Back to School Online with ADHD

girlusing virtual learning

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen, many school districts have announced they will continue online learning in the fall. Online learning has been a challenge for many schools and teachers, as well as the children they teach. Students with ADHD can have greater difficulty with online learning due to the executive function impairments they must contend with on top of their academic workload.

Here are some suggestions parents can use to help their ADHD child succeed in a virtual learning environment.

Make a Learning Space within the Home

According to Dr. Kristi Hofstadter-Duke, a licensed clinical psychologist who runs Savannah Behavioral Pediatrics, the biggest challenge ADHD kids have with virtual learning is that the home is not regulated or structured. So parents need to artificially impose some sort of structure on a virtual learning day.

The first element is creating a designated learning space. This should as free of distractions as possible. In your child’s mind, you want this to be the place where learning happens – just as school has been. The space should be relatively quiet, with enough room for folders, papers, books or other school related materials.

In addition, keep the computer your child uses for learning free of distracting apps or websites that will pull their attention away from the work they are supposed to be doing.

Establish a Routine

You can establish two types of structure to the day. The first includes the normal run of daily activities, waking, meals, breaks, etc.  The second level of structure is a schedule for the schoolwork to be done. Parents should work their kids to help them set their goals and prioritize their work. If may help to make a visual schedule that both you and your child can see.

Encourage Breaks

Focusing their attention on schoolwork for extended periods can be wearing for children with ADHD. They need regular breaks and movement. Consider one break of 5-10 minutes every hour, with  a couple of longer 15-minute breaks twice during the virtual school day. Breaks should involve some type of high energy activity and no screen time.

Add Some Enrichment Activities

Within the physical school environment, kids have access to enrichment activities like art, music or field trips. Look for ways to mimic thee in the home environment. You can find fun arts and crafts activities, free musical instruction, or dance / physical exercises online. Some museums are now offering virtual tours.

Ask for Help

Having to make your home a workplace, a school and a place to live is stressful. Especially when there is no certainty about when life can return to a more normal pattern. So,ask for help if you feel overwhelmed – from friends, family and those in the clinical community. If your ADHD child continues to struggle with adapting to online learning, consider seeking the help of an executive function coach.

Additional Resources

Learn About Edge Executive Function Coaching


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