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9 Oct 2017

Powell L et al. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2017; 5: e149

A number of mobile apps have been developed to support parents of young people with ADHD. Some of these apps are designed to enable parents to monitor their child’s symptoms and medication adherence, provide parenting advice and help with daily routines. Although the development of these apps has been published, sample sizes in studies of individual apps are low and there is little evidence confirming their reliability or validity. In this study, a search of the top-ten listed mobile apps available on tablets was conducted using Apple iTunes and the Android Google Play Store. To be included in this study, apps must have stated that they were aimed at parents of young people with ADHD and must have been available in the English language. The aim of the study was to assess the suitability of these apps and help identify the key components required for an app to be appropriate for this population.

For this study, participants included specialist clinicians with experience working with children and young people with ADHD and their families recruited via the National Health Service Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in South Yorkshire, UK. Parents of young people with ADHD were also recruited via the Family Action group (a national charity) and an online ADHD community group. Data were collected via semi-structured interviews during which participants (i.e. parents and clinicians) were given the opportunity to use the apps and provide their views on the following key areas: (1) ‘what makes an app successful’; (2) ‘what makes an app less successful or unsuccessful?’; (3) ‘how could an app function benefit them as parents of young people with ADHD?’; and (4) ‘how could apps for parents help manage ADHD or address difficulties in young people?’. Demographic characteristics and details of their child’s ADHD diagnosis and medication were also provided. Thematic analysis was used to search for data patterns within and across participant groups, with identified themes aiming to provide an overall picture of the participants’ views.

A total of 13 participants were included in the study; 7 parents (recruited from October to November 2016) and 6 clinicians (recruited from February to March 2017). Principal findings from parents indicated that, in their view, ADHD-related apps should: (1) be flexible with family life; (2) enhance relationships and serve as an educational tool for siblings of young people with ADHD; (3) be visually pleasing and personalised; and (4) improve daily routines. Clinicians indicated that apps could be useful for parents to monitor their child’s ADHD symptoms and that apps should: (1) be practical; (2) be quick and easy to use, since parents of young people with ADHD often have busy and hectic lifestyles; and (3) specifically help with ADHD-related difficulties.

The apps reviewed in this study did not fully meet the expectations of the majority of parents and clinicians, with a mean score of 3.6 out of 8 of the positive characteristics identified. Therefore, results from the study provided insight into the quality of currently available ADHD-related apps and indicated that more research is required to improve technology that may benefit young people with ADHD and their families. The authors concluded that development of these apps should occur in co-production with key stakeholders in order to explore the effectiveness of technology-based interventions for ADHD.

Read more about the suitability of ADHD-related apps here

Powell L, Parker J, Harpin V. ADHD: is there an app for that? A suitability assessment of apps for the parents of children and young people with ADHD. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2017; 5: e149.

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