The Effects of a Consumer-Oriented Multimedia Game on the Reading Disorders of Children with ADHD

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It is impossible to overstate the importance of effective interventions for addressing two highly prevalent and potentially devastating disorders affecting school-aged children—dyslexia and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Both have been found to increase children’s risk for underachievement, school failure, dropping out, suspension, expulsion, and delinquency (Crawford, 1996; Dickman, 1996; Gregg, 1995a, 1995b, 1996; Lyon, 1996). Furthermore, there is evidence that the disorders often coexist (Lyon, 1996; Willcutt & Pennington, 2000), though the nature of this overlap is still not fully understood. While more and more children with learning deficits are being educated in regular classrooms, many of those teachers lack sufficient training to help them succeed. Moreover, the pressures placed on schools by high-stakes testing and accountability make it imperative to identify interventions that address learning deficits and maximize academic achievement. Certain interventions such as computer programs that ameliorate impairments in reading and attention disorders operate on the physiological level and, therefore, lend themselves to technology-based applications. This study investigates the effects of Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), a consumer-oriented, multimedia game on the reading disorders of sixth-grade students with ADHD. DDR is a pervasive, interactive, multimedia game designed solely for entertainment. As such, it has massive appeal to young people. It was hypothesized that by matching movements to visual and rhythmic auditory cues, DDR may strengthen neural networks involved in reading and attention and thereby improve student outcomes. The pool of potential participants included 74 sixth-grade students who were identified by their parents or guardians as having been diagnosed with ADHD by a medical or psychological professional. Students attended four middle schools during three distinct project periods: Spring 2002, Spring/Summer 2004, and Falll004. For the purposes of the study, the presence of reading impairment in potential participants was determined by a pretest. The Process Assessment of the Learner: Test Battery for Reading and Writing (PAL-RW) is used to identify students at risk for reading/writing problems, monitor students’ progress as they participate in intervention programs, and aid in diagnosis by evaluating the nature of reading/writing-related problems (Berninger, 2001). The pretest yielded 62 students in four locations eligible to participate in the study. Students were sorted by class period availability and assigned to treatment, control, or exclusion groups using a table of random numbers. Eligible students were excluded in one location as dictated by availability (i.e., the number of eligible students exceeded the time available for intervention during their assigned elective class period) Students assigned to the control group did not participate in the intervention activity. Instead, they attended elective courses as normal and completed the posttest at the end of the treatment period. DDR Disney Mix was the intervention used with the treatment group in this study. Along with DDR Disney Mix, two external dance pads, a Sony PlayStation, and a 50" television were used by participants at each location. Game settings were adjusted to minimize background visual stimuli (i.e., background effects "off" and background brightness set to the lowest setting, "25%"). Participants followed onscreen cues to match rhythm and choreography. They stepped on arrows on the dance pad when corresponding arrows on the television screen indicated forward, back, left, and right. Students participated in pairs (matched randomly within their available class period), attending two 25-minute sessions each week for varying treatment periods (i.e., 4 weeks, 8 weeks, or 12 weeks). Sessions were monitored by a trained researcher or research assistant. As researchers anticipated, the number of completed treatment sessions varied by participant within the treatment group due to illness, weather-related school closings, schoolwide events, and the like. Following the treatment period, the PAL-RW was readministered. The experiment was designed to test the hypothesis that students with ADHD who were involved in the intervention would exhibit less reading impairment (as measured by the PAL-RW) and would improve to a greater extent than would comparable students who were not exposed to the intervention. The pretest and posttest scores on the 24 subtests of the PAL-RW were used for comparison. Regression analyses revealed a positive relationship between the number of treatment sessions a student completed and the gains made on Receptive Coding and Finger Sense Recognition subtests. Furthermore, results from the general linear model for repeated measures indicated that the treatment may have had an effect on participants’ ability to perform on the Receptive Coding subtest which measures the child’s ability to "code whole written words into short-term memory and then to segment each word into units of different size" (Berninger, 2001, p. 32). Further research may support the use of recreational games such as DDR to supplement traditional classroom interventions for addressing these disorders, offering educators and families alike a child-focused option that is neither pedagogical nor pharmacological. References Berninger, V. (2001). Process Assessment of the Learner (PAL) Test Battery for Reading and Writing. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation. Crawford, D. (1996). Review of research on learning disabilities and juvenile delinquency. In S. Cramer & W. Ellis (Eds.), Learning disabilities: Lifelong issues (pp. 203–210). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. Dickman, G. E. (1996). The link between learning disabilities and behavior. In S. Cramer & W. Ellis (Eds.), Learning Disabilities (pp. 215–228). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. Gregg, S. (1996). Preventing antisocial behavior in disabled and at-risk students. Policy Briefs. Charleston, WV: AEL. Gregg, S. (1995a). ADHD–Building academic success. Policy Briefs. Charleston, WV: AEL. Gregg, S. (1995b). Understanding and identifying children with ADHD: First steps to effective intervention. Policy Briefs. Charleston, WV: AEL. Lyon, G. R. (1996). The state of research. In S. Cramer & W. Ellis (Eds.), Learning disabilities: Lifelong issues (pp. 3–61). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. Willcutt, E. G., & Pennington, B. F. (2000). Comorbidity of reading disability and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Differences by gender and subtype. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33(2), 179–191.
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