Apr 23rd, 2020, 09:42 PM

Learning Remotely with ADHD: A Guide

By Caitlin Kelly
Image credit: @rudivitkauskas on Instagram
Learning remotely can be difficult for anyone. But with ADHD, it can be impossible.

Online school is not ideal for any student. Learning in a home environment, an environment you associate with relaxation, can be difficult. Checking emails and keeping up with instructions from professors is vital, especially since we cannot be given those directions in-person. But for students with learning disorders, specifically ADHD, learning remotely and from home can be near impossible. 

ADHD is an acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and can also manifest itself as ADD, which is the same disorder without the issue of hyperactivity. Many people believe ADHD merely makes it hard to focus. On the contrary, people with ADHD and ADD are excellent at focusing. They can focus on the same task for hours on end, and often do. The problem is directing this focus on the tasks that need to be completed for school. 

In a home environment, with free access to the Internet, learning remotely has never been more difficult for these individuals. Many people with ADHD experience hyperfocus. Hyperfocus is also a phenomenon common amongst individuals who are on the autism spectrum and is something students with autism will inevitably experience as well. 

According to psychologist and expert in ADHD Russell Barkley, PHD, “Children and adults with ADHD have difficulty shifting attention from one thing to another. If they’re doing something they enjoy or find psychologically rewarding, they’ll tend to persist in this behavior after others would normally move on to other things. The brains of people with ADHD are drawn to activities that give instant feedback.”  

In a classroom, it is harder for individuals with ADD, ADHD, and autism to indulge in their interests, making it easier to focus on the material being presented. At home, all of the resources to research other interests are readily available. It is an unfair expectation to expect the same, well-produced work from all students.

What is there to be done for those with ADHD to produce the same quality work as students without learning disorders? According to experts in the field, there are many solutions. 

Schedules are critical for individuals with ADHD. People with ADHD often lose track of time when they are focusing on something they enjoy and can forget to eat for hours on end. With a rigid schedule in place that sets a time for every single activity, including meals, this can prevent hyperfocusing from occurring. 

If you have ADHD, do not have the impression that you must force yourself to painstakingly study for hours on end until you understand the concept. For us, we can’t retain the information if we are bored or exasperated. Therefore, it’s necessary to study in short spurts, 5-10 minutes at a time. This will make it easier to understand the information. 

Using physical movements while studying can help memory for individuals with ADHD. As a comparative literature major who has ADD, I rarely sit still while reading a book. Sitting still makes me fidgety, and it’s impossible to focus. However, when I engage in physical activity while reading, like walking or pacing around my house, it makes it infinitely easier to focus on the story. Studying while standing up and making random movements, like walking, swinging your arms, or shifting your weight can help memory as well.                       

If you have ADHD and learning remotely is proving to be difficult, don’t feel discouraged. There are many things to do to help stay on task while in quarantine. And don’t feel alone either, as chances are there are many people with ADHD around you, struggling in the exact same way.