5 Tips to Support Children with ADHD and Online Tuition.
Without the rules and structure of the classroom, students with ADHD in Online Tuition struggle greatly. Here’s how to make it easier for children.
Tears and tantrums – that’s what you’ve heard far too often from parents who have children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) since the pandemic began, unfortunately. Children have been ripped out of their routines, where they could normally follow lessons at school to some extent with the support of teachers, and now have to follow a chaotic and malfunctioning online class in a room brimming with distractions.
Without the teacher support they are used to and the firm rules and structure of the classroom, the struggle to stay organized and keep up with lessons and homework has suddenly become overwhelming.
Tutors can also be supportive after school. At Good Tutors Finder, all tutors are trained to meet the special needs of children with ADHD or other limitations that prevent them from following the subject matter. This can take place online, but also directly at their home, under strict hygiene measures of course, which can make it easier for the affected child to keep focus. This offer is available everywhere in The Netherlands, including Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Wassenar, and all other cities.
Australian psychologist Rae Thomas estimates that about 7.2% of children worldwide live with ADHD. It is considered one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood. In the middle elementary and middle school years, symptoms can include difficulty handling tasks, restlessness, when inactive, rushed and messy work, and difficulty following multi-step instructions.
Everyone’s symptoms are different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so it is important to maintain constant contact between the affected child, parents, teachers, and tutors in order to provide the best possible support.
“ADHD affects the whole brain,” says Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, MD, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine in the United States. “Their brains don’t make enough dopamine or epinephrine – chemicals that are important for self-control and self-regulation. So students with ADHD can’t regulate their impulses, attention, and emotions as well. They struggle with organization, with time and money management.”
Virtual classrooms present special problems. Researchers recently found that 31 percent of parents of children with ADHD describe homeschooling as “very challenging” and have difficulty supporting their children at home. Teachers and students may also be at a disadvantage. In the physical classroom, teachers can usually tell when students with ADHD are confused or agitated and need a quick prompt to refocus – but many of these signals are lost during Zoom instruction. And because home-based learning is generally more independent, it requires more focus and organization, two qualities that are often in short supply in students with ADHD.
To support children with ADHD in elementary and middle school, the educators we spoke with, focus on the basics of online instruction: brain and body breaks, breaking lessons into shorter units, and being able to connect with students-especially those with ADHD-and ask for feedback as often as possible. “In regular classrooms, the whole first quarter is about understanding students’ learning styles and building partnerships with them to learn how I can help them,” elementary teachers say. “We can’t forget that point when we teach digitally.”
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Sydney Zentall, professor of education at Purdue University, says, “Repetitive and long lessons that require sustained mental effort are difficult for most children – but they are especially difficult for students with ADHD, who tend to get bored and digress. Intentionally including choices can engage students with ADHD and allow them to sustain their attention longer. There is also research that shows that introducing another activity that appeals to a different sense – such as standing up for a few minutes during a virtual lesson or listening to white noise or soft background music while working on math problems – can keep children’s brains focused on the main task.
Some students with ADHD prefer to log into online classes on their cell phones because it allows them to move around the house or go out to the backyard without missing a moment of class. Being physically engaged helps them stay focused.
To help students with ADHD create an optimal learning environment, a one-on-one conversation with the student is advised to discuss how they learn best and how they can improve their learning environment at home. Questions such as “Where are you learning right now?” and “Does this feel calm to you?” can be helpful.
After all, when students with ADHD are allowed to fidget, they are able to focus better. In the physical classroom, this can easily distract other children, but the virtual space provides enough freedom without disturbing others. Many items that everyone has somewhere at home can be used and they are quiet so they don’t disturb other children: Pipe cleaners, rubber bands, beaded bracelets, play-doh, a small handball, or paper clips, for example. All of these items can help keep children’s hands busy while they learn.
Assist in organizing and keeping a schedule
Students with ADHD forget time more often and have more difficulty sticking to plans. Setting reminders (with multiple notifications, if needed) of class start times, due dates, and other tasks on their cell phones can help. Sometimes even a simple kitchen timer can help divide up tasks and focus on specific chunks of time.
