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FDA Approves First Ever "Game-Based" Treatment for Children with ADHD

Article posted on 6/24/2021

Over the years, video games have sparked many debates regarding the welfare of kids who play them. From arguments that some games promote violence or discourage social growth all the way to how certain games might help ease anxiety, everyone seems to have an opinion on the topic. To complicate matters further, the answer is rather nuanced - there is no "right" or "wrong" in these arguments; often, the answer tends to come down to circumstances and a number of other variables.

To be honest, I never thought I'd see the day, but here it is: on June 15th, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permitted marketing of the first game-based digital therapeutic device to improve attention function in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The device, called EndeavorRx, is only available via a prescription and is intended for pediatric patients ages 8 to 12 years old with primarily inattentive or combined-type ADHD. 

This is the first game-based treatment that has ever been authorized by the FDA for any condition. Although the official statement on the FDA's website says "therapeutic device," a bit more research into EndeavorRx shows that the game itself is the prescription; it can be played on an iPhone, iPad, Android, etc. My thoughts on this? THIS IS FANTASTIC.

ADHD is a common disorder that begins in childhood, affecting approximately 4 million children ages 6-11. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and very high levels of activity. In order to receive a formal diagnosis for ADHD, an assessment from a trained healthcare professional is required. Several symptoms or pattern of symptoms are the hallmarks of ADHD, such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, all of which can interfere with functioning or development. 

Before I came to Stardock, I worked in childcare. I did that for over 10 years, almost half of which was spent as an after school program director for a local district. I enjoyed the work and I loved those children (I still miss them!), but the job was not without its challenges. Helping a kid with ADHD manage their symptoms can be very difficult, especially when they aren't receiving proper treatment. Even with medication, kids with these challenges would often require other things to help dispel that additional energy and maintain their focus. 

Our school was fairly equipped with fidget tools and yoga balls, which absolutely helped. But if there's one thing I know about kids is that almost all of them love video games. You want to keep their focus on something? They'll focus on a video game. And if this game can actually aid in cognitive development and focus, then more the better.

The EndeavorRx game has many benefits. It could minimize the need for higher doses or additional medications, and also utilizes what kids like and keeps them engaged in a therapeutic way. Children with ADHD often have difficulty concentrating on homework or paying attention in school - this game will help to teach them focus and keep them stimulated and engaged. 

The FDA reviewed data from studies in over 600 children while debating the approval of EndeavorRx, which is meant to be used in tandem with other treatments, not on its own. These studies included - among other things - an evaluation of whether participants demonstrated improvements in attention function, academic performance measures, and other assessment tools. No serious adverse affects were found during any of these studies. A series of minor side effects like frustration, headache, dizziness, emotional reactions, and so on, were observed.

An article from covers the topic and its potential very nicely, I definitely recommend giving it a read. I am excited to see more studies about this treatment. For me, it's exciting to see something that I love - video games - have the potential to help numerous children, for whom I also share a lot of love. It's nice to see that this is potentially one more resource that parents can add to their arsenal in order to help their child grow and develop in a positive way.

Had you heard about EndeavorRx already? What are your thoughts on this development? I'd love to hear from you!