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Students With ADHD Face Additional Challenges When It Comes To Remote Learning

Mohamed Hassan

Virtual schooling due the pandemic has brought on many challenges for kids and parents, but especially for the 11% of school-aged children in New York with ADHD.

Upstate Medical University Psychology Professor Dr. Andrew Cutler explains this complex disorder can make it difficult for these students to learn in an online environment.

“Doing virtual school in particular, you are sitting in one place for a long period of time and it really requires a lot of energy for the person with ADHD for their brain to focus,” said Cutler.

Currently, over 6 million children in the United States are diagnosed with ADHD, presenting a learning challenge for the parents. A recent study found that 1/3 of parents of children with the condition are struggling with online learning. Cutler wonders whether it’s putting them at risk of falling behind.  He adds communicating with teachers is essential, but he also describes how to create an accommodating learning environment.

“The most important this is to try to minimize distractions. You want to have a dedicated work space,” said Cutler. “And try to decrease visual distractions of any kind. Make sure it is not a super stimulating environment visually. You want to make sure you control the noise as much as possible. And then clutter can be very distracting to the ADHD brain.”

Cutler notes distractions such as digital devices should be removed, since virtual classes make it easier for students to disengage. Treatment for ADHD is individualized, though using checklists and maintaining a regular schedule can help.  He offers other solutions as well.

“The ADHD brain and ADHD body really need exercise and physical activity. It doesn’t do well if its sitting in one place for a long period of time,” said Cutler. “Paying attention to diet. Proper diet and hydration in particular. Making sure people are drinking enough water is really important. Then things people don’t think about like socialization. One of the big problems if you’re not going to school is you’re not socializing and you’re not interacting with other kids.”

These challenges for students with ADHD can sometimes become overlooked by schools as they focus on other pandemic-related obligations. Cutler reminds parents that there are multiple resources to help, such as or