Looking for a new way to engage kids with ADHD? Try the movies! Many movies accurately portray life with ADHD, giving kids a chance to see themselves on the big screen. Movies can also introduce effective coping strategies in a light and entertaining way. A recent article by Learning Works for Kids outlines the benefits of watching movies with children who have ADHD:
- Movies can help you bond with your child when ADHD seems to constantly strain your relationship.
- Movies that reward planning and strategy are models for thoughtful, non-impulsive behavior.
- Watching the same movie a second or third time and talking about it provides opportunities to process how and why characters behaved the ways they did in the movie.
- There’s a good chance a movie is one of the few family activities a child with ADHD can make it all the way through.
The article lists a few excellent movies that model strategies for kids with ADHD:
Wreck-It Ralph is the story of a ‘bad guy’ who wants to show that he can overcome his bad reputation and be a hero. The film features characters who struggle with inhibition and negative self-concept, challenges that students with ADHD may be able to related to. In addition, this movie can help teach children to self-assess and self-monitor.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Who wouldn’t struggle to control themselves in a chocolate factory? This classic movie has a lot to say about the importance of inhibition and self-regulation.
In Finding Nemo, a father must search across the ocean to find his son. The character of Dory is easily distractible and has trouble remembering important information, which are challenges that some kids with ADHD face. The movie also highlights strategies for goal setting and planning.
Here are some of my own suggestions:
The NeverEnding Story
This movie does a particularly good job of depicting how it feels to struggle in school. The main character, Bastion, finds school so difficult that he hides and envisions a magical land instead of going to class. No matter how far his imagination takes him, however, he has to face his fears in the end. You can use Bastion’s story to talk about what effective strategies we can use when confronted with difficult situations.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
While not a movie, this Netflix TV show features children who have to face incredible odds without support or guidance. The kid protagonists demonstrate amazing problem-solving skills, cognitive flexibility, and persistence.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
I would be remiss if I didn’t include this movie as it is extremely popular with students who have ADHD and those who do not alike. While less effective for talking about strategy use, this movie can be incredibly helpful for students to see characters who explicitly have ADHD represented on screen. In this case, ADHD and dyslexia are signs that Percy Jackson and his friends are actually destined to be heroes—an empowering message.
As you can see, this is far from an exhaustive list of movies that can help students with ADHD. What films did we miss? Let us know in the comments!
- Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager