Does Online Learning Work For Kids With ADHD?

ADHD Support & Awareness

Does online learning work well for kids with ADHD and  learning disabilities?

Never before as a society have we experienced and implemented online learning on such a scale.

Now, a year into this great social experiment, we can reflect and even gather data on the impact of the pandemic and remote learning on our children, particularly our most vulnerable learners who require modifications to experience their best possible educational outcomes.

A 2020 US study in the Journal of Adolescent Health examined the effect of distance learning on male teens with & without ADHD, just a few months into the pandemic. Teens were between 15-18 years of age and approximately 50% had ADHD and/or an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Kids with ADHD Struggle with Online School

The study found that the adolescents with ADHD had fewer routines and more remote learning difficulties than adolescents without ADHD.

Parents of adolescents with ADHD also had less confidence in managing remote learning and more difficulties in supporting home learning and home–school communication.

31% of parents of adolescents with ADHD and an Individualized Education Program (IEP) reported remote learning to be very challenging, compared with only 4% of parents of adolescents with neither ADHD nor an IEP.

Remote Classrooms Pose Unique Problems

Only 59% of regularly accessed school services were available to children with ADHD under the remote learning model.

While we KNOW our children can engage with screens – sometimes TOO well – the logistics of delivering an entire school day over Zoom means less individual feedback and face-to-face support. Learning from home generally includes more independent work that requires sustained focus and self-management, two success criteria that are more challenging for learners with ADHD.

Set Your Learners Up for Online Success

As the pandemic continues to unfold, further online learning is never out of the question. And for teens looking at post-secondary education, distance learning is an opportunity to expand their horizons and create a flexible schedule to suit their needs.

At The Reading School, our remote 1-on-1 Structured Literacy Instruction is hands-on, guided and completely personalized to each learner’s needs, ensuring every minute is spent on task and working to their ability.

Over the last year of taking our acclaimed instruction methods online we’ve found there are reliable ways to set learners with ADHD up for success in remote lessons.

1. Allow fidgeting & movement

More physical activity is associated with better cognition for learners with ADHD. Allowing handheld fidget devices and incorporating regular movement breaks into a long day of learning can help your child focus and re-focus during learning tasks. Try scheduling unstructured play or physical activity between each “subject” or task – the Pomodoro method is a simple framework of 25 minutes of on-task time, 5 minutes of unstructured time which works well for many learners with ADHD.

2. Keep track of time

Students with ADHD can struggle to keep track of time. A simple planner or digital calendar with due dates, class times and reminders/alerts can help students keep track of big-picture scheduling. Each day, try time-blocking the schedule together in advance on a whiteboard or calendar so as not to spend too much time on one task. A simple kitchen timer can even be used to help to break up the day into manageable chunks of time and give younger learners confidence about exactly how long they need to stay on task.

3. Create a “school” environment

Online learning is just as serious as in-person learning. Set up a small desk or corner of the kitchen instead of letting your child flop on the nearest cozy surface. Close all other applications and keep just the necessary browser tab open. For older kids doing more independent work, you may also be able to change device settings to block certain tempting sites or apps during school hours.

Overall, be kind to yourself and your child. Online learning is new to ALL of us. While it can provide safety, flexibility and accessiblity for students, it’s important to create a routine that works best for your children’s unique needs.


Tell us below: Have YOU found online learning effective for YOUR children?

Do you feel individualized support for your learners has been impacted by the last year?

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