My son is now 11. Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), he has had real social and behavioral difficulties since he was 18 months old, when we were asked to remove him from our church-based day-care. Subsequently, he was thrown out of several day-care centers, a Montessori school, and yet another private school. Since he is also gifted, his first break came in the 2nd grade, when the school in which he was started offering not only individual classes for kids like him (ADHD is considered a handicap), but also specialized classes for gifted children.
Although his measured IQ is close to 150, his grades have never been spectacular, in fact, they have always been an average mix of As, Bs, Cs and even an occasional D. Highly variable from quarter to quarter, mostly dependent on his level of interest in a subject. Behavioral problems continued, notwithstanding a lot of help from the school system, from us, from psychologists and psychiatrists and from medications (Ritalin and clonidine).
I might add that he is an only child, and although both of us are working, we are deeply caring, committed, spiritual, and have learned a lot about ADHD. We are both professionals; in fact I am a psychologist, therefore better prepared than most to understand and to know from where to seek help.
Things had become pretty bad at about age 9 and half. Nothing seemed to work: timeouts, structure, behavioral management systems, medications …nothing.
About a 18 months ago, my son suddenly developed an interest in chess, primarily because of a friend who just moved into town and who has been teaching all his boys how to play chess. All his boys are a tad younger than ours. Since our son has had many ‘sudden’ interests, only to be followed soon by a total lack of interest in the same area, we just allowed events to take their natural course, being supportive as always, and providing opportunities whenever appropriate.
He stayed with it, learned some more-we got him some software, books, the usual. A major change came about a year ago when I inquired about the quality of electronic chess games. Mr. Sloan replied that there is no substitute for face-to-face experiences and invited us to the Sunday quads held at the university.
As they say, the rest is history. A few months after starting to play publicly, our son came in second in the state scholastic chess championships and recently only lost to the number one-ranked player in his age group in the city championships. According to him, he lost concentration for a minute and should have won that game too. We will see 🙂
Anyway, today he is a straight A student and his behavioral problems are minimal (but not trivial). He is enthusiastic about the friendships he has made, spends time organizing himself (a difficult task for AHDH children), is quite respectful, and has learned to control his temper by taking himself out of the class and going to the library to play chess. His social skills (quite atrocious until recently) have improved significantly. His language skills have also improved noticeably. He does algebra in his head.
The reward system for appropriate performance and behavior? Time on chess.net or the Internet Chess Club.
Sorry: no control subjects, no double blind, no defined independent variables (actually there are two: chess and age). Nonetheless, I think that the great improvements we have seen are, to a large extent, due to chess.
AJR, Alabama, USA