BrainBeat Conquer is computer based cognitive training tool for children aged 6-12 years. It is based on the Interactive Metronome® method and consists of 14 day program where the child trains for 20 minutes each day. The aim of the program is to improve the child’s ability to focus, thus helping to improve their attention, concentration and academic performance. The BrainBeat website has links to a number of studies using this method of training. When you sign up for the BrainBeat program you receive a box containing: a DVD to allow you to download the BrainBeat program onto your PC or Mac, headphones, a sensor that goes on your child’s hand, the BrainBeat controller and the wires to connect them. Once the software is installed on your computer a friendly guide named Nigel helps your child to understand the aims of the program and takes them through it step-by-step. The crux of the program is the child hears the “Big Beat” through the headphones and has to clap along to the beat. The child needs to stand up and use their arms to make big rhythmic arm movements. On the screen boxes show if they were spot-on the beat, early or late, and if they were off by how much. During some of the exercises they also hear sounds in the left or right ear to indicate if they were early or late. To make it more engaging the child works their way through a series of “worlds” with bright cheerful cartoon graphics as they do the exercises. On one day they might be building robo-dogs in a factory getting one body part for beat spot-on, another time they might be popping balloons or helping a frog catch flies. They can also earn badges for achievements e.g. for getting a certain number of spot-ons in a row, or for improving their performance by a set amount. After the first three days they can unlock free play where as well as their training sessions they can also go back and play in any previously unlocked world.
As the child moves through the training the challenge is increased by adding more distractions and making the criteria for being “spot-on” narrower. Each day towards the end of their training session – they take the BrainBeat challenge and they can them see how their results change from day to day. There are 5 levels- they start at Beginner, then move up through Bronze, Silver, Platinum and Rhythm Master at their own pace depending on their progress. As the child works their way through the program they learn to focus with more distractions going on, and as they move up through the levels accuracy needed to be considered “on the beat” increases.
I tested this program out with my six-year-old daughter and my nine-year-old son and also played the games myself. I had really hoped the program would be a good fit for my daughter as she has attention issues as well as Apraxia and Dyspraxia. Unfortunately her Dyspraxia means she doesn’t have very good co-ordination and even the introductory levels were very hard for her so she found it frustrating and didn’t want to continue with the program. I’m planning to try again in another six-months or so to see if she is able to do it then. My nine-year-old son on the other hand took to the program very well, so the rest of the review will focus on his experience. Initially my son wasn’t very keen to do the daily BrainBeat exercises and needed some persuasion, but it got easier with time. The variety of different worlds to explore was useful for keeping the experience interesting for him, although he did get frustrated with himself on days when his focus was “off” and his scores worse. Overall, he progressed from Beginner level right up to Rhythm Master over the 14 day program. The fourteen day program does not have to be done on consecutive days, which was useful as occasionally we took a day off when we had other activities planned. When I used the program myself I did find the wires from the wrist sensor and headphones to the Brain Beat controller a bit annoying, but they didn’t seem to bother my son. The ultimate aim of the program is to improve the child’s ability to focus. Before we did this program my son ,although very bright and capable of doing his homework, had a real problem in focussing and getting it done in a reasonable time, without constant reminders to stay on task. We did the program towards the end of the summer holiday so I was very interested to see how he would get on with his homework in the new school year. Now I don’t know for sure if it is a result of doing the program, but I have seen a noticeable improvement in my son’s concentration when doing his homework this semester, after doing the BrainBeat Program. I hear parents of his classmates complaining about their children having difficulty completing their nightly homework, but it is no longer a problem for us as he comes home and gets his homework done quickly and efficiently. I asked him what he thought the difference was and he said “I find it easier to focus now”. If you have a child who needs some help focussing it is definitely worth checking out BrainBeat Conquer program. The program is not for everybody, my six-year-old found it too hard at this time, but my 10 year-old did seem to have a very positive response. BrainBeat offers a 30 day return policy so if you think your child may benefit from the program I would recommend using it when you first get it to see if it is a good fit for your child. Available from BrainBeat.com RRP $249