There are an abundance of apps targeting kids and adults with ADHD. But how do you know which ones will be most helpful for your child? The apps that have been most helpful for the kids and families that I work with tend to focus on specific challenges that kids with ADHD face. They’re focused on problems like following routines, keeping track of time, making friends, and staying calm. These challenges aren’t unique to ADHD; in fact they’re things that many kids struggle with. So when you’re in the app store, look for programs targeting specific problems, rather than apps that simply have ADHD in their name.
Following Routines. Kids with ADHD need extra help turning everyday tasks and activities into routines and habits that they can do consistently. Brili Routines allows parents to create routines that can be followed anytime and anywhere. Kids view the routines in a game-like format with a picture for each task. The game challenges them to complete each task, stay on time, and earn points along the way.
Habit Tracker for Teens and Parents. Teens and parents with ADHD also need help scheduling routines will eventually develop into good habits. The Productive Habit Tracker allows you or your teen to schedule activities and tasks that repeat on a daily basis, or occur only on select days of the week. This tracker uses a colorful interface with visual prompts, and allows you to track your progress. Progress can be paired with rewards for extra motivation.
Activity Breaks. Research shows that brief activity breaks during homework time helps kids recharge and stay focused while they are working. Brief structured activities that are under 5 minutes work best for kids with ADHD. GoNoodle is a program that was originally designed for teachers who needed classroom activity breaks. But parents can also use it at home. Kids chose from dance- and sing-alongs, Zumba® for kids, track and field activities, and more. Most activities are under 5 minutes!
Social Skills. Learning and practicing good social skills can be hard for kids and teens with ADHD. There are quite a few social skills apps and programs out there, but my personal favorites are The Social Express® for elementary school kids and Middle School Confidential™ for pre-teens and teens. The Social Express® contains 81 webisodes that teach conversation skills, attentive listening, conflict resolution, and self-management. The Social Express® was originally designed for use in schools, but as parents you can access the curriculum and one-on-one activities to use at home. The Social Express® can be accessed through any web browser or an iPad app. Middle School Confidential™ is a graphic novel series about common social challenges faced by pre-teens and teens. The first three books are available as apps and focus on being confident, making real friends, and dealing with family conflicts. The engaging graphic novel format resonates with teens, and keeps them interested and engaged.
Staying Calm. ADHD can make it hard for kids and teens to calm down when they feel anxious or frustrated. As a parent, you’ve probably noticed that simply telling your child or teen to calm down rarely helps, and may even make the situation worse. Providing strategies and tools to help kids regulate their emotions can help. For kids I recommend Breathing Bubbles and Calm Counter. For teens I recommend the Take a Chill. Breathing Bubbles is a colorful calming app that helps kids identify their worries and stress, place their worries inside of virtual bubbles and take deep breaths while they float away. Calm Counter includes social stories designed to teach kids that we all get angry sometimes, and “I need a break” exercise that help kids identify their emotions and cool down. Take a Chill is a wonderful app designed especially for teens. It contains calming exercises, progress trackers, reminders, and assessments that help kids identify their stress and work through it in a healthy way.
These any many other mobile apps and websites provide great support for the lessons that you and your child’s teachers, social workers, and after school tutors are working hard to teach and reinforce. The engaging nature of this technology is sometimes just the thing to really bring that lesson home in a fun, memorable way. And it creates ‘positive screen time’ for kids with ADHD, fostering a more healthy relationship between your child and technology.
Have a favorite app or program you’d like to share? Comment here – I’d love to hear from you. I’m always interested to hear about new apps and websites and to check them out!
Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.
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This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.