog before he goes swimming?  What about being a writer he knows like Cavan Scott or J K Rowling before doing English? What about him pretending to be his chatty mum when he goes into a social situation?

This article got me thinking about another thing we could try to help the kids improve their skills, and that makes it my wonderful Wednesday share.  You can read it in full here.

Our blog - Rocky reality: Autism and imagination
Our blog - Beautiful Belle has a point about books
Our blog - Identifying 'normal' repetitive play
Our blog - The Snare by Cavan Scott: A Review

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  1. This is really interesting research. I know that my big lad has come on leaps and bounds since he has thought more positively about his autism. I would be interested to see if this role play idea would work for him. Thanks for sharing with us at #ablogginggoodtime

  2. How interesting! It certainly makes sense and anything that helps children to get on better is a great thing in my opinion. Thanks for linking up to #letslearn again this week x

  3. How fascinating - it does shed the whole role playing/scenario based stuff we do as adults at training courses into a whole other light doesn't it? Hope it helps #mmbc


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