Distance Learning Challenges: Supporting Students Who Have ADHD
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How is COVID Impacting Students with ADHD and What Can Be Done to Help?

Best Middle School Las Vegas | Distance Learning Challenges

COVID-19 has obviously caused a huge disruption in our lives. Unfortunately, it seems like we have to accept certain things to be the “new normal”. Part of the new norm is regarding our children’s education. Many school districts around the country, including Clark County School District, have not yet reopened for in-person learning. Instead, these school districts have implemented a “distance learning” model, utilizing Zoom video conferencing and Google Classrooms.

Distance Learning Creates New Challenges

Certainly, distance learning is better than having nothing available. However, it does come with many new challenges for students and families.

Self-Motivation

For example, students are required to be more self motivated in a distance learning model than in a traditional in-person learning model. Most distance learning models have a blend of “synchronous” and “asynchronous” learning. Put simply, this is a blend of learning models. Synchronous learning is with a teacher via a Zoom lesson, for example, for a period of time. Asynchronous learning is when the student must learn independently through assignments, pre-recorded lessons and videos, and other digital curriculum. Asynchronous learning has been offered by “online” colleges for sometime now, and has proven difficult enough for many adults. It takes a great deal of discipline and motivation to be successful with asynchronous learning.

Organization

Additionally, learning from home requires a higher level of organization from students. Not every household is able to set up a designated “school” area in their homes. Most families are utilizing shared spaces and multi-use spaces, like the dining room table. This can require a student to have to set-up and breakdown their work space each day. This is much different than having a central, dedicated classroom, where supplies and work get to remain.

Self-Regulation and Focus

A student must be particularly focused during distance learning. Additionally, they must be able to self regulate. This is simply due to the fact that there is no teacher physically present to oversee their students during distance learning. When in person, a teacher can see a student losing focus, and redirect them. This is much more challenging via a Zoom class.

Even More Challenging for Some Students

These are just simple examples of some of the many challenges we are all facing with distance learning. Challenges aren’t all bad though. Self motivation, organization, and focus are all excellent skills for children to develop, challenging as it may be. However, while most students and families may struggle with these types of challenges as expected, they are further compounded when dealing with students who have special learning needs, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Dyslexia.

Managing ADHD in Students

A student with ADHD, as the name suggests, often has difficulty staying focused and staying still. Of course, most every kid is going to have a hard time staying focused and staying still during a lesson. However, the behaviors and lack of control are often much more extreme in a child with ADHD. These children often require additional support in order to help them develop skills like self regulation, focus, and organization. Traditionally, this was provided by schools in the form of an IEP, or Individualized Education Program. An IEP provides a structure and plan to provide extra and specific support for a student’s needs. An IEP is designed to help them develop appropriate behaviors and skills which are particularly difficult for them to learn on their own due to their disability.

Students with ADHD may find traditional, in person schooling difficult enough. However, with an IEP and the right support in place during in person learning, there is direct intervention and correction available. For example, a teacher may notice her student with ADHD struggling to stay seated in their chair during lesson. This behavior is common and usually is due to the student’s need for tactile or physical stimulation. The teacher can intervene and provide an appropriate stimulus that helps the student, such as switching their normal chair for a balance chair. Distance learning severely limits this type of behavior support. An IEP is a critical resource for students, especially if in a rigid school system.

The Innovation Academy Approach

Innovation Academy uses a Montessori based philosophy integrated with a STEM curriculum. This approach provides the flexibility of movement and hands-on lessons that not only supports students with ADHD, but is beneficial for all students. We believe that learning should be an ACTIVE process. One that involves the mind and the body. For example, instead of just sitting and learning about bridges from a lecture, our students learn about bridges and then get to physically build them from a variety of materials. This type of mental and physical application of a lesson can increase engagement and retention. Additionally, it can be particularly helpful for students that have a hard time focusing and sitting still.

Supporting ADHD During Distance Learning

Healthy Children is a resource from the American Academy of Pediatrics. It provides great information to help families and children stay healthy and well. They have an excellent article about ADHD and COVID that goes over some suggestions to help support students with ADHD during distance learning.

Some suggestions to support students with ADHD during distance learning include:

  • If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), supports that are in their written plan should continue. This includes speech therapy or specialized reading instruction. An IEP is designed to support a student’s learning needs and must include instructional interventions, supports, accommodations, and modifications.
  • With new teaching methods, some students may need new or different accommodations. Would reading or dictation software help with virtual learning,  for example? What about extended time assignments that need parental supervision, which may not be available during school hours?
  • With virtual learning, remind your child to take movement breaks between tasks. Indoor breaks could include dancing and simple exercises. Consider safe outdoor activities, such a bike riding or jumping rope. This can also provide exercise that may help with ADHD symptoms.
  • School systems and teachers have also been taxed trying to adjust to changed learning environments. If you feel your child is not supported well enough in this new setting, reach out to your school’s learning specialist, principal, or superintendent to advocate for your child’s rights. Your pediatrician can support you in this as needed.

If you have a child with ADHD and would like to learn more, please read the COMPLETE ARTICLE RIGHT HERE.

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Best Middle School Las Vegas | Distance Learning Challenges