Last updated: 19.02.14

Digital learning boosts performance for ADHD children

Children with attention-related learning difficulties can improve their academic performance at school with the help of digital learning tools, according to new research.

A study, undertaken at the Churchill School and Center in New York City and Carroll School in Massachusetts, found a propriety virtual learning tool to be very effective at improving these children's ability to complete school work.

The findings were presented by child psychiatrist Dr Ned Hallowell at the Learning & the Brain conference, which took place in San Francisco recently. A team of scientists evaluated 24 children with attention-related learning challenges – such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – between the ages of seven and 12.

These children trained using the proprietary digital learning tool for a total of 24 20-minute sessions over an eight week period. Following completion of the programme, they demonstrated improved average scores in a variety of academic fields, including mathematical understanding, reading fluency and understanding of grammar.

On top of this, the researchers found that the children exhibited fewer problems planning out their homework assignments and completing these tasks or written work in the classroom. "Results such as these are unprecedented in my experience," said Dr Hallowell. He highlighted three aspects of the digital learning programme as particularly noteworthy.

Firstly, that training with these tools "appears to have reversed the fundamental issues of inattention and poor inhibition control that these kids routinely display, almost as if each child could feel a distraction coming and then correct for it"; secondly, substantially improved school performance in key academic subjects over a short period of time; and thirdly, that these gains appeared consistent across a range of different tests and measures.

"Overall, I believe these are dramatic and very encouraging results," he concluded.

Studies completed by the developer of the learning tools indicates that such an approach is particularly effective for children aged between eight and 12 years of age, with similar results also being witnessed in groups characterised by mild to moderate impulse issues.