AT the start of the summer I wrote about SMART, a new online programme, from NUI Maynooth, scientifically proven to help raise IQ.
Released in May and accessible to everyone on www.RaiseYourIQ.com, SMART stands for Strengthening Mental Abilities with Relational Training. It has been developed over the last 20 years by behavioural and educational psychologists as an intervention for those who may have learning difficulties, but also for kids who simply are not reaching their educational potential for whatever reason.
The phenomenal results the programme is producing began drawing public interest after a study was conducted in Rathmore Primary School in Athboy, Co Meath. Fifteen children undertook the training over the course of four months, for periods of around 45 minutes, two to three times per week. The resulting average rise in IQ amongst the group was 23.
Apart from this incredible jump in IQ, two of the children, who had been diagnosed with dyslexia before the trial, subsequently had their diagnoses revised after a significant improvement in reading levels. Another child who was within normal IQ range when starting SMART, has now leapt to an IQ of 140, which is considered 'gifted', and two other children from the Rathmore trial are also now in the intellectual range associated with giftedness.
My own interest in SMART was piqued because my young son, Jamie, is currently experiencing some issues with his learning and I felt he could benefit by completing the programme. However, despite my best attempts, given that SMART is primarily targeted at kids from eight years old and up, and Jamie is still only six years old, it proved difficult to sustain his attention long enough to complete the various levels.
So, not wishing to sour Jamie on the programme, I have decided to start again with him when he is a little older. Despite that, given my own natural interest in learning and psychology, I was keen to give this ground-breaking new programme a try.
So when we published the original article, we decided to run our own little experiment; as well as agreeing to do SMART myself, we also asked two sisters, Meghan and Naoimh Mallee from Navan, 17 and 13 years old respectively, to complete SMART over the summer with the intention of reporting back on their progress in the autumn.
To ensure the results were accurate, in May of this year educational psychologist, Dr Sarah Cassidy, of The Smithsfield Clinic in Athboy, conducted a standardised and comprehensive IQ test on all three of us. Each of us then went away and worked through SMART over the summer months on www.RaiseYourIQ.com.
Once we had completed the programme, Dr Cassidy came back and conducted another IQ test on each of us to see if there was a difference in IQ scores from pre to post SMART.
And now the results are in.
As they are both under 18 years old, we cannot publish the girls' final IQ levels for ethical reasons; however we can tell you that after the second IQ test, Meghan Mallee's IQ jumped 21 points, while Naoimh's jumped 26.
As a consenting adult, I can reveal that when my IQ was first tested back in May, I scored 120. After completing SMART that number has jumped 28 points giving me an IQ score of 148.
Both Dr Cassidy and Dr Bryan Roche are enormously excited by the results from the Herald experiment.
"These IQ rises cannot be accounted for by maturation or practice," says Dr Cassidy. "Seeing an IQ rise of more than one standard deviation (15 points) is extremely rare. Generally, one wouldn't experience a change of more than 10 points ever. So these are very large and dramatic rises and would be considered life changing."
Dr Bryan Roche agrees. "The results are far in excess of anything achieved by any other system," he says. "This is because other methods focus on the skills that need improving, whereas SMART specifically focuses on honing 'relational skills' which form the basis of intellectual ability, so that learning in school or any other environment is easier. Research also shows these rises are permanent.
"While there are several other ways of thinking about intelligence, such as emotional intelligence, creativity, and musical ability – standard IQ is still the most important measure of our ability to do well in school and work. People with higher IQs perform better at work and school and find complex issues in life easier to deal with. Research has shown they are also happier and healthier."
Mairead Mallee, mother of Meghan and Naoimh, is also delighted by the results she has seen in her two daughters.
"I'm not going to lie, we did have to push them to sit down and do it," she says. "It was hard at first, but after a while we could really begin to see a difference. Meghan, in particular, is now in her Leaving Cert year and the changes have just been amazing. She definitely feels that once she hit the books again in September, it was like her brain had just come alive, and her confidence has improved dramatically, Meghan is very excited by it all. I am so happy with what the girls have achieved and have been recommending SMART to everyone."
At this stage, the programme has been tried and tested in several schools, and more and more schools in Ireland are introducing SMART to help maximise their students' abilities.
So has SMART made a difference to me?
I have certainly noticed a difference in my ability to retain and follow instructions, both verbal and written, even when it comes to very simple, everyday things. For example, when my son wants help with a Lego kit or the like, normally it would be handed straight to his daddy; however I can now assemble these kinds of things easily and quickly.
As well as that, our house is being re-decorated at the moment, and it has been easy for me to visualise how a new layout will come together in a room. My focus and attention span were always good, but I can definitely see a further improvement; even phone calls with my accountant seem clearer (which is either good or bad depending on your viewpoint).
In truth, I didn't really struggle too much with the above issues before, but the point is that these things are a lot easier than they have ever been, and it's all without conscious effort – there is no strain; the solutions seem both instant and obvious.
However, the most notable and resounding difference was when I recently attended a conference in London for work and networking, where there were 700 delegates in attendance. I always prided myself on having a good memory, but in situations where I would be meeting lots of new people I would generally forget someone's name almost before we finished talking.
This time was different. I met lots of people over the three-day seminar and I remembered (and still remember) every name, I even remembered the names of people I didn't meet, all I needed to see was a flash of a name badge and the information was stored away.
Given that I was in a situation where I was making specific contacts for work, this was enormously helpful, and naturally it made people extremely responsive when they realised that I instantly recalled both their face and name after even the briefest of meetings.
Fortunately, it now seems like more people are set to benefit from SMART. Dr Cassidy presented the research findings from the Rathmore study in May to the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health at St James's Hospital in Dublin. She also delivered a two-hour workshop to the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals in Galway last October, as well as recently presenting the research to a clinicians and academics conference in Chicago.
"We are gradually achieving broad acceptance both in Ireland and abroad from educators, clinicians, academics, and, most importantly, parents," says Dr Cassidy. "It just gives a picture of how far the training programme has come as well as the massive scope it has and the implications for so many different populations, including older adults."
So it seems intelligence isn't necessarily something you are born or not born with and this latest development in science can help anybody to get smart.
The best thing about SMART is that anybody can do it at any time. To give it a go, all you do is log on to www.RaiseYourIQ.com. There is a free three-day trial, after which SMART is €15 a month, and you can log on as often as you like.