Technology can help ADHD students stay focused by providing engaging, fun ways to learn and build concentration skills and reminders to stay on task. Read on for a variety of apps, gadgets, and other tools to use in the classroom and at home.
Assistive technology can alleviate many different symptoms that are associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and help students stay focused. However, keeping students focused is also about keeping them engaged. Many of these technologies have an element of fun, which can help students stay on task, even when they are learning about a subject that might not be their favorite. Options for technology to help your ADHD student include apps, video games, gadgets, timers, and white noise.
It seems that every time someone mentions a needed tool, the response is, 'There's an app for that!' The response is the same for those who need help with their ADHD students, especially when it comes to keeping them focused and organized.
Lists of Apps
Friendship Circle has compiled a list of 20 apps that can help people with attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or ADHD. These tools include to-do lists, reminder alerts, and even exercises to help control the symptoms of ADHD.
To specifically help students with attention and learning issues, Understood.org compiled a list of ten apps to help students in certain subjects. These include apps for all ages and subjects, such as math, writing, and reading comprehension.
Similarly, ADDitude magazine has a list of 14 assistive learning apps divided by subject area. These also include apps that help students complete tasks and limit distractions.
Even the apps that come with your smartphone can be used to benefit your ADHD student. ImpactADHD mentions using the simple calendar, reminder, or alarm functions to keep a student on task. The article also suggests combining apps. For instance, students can use the camera function to take pictures of assignments and then use a picture editing app to notate the photos.
Apps can clutter a phone, so make sure to organize them in folders for easy use. Assistive technology can't do any good if it is lost on a smartphone.
Hardware, Software, and Video Games
The ADDitude article mentioned earlier also includes several gadgets that can help ADHD students stay focused, or assist them if they become distracted. Livescribe is an app, but is also available as a pen for students who want to be more discreet; it can send handwritten notes to a smartphone, which is great for those prone to misplacing their notes.
Dr. Marshall Raskind and Kristin Stanberry have compiled a separate list for ADDitude magazine that includes the best software and gadgets for ADHD students. These are divided by subjects like math, reading, and writing.
Video Games and Software
ADHD students are naturally drawn to video games because the situation is constantly changing; there is no time to get bored. While some parents are frustrated by their children's attention to games, there might be another solution: work with the video games, not against them!
For example, if the skills your student needs to develop include flexible thinking, memory, or planning, ADDitude has a list of three video games that might help and discusses them in connection to real-world problem solving. There is also a list of video games that can specifically help improve focus.
The ADD/ADHD Support Site has a list of ADHD educational software. This technology originated with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) when it was performing studies to help keep pilots alert during long flights.
There are also specific task timers that can help students stay focused. According to a success kit provided by the Child Mind Institute, they can help students learn how much time certain tasks will take and encourage them to move on when necessary.
For example, Focus Booster is a task timer software and soon-to-be-app that allows students to manage their distractions. MotivAider is a discreet physical device, about the size of a pager, that gently vibrates to remind students to pay attention, or respond to any other personal message that might be useful.
Similar to the MotivAider, the Invisible Clock can be set to remind a student to take breaks, which can help with multiple symptoms of ADHD. The Time Timer, available as either an app or a physical clock, has a clock face that gets smaller as time passes and provides young children especially with visual cues to complete tasks or take breaks.
White noise is not a new idea, but one that is still effective. One study in Stockholm found that white noise in a classroom may be just as effective as medication when it comes to helping students with ADHD learn.
While you probably won't be able to insist that your student's teacher use white noise, you can use it at home to help him or her focus while doing homework, or fall asleep at night. While there are white noise machines available, along with noise-cancelling headphones, you probably won't be surprised to find out that there is also an app, White Noise, which allows you to choose from a variety of sounds.
While the cloud might not necessarily help your student stay focused, it can help your student stay organized, which can keep him or her from getting upset and therefore losing focus. Nothing can be more frustrating than having your student work diligently on an assignment and then misplace it before it has to be turned in at school.
Cloud storage, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, can be particularly helpful if your student is prone to losing things. When doing homework, a paper, or a project at home, have him or her save it to the cloud so it can also be accessed from school.
Much like apps, the key to using the cloud is organization. You might find it helpful to have separate folders for each class, and at the end of the term or school year, archive all of the folders together and label them appropriately.
If your student enjoys learning, he or she is more likely to stay focused on a subject and will find many of these devices fun as well as useful. With the variety of technology available, it's no surprise that there are a number of apps, gadgets, video games, and other methods that can help your ADHD student both learn and stay on task.