By Wendy Rice, Psy.D. Licensed Psychologist
Recently, Jamie Kaplan, Recreation Therapist from the James A. Haley VA Hospital presented to the Tampa Bay ADHD Support Network about Assistive Technology. We wanted to be sure to share his message and great ideas just in case you weren’t able to make it to the meeting.
Jamie is working on his master’s degree in Assistive Technology in Special Education at Bowling Green State University, but he already has so many certifications in this area it is surprising they let him into the program!
Jamie spoke about why kids with ADHD often seem to love video games so much. He explained that the faced paced, action packed games hit every receptor in the brain because there is just so much going on in terms of sights, sounds and kinesthetic involvement. The excitement gets kids engaged and keeps them hooked!
According to Jamie, some kids might even do better with their homework if they played a video game for 15 minutes prior to starting their work because the games wake up their brains!
He suggested trying an experiment with your child: Allow your child to play the game for 15 minutes, then do 20-30 minutes of homework, then let them play again for 15 minutes and then some more homework and end with a final 15 minutes of the game. See if they do their homework with greater speed, accuracy and even cooperation following this procedure.
Then, try it again another day without the game and compare the two days. Perhaps you will have found your ticket to easier homework!
This wasn’t his only suggestion of course. He also agreed that for some kids, physical exercise can have a similar effect. In our practice at Rice Psychology Group, we incorporate physical activity when we can because movement is so very beneficial for boosting thinking and learning for kids with and without ADHD.
Jamie explained that many folks with ADHD tend to focus on many things at once and their minds tend to move much more quickly than more typical brains. The problems arise when the ADHD thinker is not thinking about what the teacher or parent wants them to focus on at the “right” time. The idea behind this is that giving ADHD kids control over what they do when can sometimes help with this problem.
Jamie told us that, “assistive technology (often abbreviated as AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”
Assistive technology can be utilized by any student or individual covered by the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004 or Section 504. AT can include low tech materials such as cardboard cutouts to guide reading and high tech devices such as speech to text software to aid writing. Jamie suggests that it can be helpful to include the following statements as accommodations in your child’s 504 Plan: Allow student to have a fidget if needed and Allow student to use approved electronic devices as needed.
Jamie’s other suggestions included:
- Walk around while reading (just don’t fall over anything).
- Study while having a catch with a beach ball. Write the question on the ball. Then throw to the student and have him/her write the answer on the ball and throw it back.
- Use shaving cream on the table to get started with a writing assignment. Then go to the pencil and paper or computer.
- Use a “Livescribe” pen to catch both the audio and notes from a class (www.livescribe.com). The recording and notes can then be uploaded automatically to “Evernote” for review and easy access.
- Use a phone to take a photo of HW assignments written on the board. Have child send to parents or review at home – so parents aren’t “in the dark” when it comes to HW!
- Use the app “Epic Win” to help with incentives and motivation. From the iTunes store: “EpicWin is an iPhone app that puts the adventure back into your life. It’s a streamlined to-do list, to quickly note down all your everyday tasks, but with a role-playing spin. So rather than just ticking off your chores and reminders, completing each one earns you XP to improve and develop your character in an ongoing quest…” (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/epicwin).
- Use text-speech and speech-text on your smart phone or iPad in the Accessibility part under Settings.
- For family coordination, Jamie and his family love Cozi Family Organizer.
- Allow your child to have a small “fidget” if they need to move around or have something in their hand to handle so they don’t pick or do other annoying actions.
- Jamie loves his new Pebble Smart Watch to help with reminders (https://getpebble.com/).
You may need to get approval from school but your child should be entitled to use this technology. Contact Jamie if you are having trouble with getting AT approved for your child with ADHD at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are so sorry you missed (we missed you) at Jamie’s presentation. Please let us know if you would like more information on any of the above.
We hope Jamie will be kind enough to return again next year to bring us up-to-date on the latest and greatest assistive technologies to help our ADHDers!