adhd and school performance

Why Students with ADHD Need Fewer “Strategies”

If you have a student with ADHD, he/she may have been recommended for a Study Strategies class.  

Study Strategies classes typically function as a ‘study hall’ and are an opportunity for students to complete homework assignments. ‘Study strategies’ are built into the block and given as suggestions or ideas for students to ‘try’ to see if they work. We often find, however, that for students and parents who are learning how to study with ADHD in school, Study Strategies classes can be counterintuitive and may not always provide the best solutions. Too many ideas and tips are piled onto the student’s plate without proper direction or prioritization and these can often lead to self-defeat and overwhelming feelings.

Executive Function ADHD

As we walk through and encounter the many challenges that life has to throw at us, the need for strong executive functioning skills becomes non-negotiable. Executive functioning is the ability to organize, plan, problem solve and execute. The necessity to focus our attention and carve out linear, step-by-step plans is the key to creating well-balanced outcomes for well-adjusted people. ‘Study Strategy’ classes—while useful for learners who have adept focus and time management skills—can often have the opposite effect on kids with ADHD and hinder their ability to improve their study skills. 

As a parent of a student with ADHD and a successful academic coach of learners with ADHD, students with this condition DO NOT NEED the lists of ideas or suggestions that these ‘study strategy’ classes offer.  In truth, these individuals have more wonderful ideas in a moment than they know how to process. Often, adding those extra ideas and suggestions, it can further exacerbate the problem of executive dysfunction—being prone to frustration, incapable of staying on track, and unable to start tasks, let alone finish them.

How To Motivate ADHD Students

Rather than saturating your ADHD learners with 5-10 study strategies, focus on the ones that are practical and show the most promise for each individual. Students with ADHD, just like any highly talented athlete or musician, benefit from training in a process that simplifies complex tasks and enables them to focus on what’s important. Students need practice in that process, encouragement to follow through, accountability when they don’t, and awareness of how they’re performing overall.   

Effective Students offers workshops and courses designed to motivate learners who struggle with the symptoms of ADHD by teaching them the methods behind fostering healthy executive functioning skills. By following these modules, students will learn the steps required in developing stronger time management, better resource organization, improved planning and task prioritization, and responsible impulse control. Learning to master these skills are motivating in and of themselves because they lead to favorable academic outcomes for the students and can minimize the feelings of frustration that result from being overwhelmed and disorganized. 

“What should I ask if my student is recommended for a Study Strategies class?” 

Great question!

Studies Strategies classes are a great time for a student with ADHD to practice their executive functioning skills, but for the class to be effective and not just a ‘study hall’ here are some questions to ask: 

  • What curriculum do you use? 
  • How is the class time structured?
  • How will you determine a weakness in my student? 
  • What is he/she expected to learn in your class? 
  • How will you measure his/her progress other than their grades? 
  • How will you teach my child to become independent with a process rather than dependent on you as the teacher? 

The answers to these questions can give you a framework for how your learner’s time is going to be spent. If you are given the impression that the teacher is able to spend 1:1 time with your kid and offer beneficial tips that cater to ADHD homework strategies and other study skills then this is the best case scenario. If the classroom is a larger size and 1:1 attention might be overlooked, which is most likely the case, then having that time with an academic coach could be a great opportunity for effective time management in these kinds of classes.

ADHD and difficulties in Executive Functioning, otherwise known as executive dysfunction, often go hand in hand.  The official term for this is comorbidity, which is when two conditions ‘walk together’ or co-exist.  

Students with ADHD often struggle in key areas of executive functioning which can manifest into incomplete schoolwork, mismanaged materials, and neglecting time to study for tests and work on long-term projects. Giving students more strategies and time to attend to these tasks doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be able to complete them. This extra time, if not managed correctly, is going to go to waste. An effective Study Strategies class will have a concise, methodically driven curriculum and quantifiable progress evaluation metrics that work in tandem to build upon a student’s study habits, habits that will carry on throughout their time in school and prepare them for what comes after.

As the saying goes, 

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and feed him for a lifetime. 

© 2023 Effective Students by W3 Connections Inc.