Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Choosing Apps for Executive Function Challenges

 by Therese Willkomm, PhD, ATP, Stacy Driscoll, MEd, and Linda Beliveau

If you have issues with executive functioning, you probably have issues with organization. It seems clich√© to say it, but there’s an app for that. As a matter of fact, there are many apps out there that keep you on task and scratching things off your to-do list.

Don’t just download the first organizational app with high ratings, however. When you have ADHD, you need to consider exactly which features will help you the most—and which ones might send you over the edge.

How do you enter information into the app, and how is it conveyed to you? If it takes five steps to enter a reminder about an appointment, it’s not the app for someone challenged with cognitive demands. Think about the steps in having to recognize the prompt, take action, find and open the device, tap on the app, put the device away, and then execute the task. It’s best to focus on apps that have few steps in the stimulus-response sequence.

It doesn’t have to be typing that gets information into an app, though. There are apps that use voice, video, pictures, icons or gestures, and more for the input piece. For the output, you might decide you want to get pictures as reminders, or videos, music, alarms—the list goes on. Wearable technology is becoming more popular, too. You can also set the level of engagement with an app. A banner prompt appears across the top of a device and disappears—but an alert shows up in the middle of the screen and is harder to ignore.

Wearable technology is becoming popular, too. The Pebbles Watch receives reminders from your cell phone, as long as it’s within fifty feet. When your watch vibrates, a quick glance at your wrist tells you to take action. As a bonus feature for those with executive function deficits, the watch can help you find your cell phone (ever misplaced that?). Just push the middle button and your phone plays the music you’ve chosen—even if it’s in silent mode.

Today nearly every device comes equipped with a camera app and an app to organize photos. These apps aren’t just for cute photos of kids and pets. You can document and organize anything with pictures or videos. Lose receipts often? Take photos of them and put them into a designated folder. Have trouble remembering the steps to complete a certain task? Take photos or short video clips, save them in a folder, and you’ll have the directions whenever you need them.

Of course, apps are a tool, not a treatment. They’re not all universally beneficial to everyone with ADHD. Still, with a little exploration and consideration of features, there’s no doubt that apps can help reduce the cognitive demand in completing tasks and organizing information. 

Here are some popular apps available on Apple's iOS platform that people affected by ADHD have found useful.


- Simple Tailor Software
Alarmed ~ Reminders+Timers - Yoctoville
Any.Do - Task & To-Do List, Task Manager, Daily Reminders & Checklist Organizer - Any.Do
Calendar Alarm—CalAlarm 2 - DEVART
2Do - Guided Ways Technology Ltd


Priority Matrix
- Appfluence LLC
30/30 - Binary Hammer
KanPlan - Houda Hamdane
Awesome Calendar - YunaSoft, Inc.
iSecretary - Ernest LS
Inspiration Maps - Inspiration Software
Popplet - Notion


- AssistiveWare
Book Creator - Red Jumper Studio
Picture Scheduler - Peter Jankuj
Forgetful - IBEX
Choiceworks - Bee Visual

A longer version of this post appeared in the December 2014 issue of Attention magazine. Join CHADD and receive every issue!
Join conversations about managing adult ADHD on Attention connection, your social network for all things ADHD!

Therese Willkomm, PhD, ATP, an associate professor in the department of occupational therapy and director of ATinNH, the assistive technology program at the University of New Hampshire. Stacy Driscoll, MEd, an assistive technology assistant at ATinNH, is the founder of LifeLong Assistive Technology. Linda Beliveau is the technology integrator at ATECH Services.

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