With the rapidly-changing learning environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how have ADHDers been affected and how can they better manage their learning? Unlocking ADHD writer Jedt Virabhak discusses the challenges that ADHDers face with online learning, and explores relevant solutions.
The Internet has woven its way into every aspect of society. It has become the foundation for instant and seamless communication. In recent years, the Internet has revolutionised learning.
Schools have incorporated online tutorials, online quizzes and even educational phone applications to educate their students.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically altered the way students learn. In response to lockdowns and heightened restrictions, schools have pivoted entirely to home-based online learning for their students. This brings about a new set of challenges for students with ADHD.
A home environment can be far more distracting than a classroom. ADHDers have to contend with an array of distractions. Distractions can include noises made by pets or younger family members, the allure of a warm and comfortable bed, the aromas wafting from the neighbours’ cooking…the list is endless!
There are also a multitude of distractions on the electronic devices used for learning. ADHDers can distract themselves with social media, gaming websites and so on. ADHDers tend to seek out fun activities that increase their dopamine levels quickly. Therefore, they are much more likely to get distracted than their neurotypical peers.
In a classroom setting, a teacher will be able to keep students on task. However, home-based learning lacks the controlled supervision that teachers can provide. ADHDers may have parents who are working from home. However, these parents will likely be occupied by their own jobs. Thus, parents will usually be unable to provide the continued supervision that many ADHDers will need to focus.
However, it is worth noting that some ADHDers may find online learning to be more engaging, hands-on and novel than the usual pen-and-paper style of learning.
2. Lack of Structure
ADHDers may also struggle with the lack of a schedule. Schools have timetables for students to organise their learning. However, some forms of home-based learning may lack these organised schedules. As ADHDers often struggle with organising and planning tasks, they will be affected. They will have trouble with prioritising tasks, allocating appropriate amounts of time to different tasks and meeting deadlines.
Furthermore, ADHDers tend to be prone to “time blindness” (i.e. losing track of time). With the lack of structure in an online learning environment, this problem is likely to worsen. For instance, ADHDers may have increased difficulty with keeping track of online lesson timings and meeting deadlines. If you tend to have time blindness, this article discusses the reasons for time blindness and the strategies to manage it.
On the flip side, some ADHDers may find it a relief to have less rigid schedules. They may relish the ability to plan their day. For example, some may prefer to study later in the day as they can concentrate better in the afternoons.
3. Lack of Motivation
ADHDers may struggle to find the motivation to study. ADHDers are especially affected by inertia when it comes to engaging in uninteresting tasks, such as studying subjects that they dislike. In school, supervision by teachers may give ADHDers the impetus to study. However, at home, this is not the case and the lack of motivation may affect their performance in school. On the other hand, for subjects that ADHDers like and excel in, online learning may allow them to learn at their own (potentially accelerated) pace. This could create renewed interest in the subject.
Resolving these Challenges
1. Conducive Environments
One way to counter distractibility is to create a conducive study environment. This can be done by finding someplace quiet and isolated, removing nearby sources of distractions such as mobile devices and arranging the position of the table and chair such that the bed is out of sight. If it is impossible to find a quiet spot at home (e.g. if a neighbour is renovating their house), ADHDers may choose to switch locations entirely. For example, they may choose to study at a library.
2. Create a Routine
Creating a regular routine may help give ADHDers some semblance of structure. This includes specific working periods and breaks in between study blocks for fixed periods of time. The routine may be similar to their school routine.The schedule and the accompanying sense of structure will enable them to use their study time more effectively. They will also have the liberty to choose the subjects they would like to study and which piece of work to complete at a particular time, which may greatly boost their productivity. It is imperative to stick closely to the designated time slots, especially for break times. Doing so will minimise curb unnecessary time wastage and energy loss.
If you need more tips for creating regular routines, check out this article: “Setting Routines for Children and Teens”
3. Find Pressure
The solution to the third challenge — a lack of motivation — is a simple one. If one is unable to find the will to study without pressure, they should put themselves in a position where they will feel pressured to study. ADHDers can achieve this by studying in an environment where the surrounding people are also focused on studying. Some suggestions would be to go to a library or to form a study group. Doing so would create a sense of urgency that will motivate them to study harder.
For more ways to cope with home-based online learning, please read this article (also by Unlocking ADHD)
In conclusion, online learning may prove to be a bane to ADHDers if they lack the tools to adapt. However, if they are willing and able to take the necessary steps to adapt, they may find online learning to be more rewarding and beneficial to them.