Learning at home can be difficult for many students. Yet for children with ADHD, virtual schooling has an additional set of challenges. Those with ADHD typically have difficulty with focus, impulsively, hyperactivity, and executive functioning skills, including planning, time management, organization, and task initiation. Learning virtually can exacerbate these challenges, as this modality requires students to be more independent and self-guided, without the consistent support of an in-person teacher. Try the following strategies to help your child with ADHD thrive with online schooling:
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Create a Daily Schedule
Kids with ADHD benefit from routines, so help your child create a daily at-home learning routine with a visual schedule. To do so, have your child draw a visual diagram on a large poster board detailing each segment of the day. For instance, the top might say “7 am: wake up” inside a long rectangular bubble. Underneath it, he might write “7:45-8:15 am: eat breakfast,” then “8:15-10 am: Zoom school,” then “10-10:15 am: snack break,” and so on. Young kids can draw a picture next to each task, while older kids might map out a more linear work plan detailing each subject and the specific times that are allocated for that class. The more structure kids with ADHD have in their days, the better.
Create a School-Like Environment
The transition from a school environment with desks, cubbies, a whiteboard, etc., to a home bedroom or dining room designated for school can be challenging for ADHD students. Help ease this transition by setting up a space that looks as much like your child’s classroom as possible. There should be a clean desk with space for a computer and organized sections for supplies. Pens and pencils should be in a cup holder, folders should be in a designated slot, and extra paper should be in a drawer. Make sure your child has all the supplies they may need for a given day so they don’t become distracted by roaming the house for needed supplies.
Take Movement Breaks
Children with ADHD tend to have difficulty sitting in one spot for an extended period of time. Thus, encourage your child to take movement breaks whenever possible. If your child’s teacher offers a break from class, encourage them to go outside for a walk or ride their bike. If it’s rainy or the weather is too cold, encourage indoor exercise breaks, such as jumping jacks, push-ups, or sit-ups. This movement will invigorate your child and help them stay on task for larger stretches of time.
Try the Pomodoro Method
If your child doesn’t have a structured day of livestream classes, help him create structure using the Pomodoro Method. With this method, children are asked to stay on a given task for 25 minutes straight with no distractions (one “Pomodoro”), then take a 5-minute break. After 4 successful Pomodoro, they can take a longer break of 20 minutes or more. They should use a timer set for 25 minutes for each Pomodoro segment. You might, for instance, tell your child to work on a spelling worksheet for 25 minutes and set a timer; when the timer goes off, they can take a 5-minute break. This method helps build structure into your child’s day and encourages him to feel successful by making it through these segments and completing the given tasks.
Give Positive Feedback
Help your child stay positive and feel successful by giving positive feedback. Try to be specific, like “You did a great job completing your math assignment without any distractions,” or “I’m very impressed with how you ate breakfast on your own, got dressed, and began your online class independently.” If needed, you can build in small rewards for getting through parts of the day successfully. For instance, if your child completes the segment from breakfast to their first break 1.5 hours later without any distractions, they receive a point. Five points may equal a prize, like a special treat for dessert or a game.
Online learning is the new normal for many children. While this can be a real challenge for kids with ADHD, trying the strategies above can help your child feel more motivated, engaged, and successful in school.