How Video Games Help Children with ADHD Study & Have Fun


Playing video games can increase cognitive skills and improve study habits for children with ADHD. Video games provide a fun outlet for kids while increasing their ability to retain information, solve problems, manage time, and study better.

Video Games Make Studying Fun for ADHD Kids

Video games are becoming a popular method for helping kids with ADHD train their brains to focus on a single task, solve problems, and learn to think fast in tough situations. Playing games that are designed to engage the 8 cognitive functions is a whole new way for children and parents to study and complete schoolwork while having fun at the same time.

Some parents worry that their child is spending too much time playing video games. Too much game play is thought to be addictive and a total sensory overload. Parents of ADHD children may even believe that ADHD symptoms are made worse because of too much game time. However, as Psychology Today reports, studies show that video games can actually work to reduce ADHD symptoms by requiring long amounts of time concentrating and focusing on a particular task. Game time can actually teach children to strategize, recognize patterns, focus intently, and more. The very areas where ADHD children struggle the most are taught, strengthened, and put into use through video games.

By developing their capacity to learn, focus, and retain information, video games are, in essence, increasing study skills for ADHD children as well. Key study skills needed for effective study time include time management, note-taking, reading, and overall test preparation. Let's look at how video games can affect each of these skills.

Time Management.

Time Management

Learning to manage time spent on studying different school subjects and completing assignments is a difficult task for many children with ADHD. Multitasking and time management requires a laser focus that ADHD children often lack due to their tendency to zone out and forget what they're doing.

As NPR reports, Daphne Bavelier, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, has conducted several studies that show playing video games can help children overcome their ADHD setbacks. Her research shows that switching from one to task to another is done faster than those who don't play video games. She has discovered that playing video games can actually increase attention, speed, accuracy, vision, and multitasking.

Video games help retrain the brain to stay focused on the task until it is completed, the level is won, and a new level is unlocked. In a game, there is no time for distraction, or else the level could be lost and the game might end. Many games are made up of timed levels and require the player to collect a certain amount of items within that time in order to move on. This is another area that helps a child stay focused on the one task until the end. Learning to manage their time becomes a necessity for players in the game, which in turn becomes a skill learned for life outside of the game.

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Note-Taking and Reading Comprehension

Note-taking is another important part of successful studying. Learning to decipher important key terms and concepts from textbook readings and class lectures is important for study time later on. Children with ADHD often have difficulty paying attention in class and recognizing important facts to write down in their notes. When it comes to reading, kids with ADHD often lose their place, forget what they just read, or are unable to understand what the passage is about. However, Bavelier's research reveals that those who play video games are able to detect new information more quickly and efficiently as well as retain it for later use.

When playing action games or role-playing games, the player learns to pay attention to everything happening on screen, as it may be needed to complete the level or mission. These games often involve a back story and written messages across the screen giving directions and information needed to complete the task. Not only do the players have to stop and read these instructions, but they must also remember what was read and retain it for future use throughout the game. Without realizing it, players learn not only to listen for key points, but also to train their brains to retain the information for use in the actual game.

Test preparation and test taking.

Test Preparation and Test-Taking

A child with ADHD often has difficulty preparing for a test because he doesn't know what to study. He may end up trying to memorize everything, creating an information overload instead of picking out key facts from notes and reading materials. When it comes to actually taking the test, some children with ADHD become so stressed out that they are unable to recall what they studied the night before. In addition, over-anxiousness and stress can cause students to spend too much time on a single question and run out of time to complete the test.

These are common difficulties for children with ADHD. However, Bavelier's research also shows that those who do not play video games tend to have a slower reaction time on tests than those who do play video games. The ability to read a question, pull the appropriate retained information, and complete the question is heightened thanks to skills gained in playing video games.

Video Games that Make Learning Fun

Playing video games is something that many of today's children have grown up with. It's a way to escape reality, de-stress, relax, and unwind after a long day at school. Most kids don't realize that their down time is actually a productive time of learning. Whether it's improving study skills or enhancing reading comprehension skills, video games can help in a unique and enjoyable way. Here is a list of games that are especially useful for kids with ADHD.

1.) ACTIVATE is a web-based training system developed by Dr. Bruce Wexler, co-founder of C8 Sciences. The video games within this system help kids with ADHD by engaging them, encouraging participation, and promoting academic progress. The games are pirate-themed and are narrated and led by Captain Bluefeather and his mates. Through the use of humor and fun learning techniques, the game teaches children to memorize sequences, categorize, switch from task to task, recognize and complete patterns, and solve problems. When a skill is accomplished, the level is completed and a new level is revealed. The game also has a built-in monitoring system to measure the successes and failures, giving parents and children a performance evaluation with key areas to work on in order to improve.

Boy playing video games.

2.) Learning Works for Kids is an educational technology company that creates video games and interactive digital media designed to teach executive-functioning and academic skills to kids. The web site serves as a resource for information on video games and how they help children with ADHD learn and grow in and outside of school. It also provides interactive games for kids to play directly on the site. Articles, blogs, apps, and other resources are also available for parents throughout the site.

3.) Bad Piggies is a puzzle game developed by the same company who created Angry Birds. Through the fun and interactive levels, this game teaches children to develop various strategies to complete each level. It encourages kids to be flexible in their strategic choices and be prepared to seek alternative ways to complete the levels.

4.) Roblox is an online playground and workshop that gives players the freedom to construct buildings, machines, and other inventions in the Roblox community. The web-based community encourages players to work on their memory skills to remember how to use tools for creating and arranging different buildings and projects. Memory skills are also needed to navigate throughout the online world.

Girl playing video games.

5.) Minecraft is the popular video game that places the player in a world with no objectives or directions of any kind. The player is left to use objects found in the world to create whatever they can imagine. The levels are timed and tasks must be achieved in order to protect the world from nighttime monsters and advance to the next level. The game helps improve planning, time management, and multitasking skills.

6.) Tetris is an oldie but a favorite among gamers and educators. It's a classic puzzle game that requires series of blocks to be arranged and organized so that they fall into place on the screen. The object of the game is to use the falling blocks to create a solid line horizontally across the screen. Levels are passed as players create solid lines. At the same time game, pace is increased, causing the player to speed up his reaction time.

By Amanda Johnson
January 2020
k-12 learning with adhd

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