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ADHD and Its Impact on Remote Learning

ADHD and Its Impact on Remote Learning

Those who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may know all too well the challenges this condition presents to the learning process. When adding in the unique nature of the remote learning environment that has been imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, these challenges can feel particularly overwhelming.

Luckily, there are many resources available to help with ADHD in the remote learning setting. These remote learning resources may prove to be valuable even beyond the current pandemic era, as more and more learning is transitioned online or incorporated into education models.

Read on to learn more about ADHD, its impact on remote learning, and how resources at Lompoc Valley Medical Center can help you and your family cope.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes difficulties with concentration, focus, and impulse control. In the United States, about 1 in 10 children ages 5 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, and it is about twice as common in boys as it is in girls. Young children, ages 2 to 5, can also suffer from ADHD, and this can greatly impact their ability to learn. ADHD symptoms typically improve as children grow older; however, many adults also struggle with ADHD.

The cause of ADHD is unknown; however, there may be a genetic component. ADHD may also be related to a brain injury, premature delivery, alcohol or tobacco use during pregnancy, low birth weight, or environmental exposures, though research is still ongoing.

What Are the Symptoms of ADHD?

People who suffer from ADHD may experience the following:

  • Frequent daydreaming
  • Forgetfulness
  • Excessive squirming or fidgeting
  • Excessive talking or chatter
  • Inattention to detail with careless mistakes or frequently lost items
  • Impulse control with unnecessary risk-taking
  • Difficulty with waiting, following directions, or resisting the temptation
  • Difficulties interacting with others, particularly if behaviors are harmful or disruptive

These symptoms can understandably cause social difficulties and problems with and acquiring new skills in both traditional and remote learning settings.

How is ADHD Diagnosed?

ADHD is diagnosed using a number of methods. There is not a single blood test, imaging study, or other evaluation that can singlehandedly diagnose ADHD. Instead, medical providers will conduct a history and physical examination and use other tests to make sure there is not another medical problem accounting for symptoms, such as a visual or hearing impairment. Then, a medical provider will use specific criteria to diagnose ADHD, using information gathered from a patient, his or her family members, and potentially an educator as well.

How is ADHD Managed?

ADHD can be managed with behavior therapy, medications, or a combination of both. Behavior therapy is typically the first intervention used (and the first treatment recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics), particularly for young children.

However, if attention problems persist, medication can be added to behavioral therapy with careful consideration of the risks and benefits. The medications that are typically used for ADHD can cause side effects, such as decreased appetite, gastrointestinal concerns, delayed growth, and sleep problems, so it is important to carefully discuss medications with your medical provider before initiating them.

How Does ADHD Impact Remote Learning?

Students who struggle with ADHD may have increased difficulty with remote learning in the following ways:

  • They may find it harder to focus on the activity at hand because there is less moment-by-moment in-person engagement with a teacher and classmates.
  • The technological nature of remote learning, and continuous “screen time,” may provide more opportunities for distraction, and it may be more overstimulating and activating than traditional in-person book learning.
  • Working at a computer can increase the temptation to veer off course and engage in other computer activities, like music, games, or internet searches.
  • Remote instruction may be more generalized and less structured, forcing students to be more self-disciplined in order to carry out assignments and complete tasks on time.
  • Students with ADHD may have lost the valuable resources that were available to them at an on-site educational facility, such as dedicated one-on-one instruction sessions with an individualized education program (IEP) professional.

How to Ensure Success in Remote Learning with ADHD

Creating a productive physical environment is the key to fostering a positive remote learning experience in ADHD. Make sure to set aside a dedicated physical area in which a student with ADHD can operate.

The remote learning environment should have the following features:

  • It should be quiet.
  • It should be free of clutter and unnecessary items.
  • It should be simple but comfortable.
  • It should be independent of other distracting items or people, if possible.

If you are trying to help a child with ADHD succeed in a remote learning environment, you can use these additional tricks:

  • A sticker chart or other visual way to measure progress throughout a day’s lesson, and cumulatively—throughout the weeks and months. This can reinforce your student’s confidence in their own ability to stay on task.
  • A digital timer or simple analog clock to help guide your child’s understanding of the passage of time and to reinforce expectations about staying seated and focused.
  • Creative motivators, such as unlocking “rewards” when certain tasks are completed.
  • An allowance for periodic breaks for snacks, water, and bathroom activities.
  • A daily energy-expenditure plan, such as taking a morning or afternoon walk (or both!), exercising or doing another type of stimulating activity in between class subjects, or simply periodically getting up to do a set of jumping jacks when you notice your child’s attention start to wane.

Exercise Patience

Especially in children with ADHD, it is important to create room for, and acceptance of, periodic bouts of frustration. Being forced to suddenly adapt to a new learning environment—and other dramatic changes, too—can be particularly difficult for those who struggle with ADHD and other learning difficulties. Meltdowns will happen from time to time, so anticipate this, and plan for strategies to manage them and keep moving forward in a positive way. These setbacks are inevitable, even in children without neurodevelopmental disorders, so make sure to create room for extra patience and empathy – both with your child and with yourself.

You can find more resources and ideas about how to help manage ADHD by visiting the National Resource Center on ADHD.

What to Do If You Suspect Undiagnosed ADHD in Yourself or a Loved One

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be struggling with undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, make sure to check in with one of our medical professionals at Lompoc Valley Medical Center. A variety of medical providers are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat ADHD, and often the initial evaluation is carried out by a primary care provider.