One of the most challenging parts of living with ADHD is going through school and learning something new. Inattention, hyperactivity, restlessness, interrupting the teacher or a coworker, and troubles regulating emotions can all affect the learning process. However, there are effective solutions and with the right tools, children and adults alike can effectively enjoy learning again.
The four types of learning
There are three learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and writing/reading. If you want to take a quiz to find the type of learner you are, click here. Having an individualized learning plan based on your learning style can keep the attention, focus, and motivation for longer. Speeding up the learning process and making it more enjoyable, too.
- Visual learners need visual stimulation, like seeing colorful pictures, charts, videos, and information written on a board or displayed on projectors. Add more visual materials every time you or your child need to learn something new.
- Auditory learners need to hear new information. They enjoy listening to the teachers or parents and participate in discussions. They are also more sensitive to the tone and speed of the voice, while visual learners pay more attention to facial expression. An easy way to incorporate more audio material is to record a lecture, listen to audiobooks and read out loud during study. Videos have both audio and visual features and thus appeal to visual and auditory learners alike.
- Kinesthetic learners. People with ADHD are often kinesthetic learners, because they are more active, always on the go and are most engaged when moving. They learn best by getting hands-on experience. Outdoor activities, science labs, playing with a Koosh ball can all stimulate the tactile sensation. Some teachers allow the children to stand up, rather than sit on a chair during a lecture. Standing desks are a great option at home, and the basic ones are very affordable
- The writing/reading type of learner benefits most from making lists, keeping journals and taking notes. They prefer to read themselves some material, rather than listening to others.
Focus on the ADHD features that can actually help you learn new things
Focus on, and develop ADHD-related features that promote learning. Use them as “superpowers”.
- For example, people with ADHD often seek and thrive on changes, novelty and high interest activity. They enjoy some competition. Learning always brings new information and changes, and stimulates the brain. However, the routines are the ones that trigger boredom. The solution is simple: make changes within a routine. For example, move the place where the desk is placed in the bedroom, get new colored binders. A quick, 5-10 minute workout (which can be a different workout from one day to another) right before study time can also be the change within a routine, and also boost brain function and enhance learning.
- As many people with ADHD are kinesthetic learners, thay have a lot of energy, quick reactions, great hand eye coordination and motor memory and love experiments. Use the learning types for kinesthetic learners above.
- ADHD is associated with superfocus. Super intense, episodes of intense attention. When “in the zone” a person can spend countless hours focused on that project. How can you create artificially this superfocus? Add a tight deadline to a project. The brain will respond with increased focus in order to meet that deadline.
- ADHD is tied to the reward system of the brain. The main neurochemical involved in the reward system and motivation is dopamine. Use this link to promote learning. Have a reward after completing some schoolwork or a project, to trigger motivation to learn again and complete a task.
- People with ADHD have to work harder than others to complete homework or achieve things. In this process of working hard, they also develop resilience and persistence. These qualities can be very helpful while going through years of school and college. The secret is to break the projects into smaller, easier to digest ones to avoid feeling overwhelmed or getting bored.
About IEP (individual education program) and 504 plan
There are two plans in the US that can help your child with ADHD. A teacher may recommend an evaluation to see if this is the right option. IEP is a plan that supports better learning, by providing individualized special education and other services. Having an individualized plan is important, as everyone with ADHD has unique challenges- some need help to stay focused and paying attention, others need help staying organized, while others are more hyperactive. The 504 plan provides special services and changes to the learning environment that are more suitable for your child’s needs. Furthermore, teachers monitor and inform you about the progress at school.
Knowing the learning style and adjusting the strategies as well as focusing on the “superpowers” are effective learning strategies. Getting all the help you can from teachers and schools is also important. It is worth considering working with a psychotherapist to gain more skills, develop new abilities, learn to deal with emotions, boost self-esteem and self-control.