Online learning and kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Schools are open for online sessions. Even though students finished the last school year online, it doesn’t mean the transition to online learning for this school year is any easier, especially for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopment disorder that is often diagnosed during childhood. The hallmark signs of a child with ADHD include trouble paying attention, controlling behaviors or being overly active.

People with ADHD often thrive in fast-paced environments or places where they can be creative. They also value structure and routines because these are consistent and predictable, just like a school schedule.

If you have a child with ADHD and are struggling with trying to help them with online schooling, try some of these tips:

Turn your kitchen table into the perfect workspace (both for you and your children)

The biggest struggle for children with ADHD is the concentration and sustainment of attention on tasks. Children may start off being attentive, but their brains may quickly wear out due to their shorter attention span.

To increase concentration and attention to tasks, try recreating the school environment for your child. Instead of having the child work on school work in their bedrooms, set the child up at the kitchen table or at a desk where they can mimic the in-person school environment and have minimal distractions.

If you are working from home, sit in front of your child or beside them while you do your work online to model the behavior of how to complete work online.

Make an action plan for the day

Seize the online learning day by practicing an online learning structure in your home. However, parents should be aware of the thin line that is structure and micromanagement.

Every morning at the same time each day, try having a meeting with your child to discuss the assignments for the day, how many zoom meetings they have, upcoming commitments or even what they are excited for or scared about for the day.

At the end of each day, take time to reflect with your child about what worked and what didn’t about online learning.

Cut out distractions by adding parental controls

Just as it is easy for adults to pick up their phones and scroll through their Instagram feeds, it is also easy for kids to get distracted by online games or videos.

If your child is using a personal device, there are ways you can customize internet router settings to block sites for certain hours of the day. Most mobile devices also have parental controls that you can set that will block kids from accessing certain apps or websites during a period of time.

Try to have a little fun along the way

Even if the child can’t be in-person for school that doesn’t mean they still can’t engage in stimulating activities like a physical education class, recess time or arts and crafts specials.

Kids with ADHD need a boost of excitement as a form of release of their attention and controlled behavior. This release can get their energy back up and help refocus them to work on the tasks at hand.

If you’re building your child a schedule, try adding in time during the morning, at lunch and during the afternoon to give your child a creative or fast-paced outlet where they can express themselves. If you know your child is passionate about arts and crafts, implement a themed day for painting or building a model. For those that have kids that like to be active, you can let them play outside or do walking videos with them indoors.

COVID-19 has forced us to find ways to make our lives as normal as possible, and education is not an exception. Continue to support your children and monitor their mental health as we all navigate these challenging times.

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Megan Salathe

Megan Moss Salathe is the Supervisor for Inpatient Social Services at Peace Hospital. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Megan has worked in the behavioral health field for over 19 years and has been with Peace Hospital since 2003.

All posts by Megan Salathe
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