Biomedical Engineering Application Brief
Meeks Associates, Inc.
Littleton Meeks at Meeks Associates, Inc. is developing a
computerized means of using handwriting analysis to diagnose
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children.
The behavior of a child who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder (ADHD) can be disruptive in a classroom as well as within the
family. These children have short attention spans and are easily
distracted. They also may be characteristically impatient and
impulsive. While all children exhibit this behavior to some extent,
this behavior in children with ADHD is excessive and inappropriate for
the child's age.
While this disruptive behavior may be clearly evident at home or in
school, it may not be apparent all of the time. In some situations the
child may be able to focus attention for extended periods of time when
confronted with novel environments or challenging activities. The
sporadic nature of this learning disability can make it difficult to
diagnose. Individual differences among the children also complicate
the diagnosis. Clinicians tend to use a multi-featured assessment in
the diagnosis including history, behavioral ratings from
questionnaires, clinical observations and psychological tests of
Systematically Varying Dosage
Physicians generally treat the symptoms of ADHD with stimulant
medication, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin). The effectiveness of
this medicine has been established in controlled studies and is
recognized by parents and teachers. Clinicians set the individual
medication level by systematically varying the dosage and attempting to
assess the resulting positive clinical effects versus the side effects.
Prescribing the Correct Dosage
The use of Ritalin or other stimulants can increase the child's
attention focus and reduce the hyperactivity. The drug is typically
prescribed for elementary age children, although it may be effective in
teenagers and adults with ADHD. The length of time these children may
take Ritalin can vary from a few years to a much longer period of time.
The overuse of Ritalin has recently come under attack placing an
increased emphasis on prescribing the correct dosage of the drug.
Assessing ADHD with Handwriting
In a study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development, Littleton Meeks of Meeks Associates, Inc. has used a
computer to analyze the handwriting of children with ADHD. These
studies have looked at handwriting of children when they are
unmedicated and medicated using Ritalin. Meeks is hoping to develop a
test instrument to diagnose ADHD, as well as evaluate the effects of
Ritalin on handwriting, perhaps providing an algorithm to allow a
proper dosage level to be set for an individual child.