What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a common behavioral condition that is defined by problems with attention, hyperactivity, or impulsiveness. ADHD is most common in children, but up to 50 percent of people affected with this disorder continue to have symptoms throughout their adult lives. According to the CDC, 9.8 percent of children, or 6 million, ages 3-17 are diagnosed with ADHD, with boys more likely to be diagnosed. 13 percent of young boys and 6 percent of young girls are diagnosed with ADHD, one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is associated with short-term or working memory problems, which makes it difficult for many children who are diagnosed to retain and memorize information in their minds long enough to put it to use. Most students with the condition struggle to stay focused, meet deadlines, and remember details, according to an article by the Attention Deficit Disorder Association. However, ADHD does not have an effect on intelligence or mean that someone with this disorder cannot do well in school. People with ADHD often have to study harder in order to keep up with their peers, which can lead to many psychological effects and internal doubts about intelligence.
Studying and learning with ADHD does not have to be impossible. With the right strategies and techniques, studying with ADHD can not only become manageable but also rewarding. Throughout this blog, we will identify numerous studying techniques, things to look out for, and ways to stay on top of tasks and responsibilities when dealing with ADHD.
Understanding Your Unique Tendencies and Learning Style
ADHD affects people in many different ways. Symptoms can make it hard to maintain concentration, stay organized, and manage time effectively. The most common challenges that students with ADHD may face are:
Poor Focus: ADHD makes concentrating harder, especially when a topic is not interesting to you. It may be difficult to pay attention or participate in learning activities. The most challenging activities to stay focused on for most ADHD learners are slow-paced or low-engagement activities.
Procrastination: Procrastination is a challenging obstacle for everyone, especially those with ADHD. According to an article by Healthline, ADHD can prime your brain for procrastination, so you may put off work until the last second. Procrastination is more likely to occur when tasks or activities seem particularly challenging or boring. Some may choose to do tasks that are more interesting or easy rather than tasks that are the most urgent. See our blog, How to Overcome Procrastination, to learn more about dealing with these tendencies.
Poor Memory / Forgetfulness: ADHD can affect the ability to remember information and details because the brain processes and encodes information much differently than those without the disorder.
Lack of Time Management: ADHD can cause a weaker perception of time, leading to many people underestimating the time needed to complete tasks such as studying for a test or writing a paper. It may also make it difficult to prioritize study tasks as you may focus on what’s interesting rather than what needs to be done.
Excelling in learning with ADHD can be difficult, but many practices can help. The first thing to understand regarding how you learn is that everyone’s brains operate differently. Traditional study methods are not effective for everyone. Experiment with different techniques to find which learning style works best for you. Visual aids like mind maps, color-coded notes, or diagrams can help visual learners stick to information better. Recording lectures or reading notes out loud may enhance retention for auditory learners. Whichever learning style helps you, stick to it, work on improving your study methods, and focus on the tips throughout this blog.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It involves breaking work into focused intervals (typically 25 minutes) called “Pomodoros,” separated by short breaks. To implement this technique, follow these simple steps:
Prepare a to-do list.
Set a timer to 25 minutes.
Focus on one task during this time.
Once the timer has gone off, cross off one Pomodoro.
Set a timer for 5 minutes as a break.
After the break, set a timer for 25 minutes and repeat.
After four Pomodoros take a longer 15-20 minute break.
For ADHD learners, this technique can be particularly beneficial for several reasons:
Structured Focus: It provides a structured way to work in short bursts, which can help individuals with ADHD maintain focus and attention. The defined time intervals make tasks more manageable and less overwhelming.
Reduced Procrastination: The short, timed intervals help to break down tasks into smaller, more achievable parts, reducing the tendency to procrastinate or get overwhelmed by the enormity of a task.
Built-in Breaks: The technique incorporates frequent breaks, allowing individuals with ADHD to recharge and avoid burnout. Short, regular breaks can help maintain motivation and prevent mental fatigue.
Increased Productivity: ADHD learners often struggle with maintaining focus for extended periods. The Pomodoro Technique encourages bursts of concentrated work followed by breaks, potentially boosting productivity by capitalizing on periods of high focus.
Time Awareness: The timer used in the technique acts as a visual and auditory cue, helping individuals stay aware of time passing. This can be especially helpful for those with ADHD, aiding in time management and task prioritization.
However, it is essential to note that not everyone’s experience with ADHD is the same, and while the Pomodoro Technique can be helpful for many, it may not work for everyone. Some individuals may find the intervals rigid or need to adapt the technique to suit their needs. For example, if someone needs more time to focus, longer intervals may be beneficial in boosting productivity. For others, attention may stop after 15-20 minutes, so they may need to shorten interval time.
According to an article by Additude, rereading material is the most ineffective way to study for an exam, yet 84% of students study by simply rereading their textbook. For students with ADHD, rereading is even less effective when memorizing information. Sustained attention and focus cause ADHD learners to benefit from more engaging memorization techniques such as:
For ADHD learners, traditional rote memorization might be challenging due to sustained attention and focus difficulties. However, several memorization techniques can be more engaging and effective:
Chunking: Break down information into smaller, more manageable chunks. Instead of trying to memorize a long string of information, divide it into smaller sections or groups that are easier to remember.
