Learning with ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition that first presents itself in early childhood and has been known to continue into adulthood for around 60% of those who have it. With a diagnosis typically being made at the age of seven, ADHD can have a profound impact on a child’s ability to learn during school.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

ADHD does not affect every child the same way and it can be quite challenging distinguishing the symptoms from many other common behavioural traits of a young child. Due to the difficulty of diagnosing the condition, statistics on the prevalence of ADHD vary significantly with one study revealing the worldwide average to be 5.29% while one Australian review found it to be as high as 10%. Almost all of the research, however, proves that boys are more likely than girls to have ADHD.

The symptoms are typically classed in two different categories – inattention or hyperactivity/impulsivity. Some can also have a combination of these two traits. Symptoms of people classed as predominantly inattentive are:

  • distractibility
  • difficulty focusing or listening
  • easily becoming bored
  • daydreaming
  • failing to follow through with instructions
  • difficulty organising
  • often forgetful

Symptoms of those who are classed as predominantly hyperactive/impulsive are:

  • fidgeting
  • failing to stay seated
  • constant talking
  • uncontrollable physical activity
  • difficulty staying quiet
  • impatience
  • interrupting often

Learning Strategies

Becoming more aware of the condition is the first step to helping your child learn at school and at home. Medication can have very positive outcomes for children with ADHD, but there is also a belief the condition is being overmedicated. If you or your child’s teacher suspects your son or daughter may have ADHD, it is critical to consult a child psychologist and even persist with seeking out multiple opinions of a few different medical professionals.

Regardless of whether your child is being medicated for ADHD or not, there are many ways you can help them stay on task and be motivated to do their homework.

Remove distractions

Recommend to your child’s teacher or tutor to seat them close to the front of the class or away from doors or windows. At home, create a regular space for your child to do their work that is not in their room, free of any clutter and away from the TV or any other distraction. Giving them something like a stress ball, however, can help satisfy their fidgety compulsions.

Provide breaks

Make time during their homework sessions to stand up, stretch or even go for a walk outside. It doesn’t have to be for long but a small recess every 30 minutes will do wonders for their concentration.

Maintain a routine

Children with ADHD have been known to benefit substantially from learning in a structured manner. Sit down with your son or daughter and write a checklist of daily, weekly and even monthly goals using highlighters or BOLD text to signify anything important. Schedule the more difficult or important tasks at the beginning of the homework session and divide portions of large assignments into smaller segments they can tick off as they complete. Keeping a separate homework book will also help with this.

Communicate clearly, concisely and compassionately

It is important to be understanding of your child’s condition and provide regular praise when they’re behaving well or making progress at school. When giving instructions, ensure they are short and to the point, maintain eye contact and have your child repeat them back at you. You may need to also verbally remind your child to stay on task when they’re working.

(Sources – Kids Matter, Open Colleges, RCH Melbourne)

Image courtesy of Jin.