10 Learning Strategies for People with ADD/ADHD

Learning Strategies for ADHD

Learning a new skill can feel daunting if you live with attention deficit disorder (ADD), also called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Whether you’re sitting in a university lecture hall, want to start a new hobby, or training for a new job or career, having symptoms such as a short attention span, distractibility, disorganization, procrastination and issues with judgment and impulse control can get in the way of having a positive learning experience. The feeling that something is wrong with you and you can’t get past these symptoms, even when you want to learn something new, can make it difficult to be excited about learning and trying new things.

Fortunately, there are many practical ways to not only cope but thrive with ADD/ADHD in a learning environment.

Whether you’re sitting in a university lecture hall, want to start a new hobby, or training for a new job or career, having ADD/ADHD symptoms can get in the way of having a positive learning experience. Click To Tweet

If you struggle with ADD/ADHD symptoms, here are 10 helpful ways to set yourself up for success.

1. Break up big projects into smaller chunks.

For people with ADD/ADHD, complex learning projects like integrating a new CRM software program at work or writing a college thesis can seem so overwhelming that you don’t know how or where to begin. To lessen the learning curve, break it up into more digestible chunks and write out a plan with steps you can realistically accomplish. As an example, for that thesis, start with the research, then write an outline, and so on. When you’ve done the research, check that off. You’ll feel good about completing something and will be more motivated to move to the next step.

2. Take frequent breaks and do some physical activity to boost blood flow.

Increasing blood flow to your prefrontal cortex improves focus. A study published in Current Psychiatry Reports suggests that intense aerobic exercise enhances brain structure and function, which in turn can increase performance in cognitive abilities. Stay away from sports that could incite brain injury such as football, hockey, or rugby, but do get out in the world and get your heart pumping. Even a brisk walk can help stimulate blood flow and get you feeling ready to dive into the next lesson.

3. Mix up your learning strategies.

There are a variety of ways to learn, and what works best for your individual needs requires trial and error. However, research shows there are effective learning strategies for people with ADD/ADHD, such as distributed practice, where learning is broken up into shorter sessions over a longer time. Can you retain information better when you take notes as someone is talking rather than listen to a teacher verbally give you instructions? A 2018 study in the journal Ear and Hearing suggests that people with ADD/ADHD are more likely to have auditory processing disorders, which can be taken into consideration when finding your optimal learning strategies.

4. Start with an easy lesson first.

Learning something relatively easy will make you feel good about yourself and encourage you to tackle more challenging material. Jumping into the cognitive deep end can be a recipe for drowning in overwhelm. Keep it simple is the motto here. If you’re learning how to play the piano, start with your best version of “Chopsticks” rather than Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.” This will give you a sense of accomplishment and build a foundation of confidence on which you can build.

5. Tackle challenging material earlier in the day.

Children and teens with ADD/ADHD fatigue more easily than others; also, their medication often wears off in the late morning (if they are taking the regular form of Ritalin or Dexedrine). Keep this in mind when you’re scheduling the day and utilizing the brain when it’s at its maximum functional level. While this may vary individually, research published in Sleep Medicine Reviews suggests that children and adults with ADD/ADHD have symptoms of sleep disorders such as daytime sleepiness. Good sleep hygiene is vital to brain functioning so make sure you’re getting your zzzzs!

6. Find ways to get organized.

In the journal Education, researchers showed that organizational skills helped students with ADD/ADHD in the classroom. Tools such as day planners and computer organizational programs can help you keep track of your learning schedule. Also, if you can control your environment, try not to cover your walls with too much stimulating art, avoid clutter if possible, have fresh flowers or plants around to bring nature inside, and make sure you have enough proper lighting at your workspace.

7. Take advantage of auxiliary study materials.

In addition to the lesson you’re given, take the initiative to source more educational resources that work for your specific type of learning style. if you’re learning how to use new computer software, you might benefit from hands-on and practicing as you go, rather than sitting through a lecture. If you investigate the subject you’re learning, there will likely be various supplemental materials available online—whether it’s an extra book, making a poster, or watching a documentary, there are plenty of modalities to choose from.

8. Request accommodations if necessary.

Advocating for yourself or your loved one can sound tiring from the gate, but it can be vital to successful learning for someone with ADD/ADHD. Getting the proper diagnosis is imperative (more about this in a bit), but once that’s completed it might be necessary to request accommodations to create an enriched educational experience. Whether you’re in college and just discovering you have ADD/ADHD or your child is embarking on the K-12 journey, support is available. Different types of help are offered such as having extra time for test-taking, being offered a quiet workspace, and reduced course loads.

9. Give yourself a reward for hitting milestones and deadlines.

What do you love to do? Soon enough—with the proper diagnosis and treatment—your answer might be learning a new task! In the meantime, celebrate your learning victories by doing something you love. Make time to dance in your living room, take a walk in nature, get together with friends or just enjoy some quiet time alone. Don’t skip this step; it’s vital to build confidence and pace yourself along the way.

10. The first step is to discover if you or a loved one really has it.

You might assume you have ADD/ADHD and have coped with a self-diagnosis for years, but the most important learning experience of all is understanding the condition. Brain SPECT imaging at Amen Clinics shows that there are 7 types of ADD/ADHD; knowing which one applies to you can help your course of healing. This is a discovery process that might shed light on the way you’ve been living and pivot you in a brand new, wonderful direction where learning is no longer a chore, but fun and exciting.

ADD/ADHD and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

 

6 Comments »

  1. I’ve heard that the gifted and talented share many similar traits as those with ADD/ADHD. Wouldn’t the above strategies work well for everyone?

    Comment by V Livingston — January 24, 2022 @ 6:55 AM

  2. I have a 32 year old son with ADD/ADHD . ALSO EATING DISORDER WITH OTHER METAL ILLNESS PROBLEMS LIKE Chronic liar. I LIVE HIM WITH ALL MY HEART AND NEED HIM TO GET ON THE RIGHT TRACK FOR HIS HEALTH AND WELL BEING . Also so he can live a good productive life when I pass . Please help us . Thank you we live in Cape Coral Florida.

    Comment by Mary Ann Biltz — January 24, 2022 @ 9:31 PM

  3. Hello Mary Ann, thank you for reaching out. Amen Clinics currently has 9 locations: https://www.amenclinics.com/locations/. For more information about scheduling, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — January 25, 2022 @ 12:05 PM

  4. Hi there.
    Where is the healing add type test?
    The link from the book goes to a 404 page

    Thank you.

    Comment by Susanna — February 3, 2022 @ 4:37 AM

  5. Hello Susanna, thank you for reaching out. Here is a link to the ADD Type Test: https://theaddquiz.com/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 5, 2022 @ 6:35 PM

  6. I have a 37 yr old son suffering with adhd who is also on suboxicin for substance abuse . He refuses to see a doctor what can I do to help him

    Comment by Sue bober — May 19, 2022 @ 6:06 AM

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