Visual Aids: Use visual learning techniques like mind maps, diagrams, or color-coded notes. Visual representations can make information more engaging and easier to recall than plain text.
Association Techniques: Create associations or connections between new information and something familiar. Mnemonic devices, acronyms, or vivid mental images related to the information can help with retention.
Active Learning: Engage in hands-on activities or create interactive experiences related to the material. For instance, acting out a historical event, conducting experiments for science concepts, or teaching the material to someone else can reinforce memory.
Repetition and Review: Space out study sessions and review the material regularly. Short, frequent study sessions can be more effective than long cramming sessions. Reviewing information multiple times over spaced intervals can aid in retention.
Multi-Sensory Approach: Incorporate different senses into the learning process. For example, reading aloud, using tactile materials like flashcards, or listening to recorded lectures or notes can engage different senses, reinforcing memory.
Creating an optimal study environment for learning with ADHD involves minimizing distractions, providing structure, and accommodating individual preferences. Here are some tips to create a conducive study environment:
Minimize Distractions: Eliminate or reduce potential distractions in the study area. This might include turning off notifications on electronic devices, finding a quiet space, using noise-canceling headphones, or using apps/extensions that block distracting websites.
Organize and Declutter: Keep the study area organized to minimize visual distractions. Use organizers, shelves, or containers to keep study materials, books, and supplies tidy and easily accessible.
Establish a Routine: Develop a consistent study routine with specific times dedicated to studying. Having a predictable schedule helps with focus and establishes a structured learning environment.
Use Visual Cues: Use visual aids such as schedules, calendars, or timers to help manage time and stay on track. Visual cues can assist in maintaining focus and transitioning between tasks.
Comfortable Seating: Choose a comfortable chair and desk setup that promotes good posture and reduces physical discomfort, helping to sustain attention during study sessions.
Natural Lighting and Greenery: Study in a well-lit area with natural light whenever possible. Adding indoor plants or greenery can create a calming atmosphere and improve focus.
Flexible Seating or Fidget Tools: Some individuals with ADHD benefit from alternative seating options like exercise balls or fidget tools, which can help improve focus and reduce restlessness.
Physical Activity Can Improve Study Efficiency:
The National Library of Medicine states that “Basic cognitive functions related to attention and memory facilitate learning, and these functions are enhanced by physical activity and higher aerobic fitness.” Physical activity offers significant benefits for improving study efficiency in ADHD learners in several ways:
Enhanced Focus and Attention: Exercise triggers the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, which are essential for attention and focus regulation. For ADHD learners who often struggle with attention, engaging in physical activity can help increase these neurotransmitters, improving concentration during study sessions.
Reduced Hyperactivity and Restlessness: Regular physical activity provides an outlet for excess energy and helps reduce hyperactivity and restlessness, allowing learners to feel more settled and focused when studying.
Improved Executive Functions: Physical activity supports the development of executive functions such as planning, organization, and task management. These skills are vital for effective studying, as they help learners structure their study sessions and manage their time efficiently.
Stress Reduction: Exercise is a natural stress reliever, promoting the release of endorphins that can alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety. Reduced stress levels can create a more conducive environment for learning and studying effectively.
Better Sleep Patterns: ADHD often correlates with sleep disturbances. Regular physical activity can help regulate sleep patterns, leading to better quality sleep. Improved sleep can enhance cognitive functions and attention span during study sessions.
Breaks Mental Fatigue: Taking breaks for physical activity during study sessions can prevent mental fatigue. Short bursts of exercise can rejuvenate the mind, allowing learners to return to their studies with renewed focus and energy.
Establishment of Routine: Incorporating physical activity into a daily routine provides structure. A predictable routine can be particularly beneficial for ADHD learners, helping them organize their time and activities more effectively.
Improved Overall Well-being: Physical activity promotes well-being by boosting mood and self-esteem. When learners feel good physically and mentally, they are better equipped to engage in focused and efficient study sessions.
Use of Movement as a Learning Aid: Some individuals with ADHD benefit from using movement in their learning process. Techniques like pacing while studying or using kinetic learning methods (learning through physical movement) can enhance memory retention and information processing.
By integrating regular physical activity into their routines, whether through exercise, sports, or movement breaks during study sessions, ADHD learners can harness these benefits to improve their study efficiency. It's essential to find activities they enjoy that suit their preferences to ensure consistency in incorporating physical activity into their daily lives.
Support and Study Aids for ADHD Learners:
Finding effective support and study aids is essential for ADHD learners to thrive academically. Tailored techniques like visual aids, structured routines, and interactive learning tools significantly enhance their focus and comprehension. At Smith Learning Services, we understand these unique needs and offer specialized online tutoring catered to all learners. With personalized strategies and expert guidance, our tutors empower students to overcome challenges and excel in their studies. Explore Smith Learning Services today to discover how their specialized tutoring can make a remarkable difference in your learning journey!