Behavior & Development • Jan 09, 2012

Control ADD or ADHD with a Smart Phone

How many times did you remind your child to put something away today?  How many times did you lose your cool just trying to get your child through the morning routine?  How many times did you have to call for them to come to dinner?  The job of a parent of an ADHD or ADD child is to be a secretary, to constantly remind and try to implement routines and systems or order and organization.  This role can turn mom and dad into the nag they never wanted to be.   Thankfully, we now have a digital secretary available for kids with ADHD and ADD—the smart phone.  Do you have an old smart phone collecting dust in a drawer?  Great!  Read on to put it to good use. 

How to set up a smart phone to help your child with ADHD/ADD:

1)      Disable the telephone and internet features of the phone.  Children under age 12 should not have unregulated access to a cell phone or the internet, especially kids with ADHD and ADD!    But you can disable the internet and telephone features and still use a smart phone as digital assistant, providing reminders and academic support. 

2)      Set alarms with cool ringtones for different daily activities.  For example, have an alarm for getting up in the morning, for getting dressed, for packing their school work in their backpack etc.  Whatever those things are that you have to remind your child to do daily, set an alarm for it.  Now the phone becomes the nag, not you! 

3)      If the phone has a “reminders” feature (as do many iPhones), you can consider using this feature in place of the alarms, especially for activities that are not recurring. 

4)      If you want to get even more sophisticated, set up an Outlook or Google calendar for your child, and sync your smart phone to the calendar by manually connecting the phone to your computer.  Put your child’s daily schedule on the calendar, including homework time, dinner time, soccer practice, etc.  Set reminders to chime 5 minutes before each activity. 

5)      Put a to-do list on your child’s smart phone.  Include all their chores.  Add a calendar reminder or alarm when it is chore time.  

6)      Make it fun!  Let your child use the camera and/or music features of the smart phone.  You can still sync to iTunes (provided that you don’t give your child your iTunes password). Make sure the phone is so much fun that they have it attached to them every time one of those reminders is about to go off. 

7)      Give digital rewards—let your child pick a new song from iTunes or a new educational app if they complete all their chores on the to-do list or make it through the day without reminders from you. 

8)      Inspire creativity—as a reward, allow your child to download the photographs they have taken with their phone onto a family computer.  Let them use photo editing software to make collages and fun gifts. 

9)      Have your child turn the phone off while in school, or leave it at home.

Comments

  • Kelly Ross, MD

    Kathleen, I love this. I use my own phone to prompt my kids about daily routines. Like you, I am a big believer in “positive parenting”. So, I try to give them reminders on the front end instead of nagging or yelling on the back end. The phone sits on the kitchen counter and has one alarm tone when its is for bed, one when they should be half-way ready for school in the morning and one when its ti…me to leave for school. The kids picked the ring tones. My mom is terrific and has set her phone with the same alarms. So, when she “subs” for me in the am, no change in their routine.
    In the morning, when the dog barks, its their friendly reminder that it is time to leave for school. This alarm has gone off so many times in meetings at the hospital that now its an inside joke, even with higher administration. The barking dog alarm goes off in the middle of a meeting, everyone laughs and someone says, “Time for school!”

  • Daniel Kauwe

    nice article Kathleen!

    the same would apply for adults i think…it’s kind of sad but i think sometimes it’s like we have to treat ourselves like little kids and “parent” ourselves…

    this will give me some food for thought regarding handling my own ADHD…

    shiny object!