Learning Challenges

How Does Your Child Learn?

How to bolster learning for your child with ADHD — whether he’s a visual, auditory or tactile learner.

A boy with ADHD paints his hand yellow to bolster his kinesthetic learning style.
A boy with ADHD paints his hand yellow to bolster his kinesthetic learning style.

Does your child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) get more from a story when he sees it in print or when he hears it read aloud? Does he need to draw it or act it out to really understand it? Each child has his or her own learning style — a unique way of taking in and processing information.

Most kids use all of their senses for learning, but favor one sense over the others. “Visual learners” prefer reading or observing. “Auditory learners” do best with talking and listening. “Tactile/kinesthetic learners” benefit most from a hands-on approach.

Good teachers choose instructional methods to accommodate each child’s strengths. You can do the same with your child at home, by tuning in to the ways she learns best.

Learning Strategies for Visual Learners

  • Have her type up class notes or homework in typefaces of varying style, color, and size.
  • Use flash cards, drawings, and diagrams to help him study for a test.
  • Introduce Scrabble, crossword puzzles, anagrams, and other word games.

Learning Strategies for Auditory Learners

  • Have him read study materials into a cassette recorder as if he were a disc jockey or sports announcer. This will hold his interest when he reviews them for a test.
  • Help her recite multiplication tables and other facts to the rhythm of a favorite song.
  • Allow him to study with a partner or a few classmates.
  • Look for the audio versions of books she’s reading in class or for pleasure. Your child may be eligible to borrow recorded textbooks from Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (rfbd.org) for a modest annual membership fee-or to get non-textbook recordings from the National Library Service at no cost (loc.gov/nls).

[What’s Your Child’s Cognitive Learning Style?]

Learning Strategies for Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners

  • Provide blocks, jelly beans, or playing cards to use to compute math problems; give Scrabble pieces or alphabet cereal to spell words.
  • Create hands-on learning experiences – nature hikes, science experiments, and so on.
  • Have her act out scenes from history or literature.
  • Explore various materials and techniques for assignments-a collage, diorama, or clay construction.

[How to Help Learning Happen]

4 Comments & Reviews

  1. How dare the editors publish this nonsense?

    The myth of “Learning Styles” has been debunked by researchers for the last 30 years, and even NPR Public Radio had a podcast discussing the pervasiveness of this idiocy in education. My sources are listed below. I suggest the editors, and readers who are likely desperate parents willing to try anything, do research on this topic.

    Bottom line: This is a myth. All students learn best with direct, explicit instruction. “Whole Language” “Project Based Learning” “Discovery Learning” “Flipped Classrooms” “student-led learning” are all education fads, are all unproven at best and the antithesis of what ADD-Dyslexic children need the most.
    Debunking the myth of Learning Styles:





    Recommended Reading for Direct, Explicit Instruction if your Childs’ school is enraptured with the education fads (which it likely is):

    Auguste, B., Kihn, P., & Miller, M. (2010).
    Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining the top-third graduates to careers in
    McKinsey & Co.
    Clark, R.E., Kirschner, P.A. & Sweller, J. (2012).
    Putting students on the path to learning: The case for fully guided instruction.
    American Educator.
    Engelmann, S., Becker, W.C., Carnine, D., & Gersten, R. (1988).
    The Direct Instruction Follow Through model: Design and outcomes.
    Education and Treatment of Children, 11, 303-317.
    Education Consumers.Org (2015).
    Supplement: A summary of the results of Project Follow Through.
    Wheldall, K., Stephenson, J. & Carter, M. (2014).
    What is direct instruction?
    MUSEC Briefings, July 2014.
    Rosenshine, B. (2012).
    Principles of Instruction: Research based principles that all teachers should know.
    American Educator, Spring 2012.


  2. I think you reacted rather impulsively. It may not be science, but if it gets parents more involved and lets kids have a bit of a better time learning, who cares? I wish this kind of thing was as readily available when I was growing up. I prefer to learn by listening, by the way.

  3. In football coaching, we try to compound the message by using all three. I have players that struggle without pictures. I guess it depends on the subject matter.

    Personally, I struggle to grasp ideas that are delivered ‘just verbally’. From my own learning experience, using all three speeds up my comprehension.

    It may not be that you score better when tested, but perhaps the things you get, you get quicker by employing all methods (or a supposed preferred method).

    What I have learned in life is to keep an open mind.
    It may be that the chosen method for testing was flawed.
    After all, you can’t possibly cater for all the subjective complexities that can influence a result, can you?
    It seems awfully arrogant to bin something because tests used didn’t support the idea. A more humble stance would be to say we haven’t ‘yet’ found sufficient evidence?

    The double slit experiment suggests even our expectations can determine results.
    So whatever you believe, could be true for you.
    We should be careful about judging anything, perhaps.
    I’m going to remain ‘curious’ about this.

  4. Suxie22 – I don’t know about scientific research on learning styles, but I definitely learn better in some ways than others, and I know that is true for others as well. I am 100% sure that different people learn best in different ways. Regarding the NPR quiz – the answers may be true for a majority, but weren’t correct for me. I really do learn much better from text when I use a highlighter or underline things. I may highlight/underline half the text, but just sort of touching it the text helps me focus and absorb. (I could also touch it with my finger as I read, but a highlighter or writing implement works better for me. I have a hard time reading text on a screen!) I learn from reading more than any other way. Writing helps me also.

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