Visual timers that show quite clearly how much time has passed and how much time is left helps many children stay organized.
Battery-powered devices that mimic analog clocks make it easy for students. During the time children are learning from home, time management techniques such as the Pomodoro technique – essentially setting a timer and focusing on a specific task for 25 minutes, then taking a five-minute break, and then returning to the task – can help children stay consistently productive.
From the teacher’s side, it’s important that they also are considerate of students who are affected and, for example, always post class information, teaching materials, and important messages in the same (virtual) place and give parents access to them as well so that kids can establish some sort of routine around it that they can stick to and so that parents can support them appropriately. You can do things like post the study plans at eye level so they can’t be overlooked, put all the times in the cell phone, either in the calendar or as an alarm clock, and leave enough time for breaks.
These types of strategies help limit the anxiety that comes with being overwhelmed. Because if these two feelings take over, the child will not have a chance to follow the lesson. Especially when a child checks in late or is just confused and doesn’t know what’s coming next, teachers need to remain patient and not resort to verbal abuse, as is unfortunately so common in schools after all. Soothing words can take the pressure off and help bring the focus back to what is happening in class.
Start with the big picture and then break it down into smaller parts
Children with ADHD often have problems with executive functions. Executive functions are the brain’s self-control capacities; they allow us to maintain actions and problem solving toward a goal, they are often described with the words “goal-directed problem solving and goal-directed persistence.”
One of these executive functions is the ability to tap into “nonverbal working memory” to create mental maps that guide our behavior to achieve a goal – and to remember the sequence of steps required to do so. For example, a complex, multi-step homework assignment without this appropriate scaffolding can be a major hurdle for a child with ADHD.
When homeschooling, it is especially important for children with ADHD to start with the big picture and then move on to the small parts, seeing the forest first, then the trees, so to speak. Many children and adolescents with ADHD have reported that it is much easier for them to understand a topic if you start with the big picture of what it should add up to in the end than if you start with small portions. This can be problematic because often, especially in subjects like Mathematics or Science the lesson guide goes the other way; building up the basics in small bites, often without clearly showing the end product. This can be overwhelming for children with ADHD and can throw them out of the whole lesson series.
Incorporate children's online behaviors into learning.
Poor working memory is common in people with ADHD, which can make reading comprehension and retention difficult. When students read a text on a screen, they tend to skim it rather than read it closely – making it even harder for children with ADHD to understand and retain what they read. But asking students to read more slowly and summarize each paragraph helps them remember the information better because it requires active focus.
When students read a text online, you can use a reading strategy where you number the main paragraphs of the reading material and ask students to write down the main idea for each paragraph. There is also a little trick to this; if the summary consists of a single hashtag this accomplishes several tasks: They are easy to understand and help kids remember the paragraph, making them up stimulates creativity since you need that to put a whole paragraph into one or two words, and they are catchier, more memorable, and simpler, which takes a lot of work out of the memorization process.
All children benefit from short breaks during the school day, but for children with ADHD, regular breaks outside of Zoom lessons are critical to maintaining concentration.
Regular movement breaks should be taken to break up lessons and learning periods. Maintaining concentration for an extended period of time is a real struggle for children with ADHD. Therefore, it is advisable to set up the sessions for no longer than 30 minutes, and after each of them, take a break to get rid of the excess energy. After the break, breathing exercises can be used to calm down and bring the focus back to learning.
And because kids who learn from home miss out on important opportunities to interact with their peers, we recommend scheduling unstructured Zoom breaks where kids can goof around and talk to each other. This also helps manage stress, which can be overwhelming in the isolation time we experience today.
If you would still like to provide your child with a trained tutor after school who can help with structure and organization, we have just what you need. At Good Tutors Finder, we only have hand-picked tutors who are well versed in these and other strategies and can apply them, whether they are in IB Diploma, IGCSE, AP, or lower grades. Mathematics, Science, Physics, German, French, English, and more, no matter which subject is difficult, our tutors can help out.