Technology and ADHD: Strategies and Tips for Parents

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A recent study by Micah Mazurek and Christopher Engelhardt raises some legitimate concerns about the use of video games amongst children with ADHD. Boys with ADHD demonstrated greater problematic video-game use, such as addictive-like behavior, an unwillingness to stop playing when instructed to do so, and increased levels of inattention associated with higher amounts of game play.

The study also found that children with ADHD were more likely to have in-bedroom access to video games than their typically-developing peers. The researchers suggested that increased access to games and technology might be related to parents choosing  to use the immersion in game play as a means of managing problematic behavior and oppositionalism. This study suggests keeping game and technology access out of the bedroom and setting limits on screen time for children who display addictive tendencies. However, it does not negate the evidence that technology and ADHD may be an important combination in the treatment of children with attention problems.

While some  parents may view technology and games as a tool for keeping a child quiet, happy, and content, some  studies have suggested that children with ADHD tend to perform better on tasks involving digital media than on paper- and-pencil tasks. Beyond the more ready engagement and attention to technology in many children with ADHD as opposed to traditional education or play, there are compelling reasons that parents should become aware of how to apply technology to a child with ADHD. The combination of technology and ADHD can improve executive-functioning skills, encourage additional practice of academic tasks, and indirectly assist in extending attention span, improving processing speed, or providing an accommodation that circumvents an area of weakness.

Strategies and Tips for Parents About Using Digital Media to Help Children with ADHD:

1.) Have your child play movement-based games. When played vigorously, active games can result in highly beneficial exercise. There is strong evidence that vigorous exercise improves focus and concentration, particularly if studying and homework are done shortly after vigorous engagement with an active game.

2.) Practice social skills with interactive play. Many children with ADHD have difficulty with impulsivity in their social relationships. Learning to play interactive and social video games with their peers may be an opportunity for them to learn. The level of challenge and fun can keep ADHD kids involved in game play, in contrast to other activities where they might readily give up if they receive negative feedback. These games can be particularly helpful if children play with older siblings or relatives who could instruct them in taking turns and appropriate game play.

3.) Choose games and apps that require reading. Encourage the use of reading-based media to help children with ADHD who also struggle in this area. There is strong evidence that interactive, computer-assisted instruction in reading is a very powerful intervention for children with ADHD who normally struggle to pay attention to instruction. They tend to pay better attention to computer-assisted instruction and could learn more reading skills at the same time.

4.) Set up a blog. Choose blogging tools such as Tumblr or WordPress that encourage writing skills. Approximately 60% of children with ADHD have writing difficulties as well and could benefit from tools that help them to use multimodal methods for expressing themselves and allow them to practice writing in smaller amounts.

5.) Mitigate handwriting issues with typing and voice-recognition apps. Handwriting difficulties are seen in a substantial number of children with ADHD. Interestingly, medication for attention problems sometimes improves their handwriting. While these children may be able to handwrite effective if they go very slowly they tend to rush through their work, and it is often illegible. Voice recognition, keyboarding programs, and texting could  encourage more and effective writing for children with ADHD.

6.) Play action games. Action-based games that improve visual-processing speed may also be useful for children with ADHD. A very large percentage of children with ADHD has difficulty processing information quickly and efficiently. While they may move quickly they are often inefficient and make many mistakes.

7.) Digitize your reading. Use ebooks and other multimodal reading presentations to sustain the focus and attention of children with ADHD for longer periods of time than traditional books do. This can encourage more reading and the development of reading as a skill.

8.) Get organized with apps. Use and teach your child about apps for organization such as Evernote and myHomework. These apps can be very useful for children with ADHD who have problems keeping track of homework and completing long-term projects. The allure of a cell phone or iPod-based organizer (that is constantly in their hands) is very strong, but the key would be getting the childt to use it regularly and effectively.

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