Running pilot studies with Kinect games for helping children with ADHD

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Kinect motion-based touchless games have been suggested by educators and therapists for helping children with learning disabilities as well as disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The ultimate goal is to help children improve skills such as attention, memory, concentration and eye-hand concentration.

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders consisting of three symptom domains: hyperactivity, impulsivity and attention deficit. Epidemiological studies indicate prevalence rates ranging from 4% to 10%. General purpose Kinect XBOX exergames such as Braid, Gardens of Time, Kinect Adventures have been tested on children with learning difficulties and ADHD at Lakeside Center for Autism in the US, Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, etc. with positive results. Nevertheless, very few empirical findings from systemic research studies about the therapeutic use of such Kinect XBOX exergames for children with learning disabilities exist.

Specialists, educational researchers and therapists suggest that learning games for children with ADHD should be designed based on known therapeutic protocols. Also, since children with ADHD go to mainstream schools, games should be aligned to learning goals, as well.

Recently, we run a pilot study with 11 children at the ADHD unit of a children’s hospital with the specialized Kinect learning games, called Kinems. After ten (10) 30 minutes sessions, pre- and post-intervention testing displayed improvement in non-verbal fluid intelligence as well as sustained visual and auditory attention to tasks, planning, speed of processing and working memory. The combination of embodied interaction with learning activities seems to be very beneficial for the children.

Kinems games (http://www.kinems.com/) had been designed based on therapeutic exercises trying to combine therapy and learning to these principles. Using a Kinect for windows sensor, professionals can use these highly customised games which follow i) therapeutic guidelines given by experts in learning disabilities and disorders and ii) guidelines about motion games for children with learning disabilities, such as:

• Avoid fast pace • Avoid the need to make precise movements at a specific time • Reduce to a minimum the number of controls used to play the game, even to only one • Avoid game mechanics that require multiple simultaneous actions • Offer various levels of customisation in order that a game fits well to the individual needs of a player

Nowadays, therapists, special educators and researchers believe that specially designed Kinect learning games can combine fun and therapy for children with learning disabilities. Nonetheless, empirical studies are needed to inform practitioners about how, when and why they should use these games. We are now running a new round of case studies in schools in the USA and Greece. Any teacher or therapist who wants to run such case studies in collaboration with us, please feel free to contact me/us.

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