A Few Tips for Learning with ADD/ADHD

A Few Tips for Learning with ADD/ADHD

These tips apply to those working with learners and the learners themselves. I am a strong advocate for all of us becoming our own best teachers. Hence my book Teach Myself? Teach Myself! Self-Taught Learners Do Best.

Be Positive

When working with a student, ignore negative or what seem like time- wasting behaviour as much as possible. By addressing every little quirk, the learner gets reinforced. Even negative reinforcement works to increase task-avoidance, so it is counterproductive. Often, people don’t know they are avoiding, so help them harness their energy and direct it positively.

If you have attention deficits yourself, work to reign in any behaviours that reduce your ability to perform. If you are achieving and not distracting others, there is no issue. People learn differently, so quirk away. I do all the time!

Picture2Reduce the number of negative statements you make. Too much negativity causes learners to shut off. Yes, this applies to criticizing yourself as well.

Encourage even small successes.

There is a balance, so don’t overdo it. People don’t like condescension. Also, if learners feel that every time they do the slightest thing right, they will be rewarded, there isn’t much incentive to move forward. At some point, a task is conquered and praise moves onto a new goal and the individual steps to achieve it.

Having said this, frequently reinforcing good behaviour verbally can lead to a more positive learning environment for everyone.


Reduce the amount of “sit” time. This can be done in a variety of ways. You can simply break up the study sessions into more “chunks” with short breaks between. Some students accomplish a lot in a very short period of time if the conditions are right. They don’t need an hour if the same quality and volume of work is accomplished in fifteen minutes.

Break down assignments into more manageable pieces. Learners often become frustrated or block when an assignment seems overwhelming.

Some tasks can be done while standing or even walking/pacing. I do most of my memory work while moving. I practise what I’m going to say in videos or the planning stages of any task while walking through the park. Rote learning can be done this way as well. Rehearsing notes already taken can definitely be done in this manner – almost literally creating a memory palace with bits of information rehearsed in each room or space within a room.

Allowing movement might be frustrating for those who rely on sitting still to learn, but not everyone learns the same way. Granted, classroom situations dictate the ability to incorporate some of these ideas. They are only tips to be used when appropriate.

Picture3Some learners need to manipulate something while working. Keeping their hands busy can help focus their mind. This does not mean you have to purchase fidget spinners. There are plenty of less obtrusive ways to have movement that does not disturb others.

Some tasks can be timed. I have had students who languish away on a task and get nowhere. The next time, I set the stopwatch and let them know the time limit. I always allow enough time, but a definite stop. In almost all cases, they rise to the occasion. Later, they often ask to be timed on other tasks. You can do this for yourself, too.


To ensure understanding, learners should repeat the directions in their own words.

Many learners benefit from highlighting important words or phrases. If you are teaching students, you can do some of the highlighting; however, over time, getting them to do so would be more beneficial. In this way, they can take the skills into any classroom or learning situation.

Often directions are accompanied by examples. Instead of skipping examples as most students do, zero-in on them. Read them, say them, and do them. This practice reinforces your understanding of the task at hand. Come back occasionally to the directions and examples to make sure that you are on the right track.

These are just a few tips to help you get started. Remember, there is nothing to stop you from learning and achieving more.

Of course, a positive tutor can be invaluable. Check out the website or contact me for more information.

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