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ADHD and Online Learning

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

Your ADHD child who loves being on computers and could play on Minecraft for ten hours a day if you let them, suddenly can't seem to function when school suddenly switched to Zoom. What is going on here?

More and more teachers, parents, and students are realizing that the struggle is real. Teachers are finding that they have to repeat instructions over and over and over, even when the instructions are right there in the chat box or posted to a classroom. Some of our ADHD kids our finding themselves at a loss about what has been going on in their classes for the last ten minutes. Some forget that they even had a class to go to! ADHD kids are finding that having to focus on their teachers during an online class is even more exhausting than being in an in-person class. Some of our ADHD kids are busy focusing on all of the movements they are seeing on screen from their peers, or the sounds they may make, and others are choosing to be distracted by visiting other websites, playing games or using other apps during class times because they can. So what can we do?

We are not at all helpless in this. Some things that I have seen go a very long way to help your child with online classes include:

- Location, location, location! Instead of Zooming on a laptop or computer, have your child place a cell phone in the same, quiet location and in a marked spot like on the kitchen table, with the camera pointing at them. Provide them with a pencil and paper to take notes (or doodle if that helps with focus). That's it. This will keep them from going on other apps that they shouldn't be on and hopefully be in a less distracting or overly comfortable environment like their bedroom.

- Have them ask their teachers to provide them with a daily agenda (if they haven't done so already) so that they can focus on one learning goal at a time.

- Get recordings of the lessons so that they can chunk the classes into 10-15 minutes at a time when they are better able to focus.

- If you are at home with your child, check in with them regularly, observe them, and give them gentle cues like a tap on the shoulder to help them refocus.

- Provide the same quiet spot and time of day to do homework, and stay in the room with them. It is completely within your right to check on them at regular intervals to observe their progress and help them refocus, or chunk work (break it up) into intervals that are more manageable. It is more than okay to give them regularly scheduled brain breaks so that they can come back to their work with more focus.

This is what we are asking our teachers to do:

  • Provide our students with a daily agenda in writing so that they know what they are learning about and what is expected of them.

  • Provide our students with explicit instruction on Zoom etiquette to help minimize distractions.

  • Provide our students with stretch and brain breaks when possible

  • Shorten the lengths of class-times, especially for our ADHD students

  • Record lectures and have them available to our students

  • Give our ADHD students extended time to complete their assignments

We are all in somewhat uncharted territory here and are doing the best we can. Hopefully with some of these simple adjustments, we can help our kids survive and thrive!

Keep safe and healthy!


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