Homeschooling with ADHD and video games can be a powerful combination to increase executive functioning skills, improve attention and memory, and keep your child’s interest in learning!
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Did you know that there is a good bit of research that supports the idea that kids with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) often learn better and retain more information when they learn through video game play? It’s true! (Blumberg et al., 2019; Rivero et al., 2015)
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Let’s talk about ADHD and video games
Video games often get a bad rap for being a seemingly mindless time thief that produces generations of zombie kids. While there are plenty of potentially negative effects from unlimited screen time and violent video games, allowing your child with ADHD some time to play quality video games can actually benefit them greatly!
There’s even a new ADHD treatment called EndeavorRx that is actually a video game that has been approved by the FDA to be used as a part of an ADHD therapy plan. It has to be prescribed by a doctor, filled through a pharmacy, and can be billed to your insurance company! It sounds crazy, but that’s how much research has gone into ADHD and video games!
Executive Functioning Skills
If you have a child with ADHD (or you have it yourself), you probably know that executive functioning skills need to be improved. Everyone who has ADHD struggles with executive functioning on some level.
What are executive functioning skills? They are the processes of the brain that control things like:
- Working memory
- Organization and planning
- Transitioning from one task to another
- Initiating and completing tasks
- Impulse control
- Prioritizing tasks
- Flexible thinking (understanding different strategies or viewpoints)
Although more research over time will show more definitively whether certain types of video games can improve executive functioning skills, there are many studies that have been completed over the past decade or so that have shown an increase in executive functioning skills through the use of video game play.
Many video games require players to focus on one item or task with other distractions constantly coming at them. Players must determine the best course of strategic action and prioritize tasks in order to complete a mission. Working memory is constantly in play as they must remember what tools they have to use, where to go for certain things, and what keystrokes/controls they must engage to perform certain actions. (I’m sure you can tell I’m not a gamer with my lack of gaming terminology, and you can bet my kids will correct me if they read this!)
The consistent and constant feedback from video games provides motivation and keeps players in a high state of arousal.
Boredom is the kryptonite of the ADHD brain. People with ADHD have to have something stimulating to do or to think about. ALL. THE. TIME. If they don’t, their mind will wander on to something that does stimulate them.
The constant action, reaching higher levels, earning rewards…all of these things that video games offer keep the mind engaged and motivate players to complete tasks.
The current research has shown improvement in several different kinds of attention skills through video game play (Rivero et al., 2015):
- Response Speed
As parents of kids with ADHD (especially if we’re homeschooling), we are always trying to figure out how to increase attention span. With these kinds of possible outcomes, it seems worth it to me to let video games have some place in our kids’ routines.
It’s hard to re-train ourselves sometimes when we think that something has to be done a certain way. With education, for example, most of us went to a traditional school and heard a lot of lectures, read a lot of textbooks, completed a lot of worksheets, answered a lot of questions, and wrote a lot of papers.
That type of learning was ingrained in us, so that’s how we think it has to be done. But, it’s not.
Sure, there is a place for some of that. And, yes, some people learn best that way. But, it’s not the only way to learn. And for our kids with ADHD, it’s probably not the best way to learn.
Presenting academic content in a video game format can help kids with ADHD develop knowledge and skills that would be very difficult for them to master by traditional methods. Even skills like reading comprehension and passage copying