Advanced diagnostics arrive
Computer tests for attention deficit disorder

by Marty Brown
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 14/97) - Children won't have to wait for southern specialists to test them for attention deficit disorder (ADD) any longer.

And that's good news for the estimated three per cent to five per cent of school-age children who suffer from it.

This week Yellowknife's Territorial Treatment Centre unveiled a new computer designed to test children for signs of ADD.

The $5,000 software and hardware package will allow staff to zero in on the needs of the children they are treating, Engelberg said.

Until now children have been diagnosed using a more simple check list method.

"The best thing about this test is that it's culture-free," said Stewart Engelberg, a clinician with the centre.

However, sex, age and IQ are taken into consideration by the program.

The Test of Variable Attention, or TOVA, program is loaded with a battery of psychological tests, which are used as a diagnostic tool.

It works like a computer game. Clients are asked to click a switch when a square moves below the centre of the computer's monitor. This allows clinicians to measure response speed.

"This will not be stressful for the client," said Dr. Gus Rozycki with Alberta Bosco Homes, which runs the treatment centre.

ADD is the lack of ability to concentrate on tasks at hand. Children with ADD tend to look out the window, stare at light bulbs and fidget.

The testing equipment will be available to schools, medical clinics and parents at an economical rate because the treatment centre is a non-profit organization, said Rozycki.