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How to Help Virtual Learning Students With ADHD

The sudden transition from the regular classroom setting to virtual learning has proved difficult for all learning abilities. But the challenge is incredibly daunting for students who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD.

Unfortunately, if not diagnosed, ADHD can be mistaken as having impulsive behavior, being rowdy, or the inability to focus. ADHD is a medical disorder caused by many different things. The condition renders the person unable to stay focused or concentrate and can be excessively fidgety. This is especially true if distractions surround them. 

Students with ADHD are most likely to have trouble with any activity that requires long spans of attention, including school work. Virtual learning poses a challenge since there is no direct interaction to help stay focused. Here are some tips that teachers and educators can use to help students with ADHD succeed with virtual learning.

State Your Expectations

At the start of a lesson, clearly explain what you plan to cover during the learning session and how long you expect the student to concentrate. This gives the student a sense of structure and time. If they don't know how long the lesson will take, students with ADHD can become overwhelmed, and their focus shifts to how long they will have to sit and listen. Without parameters, ADHD may cause anxiety to kick in, and the child can quickly lose focus on what you are teaching.

Body Movement & Pacing

Many teachers are animated when teaching, which can be a good thing, but this can be overwhelming for students with ADHD. Constant movement, shifting positions, or too many hand movements may cause the student to feel nauseated. While the student may do an excellent job in stifling their reaction, they cannot keep up while also learning. 

Avoid making any quick switches on subjects or speakers. This can rattle a student's sensory system and wreak havoc on their concentration. Allow a smooth transition between various topics and speakers. Students with ADHD should be allowed to momentarily organize their thoughts, even if it means turning off their camera for a few minutes. 

Provide Constant Reminders

Remember that the student's sensory system is still coming to terms with the shift to virtual learning. The student may forget to use tools like volume or brightness adjustment. This is often because their minds are preoccupied with sitting still in front of a computer screen. Through the lesson, continuously offer reminders that students can adjust the volume on their devices, etc. This may improve the quality of the study and also offers a liberating sense of control.

Be Flexible

When scheduling one-on-one lessons, you must factor in the unique needs of a student with ADHD. This is why the best time for scheduling a lesson is between morning and noon when they are the most alert and ready to learn. With the parents' help, teachers can develop a personalized learning schedule that caters to students with ADHD.

Record Lessons

Students with ADHD have trouble with their attention spans and may likely move around during a learning session. After settling down, a student may feel lost during a live virtual lesson. If you can, you can record your lessons, and then the student can pick up where they left off when they are ready without the stress of being left behind. 

Request a Dedicated Learning Space

Homes have more distractions than school. This can be detrimental to the learning efforts of a student with ADHD. The first element of fostering a conducive virtual learning environment is to create a designated learning space. 

This space should be free from any distraction and trigger an attitude of learning, just as a school does. Recommend the room be relatively quiet and well lit. Ask parents or guardians of the students to ensure that the computer is free from apps and other programs that may shift your students' attention.

Establish Consistent Routines

Establishing a consistent routine is helpful for all kids but is especially important for children with ADHD. Shifting from school-based learning eliminates the structure that students with ADHD require. Parents should be encouraged to establish two kinds of structures at home, which involve a routine for day-to-day activities and schoolwork. A visual schedule can help students prioritize their work and accomplish assignments.

Be Patient

It is crucial that the student with ADHD does not feel any pressure or need to rush through tasks as this will only alleviate ADHD symptoms. New things take time to get used to; this is no different for children. The student may take time to adapt to the new realities of school. Patiently help your students transition into virtual learning by slowly and gradually introducing the aspects of distance learning. Slowly ease into the new schoolwork schedule and witness the students adjusting to the new form of education.

Take Frequent Breaks 

A good practice is to gauge how long your students can focus on a task and then set a timer. Take a break once the timer goes off. Even time with the camera off to work on their own can allow for greater attention later. Reducing the visual aspect of class may be needed for some students. 

Let students get a snack or go to the restroom. A quick break will allow students to reset and be ready to learn again. It is essential to be physically active since sitting down for extended periods can be quite stressful and tiresome.


For a student with ADHD, any significant change can be stressful. Transitioning to online learning is challenging enough for any student, then when you add a learning difficulty to the mix, students can shut down. As an educator, your job is to foster your students' love of learning, regardless of their challenges or medical diagnoses.

A student with ADHD may need extra guidance during lessons, gentle reminders, or time away from the screen to ensure they can work long-term. Be patient with your students, and establish strong communication with the student and the family to find what works best for the child.


Written by Brenda Maritim
Education World Contributor
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