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Asynchronous Learning is Tough on ADHD Brains. These Hacks Will Help.

Asynchronous learning challenges the executive functions of students with ADHD — and their parents, too. Use these tips to set up an effective home school for your child that minimizes distractions and requests for your attention during the work day.

Like many frazzled, frantic parents this back-to-school season, I have three kids in three different schools and three different developmental phases. On top of that, we are embarking on a hodge-podge of virtual and hybrid learning — the details of which remain at least partially unclear less than two weeks out — and I’m still working full time through all of this. Needless to say, the stress is high.

Staring us in the face is an unprecedented executive function challenge: how to create a collection of distance learning workspaces and schedules that works for the whole family.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it, but I’m also entering into this academic semester with lessons learned from the spring that can help to make this transition a little less rocky. Here is where I’m focusing my energy this back-to-school season:

1. Create a Designated Workspace

If you have the space and means to do so, create a distinct workspace for your child. This school area should contain all of the supplies that you anticipate your child will need — placed in drawers or bins that don’t clutter up the actual surface. Try to maintain a clear desktop that contains very little in order to help your child avoid distractions.

2. Ease into Focus

For many children with ADHD, jumping right into a school-related task is difficult. Initiating an undesired task (or even a project in a favorite subject) can be downright daunting, which results in lots of time wasted.

If your child or teen needs help getting ‘in the zone,’ create a system that begins with a guided meditation designed to bring your child’s body down in order to get started. Alternatively, if your child or teen needs to rev up his engine, create a routine of exercises such as jumping jacks, wall push-ups, or jumping rope in order to get the energy flowing. The goal is to give your child an awareness of what they need — calm focus or vigorous blood flow or perhaps a combination of the two — in order to begin school work.

[Click to Read: Easily Distracted? How to Tune Out Distractions & Focus on School]

3. De-Clutter with Purpose

If your child is working in their room, take the time now to look around and de-clutter the space. Put out of sight all the items that could serve as distractors. For example, if the Nintendo Switch is within sight, your child may be tempted to reach for it when he’s feeling overwhelmed or bored with an assignment. Place items within drawers or bins under the bed or in the closet to create a visually under-stimulating environment. If possible, place your child’s desk against a wall and not a window, which may also distract.

In your kitchen place plates, bowls, and cups within easy reach. Stock the pantry with healthy foods they can easily prepare and east themselves. The harder it is to find all the ingredients, the less motivation your child will have to make a sandwich or reach for a snack without calling you first. As much as you are able, create designated spaces for designated items, such as toothpaste, shampoo, etc. and label if needed. Create consistency and predictability in the placement of items. This may mean more work in the short term, but far fewer requests for your help and far less waster time in the long run.

4. Maintain the Work Flow

As adults, we are often motivated to keep chugging along because more pleasurable activities await on the other side of our work tasks. Our kids’ internal motivation is not usually as high, especially if the work tasks are challenging or multi-step. Help your child to create breaks in his schedule for movement, for a snack, and for refilling water bottles. Keep healthy snacks easily accessible and use these little breaks to keep the power level steady.

Set up a lunch break including time outside so that there are opportunities to refresh and reset before starting another Zoom call or assignment. Finally, set a Start and End time to the school day so that your kids can look forward to an end point.

Challenges will arise this year that we could never anticipate, but these steps will help set your family with smart strategies to kick off distance learning. Good luck!

Asynchronous Learning: Next Steps


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Updated on August 31, 2020

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