If you’re a parent with a child who struggles with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), then you’re familiar with the challenges students face each day to keep up with their academics.
Children with ADD or ADHD:
- Often move around a room—unable to sit for long periods of time.
- Have trouble staying focused when learning in a group environment.
- Often forget to write down homework assignments, complete them, or turn them in.
- Usually have problems studying, completing tasks, or completing projects without direct supervision.
- Have trouble following directions, particularly when they are presented in a list, such as solving equations or performing long division (operations that require sequential steps).
- Often lack fine motor control, making it difficult to take notes or produce legible handwriting.
Although this can feel very frustrating to address as a parent, students are often the ones paying the higher price. They will frequently endure scolding from teachers at school, low grades, peer teasing, and ultimately, low self-esteem. Since this is something that is largely not within the student’s control, it requires a particularly gentle touch, ample patience, creativity, consistency, and tactful positive reinforcement.
For this reason, we hear time and again from parents that their children will often work more readily with a tutor who has experience with students with ADD or ADHD. This also works more naturally for students because they know their tutor is purely an educator who is there to intervene in their academic development, rather than discipline them—a practice reserved for parents. So how can a tutor teach a student who finds it hard to listen and study for more than a few minutes at a time? They combine three main ideas:
- They accommodate students based on their unique learning needs.
- They are creative and dynamic in the methods they use with each student.
- They intervene when student behaviors become disruptive and redirect them with a positive attitude.
Here are a few methods used by tutors—which can also be implemented by parents at home—to support students with ADD and ADHD as they work to build their academic stamina:
- Create a quiet room with no distractions, and preferably away from windows or doors.
- Foster a team attitude: “Let’s work together to find study goals and tactics that work for you.”
- Begin lessons with more difficult material, and end with easier concepts.
- Study early in the day if possible.
- Introduce concepts one at a time and use repetition to reinforce them.
- Use visuals such as charts, color-coding, and pictures
- Implement tactile elements to learning such as dice or play money.
- Create outlines and graphic organizers that organize information as you deliver it
- Alter worksheets and tests to be shorter, focusing on smaller quantities of information, more frequently.
- Give tests that require oral answers or fill-in-the-blanks, depending on what works best for the individual student.
- Create frequent, short-term goals for long-term projects.
- Help students get organized by creating a master binder with color-coded tabs for each subject.
- Create a three-pocket binder with (1) homework assignments, (2) completed homework, and (3) notes for mom/dad (e.g. slips, grades, PTA meeting notifications)
- Buy a paper calendar for students to track all events, assignments, tests, etc.
- Establish eye contact while teaching.
- Outline the objective(s) of each day’s lesson on a portable whiteboard.
- Take frequent breaks to release energy and be clear about the duration and frequency of breaks.
- Summarize key points at the end of each lesson.
The most important thing to remember when implementing these study tactics is to remain patient, stay positive, always give constructive feedback, and encourage your child. Students with learning differences particularly benefit from empathy and positive reinforcement.