Difficulty with sustained attention and persistence to tasks is common in children who are diagnosed with ADHD and those who have problems with attention or executive functioning. However, parents and teachers are often amazed that kids who are able to work on schoolwork for only a few minutes at a time can spend hours overcoming obstacles in an engaging video game. This observation reflects how the mechanics of digital media sustain attention and can help overcome behavioral and learning difficulties. Game characteristics such as high levels of engagement and the requirement for physical and cognitive involvement are enticing for kids with ADHD. Video games also provide immediate feedback, a core strategy that is used in behavioral interventions for children with ADHD. In addition, negative feedback from video games occurs privately, which is helpful due to the low self-esteem and constant feeling of failure that can characterize the experience of many kids with ADHD and executive-functioning difficulties.
Playing almost any video game is likely to be more fun and engaging than the mundane aspects of school for kids with ADHD. Parents and educators can help kids with ADHD to be a bit more selective in the “fun” games they play with just a little bit of knowledge. Many of the most popular games engage cognitive skills that can result in improvement in the symptoms of ADHD. Promoting this type of gameplay involves understanding that certain game genres, such as puzzle or action games, have been demonstrated to improve specific executive-functioning and processing skills. Encouraging games that unobtrusively require the use of academic skills, such as sports games that necessitate mathematical thinking to understand player statistics or strategy games that require the organization of assets and planning of quests, can engage kids in practicing these skills in a fun fashion.
Our approach at LW4K is focused on popular games and apps that kids already play and that are easily accessed, inexpensive, and popular with their peers. If it is challenging, fun, and requires sustained brain power, it may be helpful for kids with ADHD- particularly if there is an effort made to make game-based learning into skills.
Here are some recent games that we recommend for kids with ADHD and executive-functioning difficulties:
Saber’s Edge is a mix of role-playing, card battling, and match-3 game styles. The player unlocks and collects cards in order to gather a pirate crew and enhance their equipment. They then go into different battles that use a match-3 board to decide the strength of each character’s attack. After each character’s turn, the board refreshes. Occasionally a special tile will appear that will allow a character’s turn to “spill over” onto the next character’s game board, gaining an extra attack. The player can also choose what skills of their characters’ to level up. Get more information in our Saber’s Edge review.
Food Ninja mixes the knife throwing, food slicing gameplay of Fruit Ninja with the real-time strategy of a restaurant sim. The player is a ninja chef starting out at the very bottom of the kitchen ladder. A sous chef throws out ingredients like rat, pigeon, lettuce, and mustard. When the player sees an ingredient needed for a customer order, they tap the ingredient and the ninja throws a knife in it. The player earns stars, money, and reputation points based on performance. They can purchase new tools, recipes, equipment, and mini-games, or send their sous chef back to school for more training. Get more information in our Food Ninja review.
Coup is a simple card game that rewards bluffing. Players to try and outsmart one another using the two cards they have in hand. There are fifteen cards in the game, with five different role cards appearing three times each. On your turn, you may take any action, claiming that you have a specific role card in your hand that allows you to do this. Other players can attempt to call your bluff, or they can choose to allow you to take the action. Players accumulate coins which will allow them to coup other players, forcing them to discard one of their cards. The last player with any cards left in their hand wins. Get more information in our Coup review.