Unlocking ADHD writer, Megan Tan, investigates the ups and downs of online school.
ADHD often means an individual’s ability to sustain attention, plan and organize is impaired. These functions are important in keeping up with and attending lessons. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to embrace online learning arrangements. How does online learning affect the ADHD brain?
The Pros and Cons of Online School
Studying at home means being able to accommodate some needs that will not be allowed in regular classes. For example, a person may potentially work best with music, but listening to music in class would not be allowed in school. At home, they would be able to listen to their music without being reprimanded.
However, being able to accommodate any and all of our needs quickly becomes an excuse. Maybe changing out of their pajamas is part of the daily routine for a student, but learning from home means this step now becomes optional. As a university student who just did (and is still doing) an entire year online, I found myself forgoing daily tasks such as eating regular meals or changing out of my bed clothes because it was no longer relevant to my routine, which also made studying difficult.
ADHDers are interest-based learners, so online learning gives us some agency. Online learning allowed me to pick which parts of a project or assignment interested me first. This allowed me to get started rather easily and that momentum carried me forward into other less interesting tasks.
However, since we are interest-based learners, sometimes we tend to forgo the boring parts of a task for more interesting things, and what could be more interesting than unlimited access to the internet? Now that we require internet use for online learning, it is extremely easy to also check YouTube, play online games or even access social media platforms rather than paying attention to the task at hand.
Being flexible with time is great, especially if it means you get to have that nice breakfast you dreamed of or catch up on sleep. However, ADHD also makes telling the passage of time difficult. In other words, we are a little “time blind”. This can be difficult with long-term assignments, or even homework, since we no longer have a set schedule to follow.
Help – What do I do?
As you can tell, there are clearly two sides to everything. How do we work around the cons?
- Try body doubling. I do this with a friend who also has ADHD. This technique, which gets its name from “body doubles” in the acting profession, involves getting things done with a friend. The friend can help to hold you accountable so you will not be distracted, and will gently remind you to stay on task when your attention strays. It is also a good time to get some socialization in!
- Take a look at your cues. Every day, different parts of our schedule “cue” us into our day. It could be walking across campus, plugging in your headphones or going to a designated workspace. I implemented this by making sure I always changed out of pajamas before I worked, and only doing work in the study room as opposed to my bedroom.
- Consider investing in a planner. I have found that seeing time pass visually makes it easier for my brain to understand how much time I actually have. Some people prefer digital planners, others bullet journals, or simply just a pen and paper. Your options are limitless!
ADHD could make studying difficult, and studying from home even harder. Forcing ourselves to work like neurotypicals will not make things easier. Instead, we can find methods that work for our ADHD brains and watch ourselves excel.