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Online Learning: Tips & Tools for Girls with ADHD


Possible Benefits of Online Learning:

  • Being able to schedule schoolwork during the best time of day for optimal learning, often when medication is at its peak;
  • Students can adapt their pace if more or less time is required to absorb the lesson;
  • The ability to minimize disruptions and distractions;
  • Tasks can be chunked into smaller portions;
  • More one-on-one attention if working with a parent;
  • More opportunity for movement breaks and to move while working (exercise ball, standing desk, fidget toys) if hyperactivity is an issue; and
  • The ability to use aerobic exercise to assist with focus before doing school work.

Possible Challenges of Online Learning:

  • More independent work and less structure;
  • Access to inappropriate environments for learning, such as the living room couch;
  • Working on a home computer with easy Internet, e-mail, YouTube, Facebook, and computer game access can lead to significant online distractions;
  • Poor executive function can result in difficulty with understanding instructions, breaking down larger tasks, organization, time management, prioritizing tasks, getting started and completing work, forgetting assignments, and the inability to set long term goals;
  • Less self-regulation means a greater need for outside support and structure, which could be more difficult to access;
  • Easier to procrastinate with less immediate accountability; and
  • Parents playing the role of teacher and principal could take a toll on the parent/child relationship.

Home Strategies for Online Learning:

As a parent, you will need to be more involved with your child’s learning. Sit down with your child and discuss the pitfalls listed above and the strategies listed below. They may be thinking that online learning will be easy or they may feel overwhelmed or anxious with how to manage their schooling. With some structure, oversight, and accountability, students with ADHD can thrive with online learning. Here are some tips and tools for putting some of those boundaries in place. (Note: not all strategies are uniformly beneficial for all students living with ADHD.)

  • Work at the same time each day and limit distractions, like creating a mock space that borrows from their school environment. Instead of having them do schoolwork in their bedroom, parents can set up a small desk with few distractions in an area that's easy for parents to monitor. It can be across from where the parent is working, or parents and children can sit side by side while working on their own assignments;
  • Make sure that the sleep schedule is as consistent as possible;
  • Put tools in place so computers automatically shut down at a defined time;
  • Work when most alert and medication is working well;
  • Exercise prior to starting work to increase focus;
  • Use a timer for periods of work and break time;
  • Use a clock that allows for the viewing of time passing;
  • Allow movement breaks and use things that allow for movement while working, such as an exercise ball for a chair, a standing desk, a seat that allows for squirming, and fidget toys.
  • Review your daughter’s progress every few days and decide what needs to be improved. When internal distracting thoughts and worries occur, write them down and then let them go while working, rather than voicing them or dwelling on them.
  • Use electronic reminders to prompt work times and assignment due dates;.
  • Ask for and print written instructions. Review and underline important points and refer to them frequently;
  • Rewrite instructions in bullet point form if they are too lengthy and wordy;
  • Find someone responsible to help keep her accountable; and
  • Reward her after work times are complete.

    Tips for Reading and Note-Taking:

  • Highlight in different colors while reading to categorize information;
  • Doodle notes in the margin when you come to an important point;
  • Use a phone or other recorders to make audio notes;
  • Try standing while reading;
  • Read out loud with enthusiasm; and
  • If possible, get the audio version of books to take notes while listening.


Source:  Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada


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