This means that parents who are likely to be ill-equipped face learning and behavioral differences that their children’s school professionals may have been trained to handle.

As the school year draws to a close for many students around the world, there are lessons to be learned as parents plan virtual summer camps or courses and plan virtual school in the fall.

Children may have trouble paying attention, controlling their impulses, or being too active.

These symptoms allow children to behave well in certain environments – fast or creative – but they can also be severe and cause difficulties at home or at school and with friends. This is why children with ADHD need a school environment that helps them stay on track, maintain structure, and be supported by their peers and teachers.

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The sudden shift to virtual learning has dramatically changed this routine.

Leslie Hall of Charlotte, North Carolina, said making the transition from its sixth grader to virtual learning was difficult at first. The constant influx of assignment notifications across multiple platforms has distracted her son, Sam.

“The first week, I could barely keep up,” she said. “He would be working on a science assignment and the social science teacher would text his assignment so naturally that he would jump on it. Then another teacher would send an assignment and he would jump on it. For a child who likes order, it caused a lot of frustration. ”

Tiffany Johnson of Fort Worth, Texas, said her eighth grader was finally settling into virtual learning after weeks of volatile challenges.

Johnson saw his son having small seizures due to technological difficulties, misunderstandings and group projects with classmates who did not understand him.

She used to work from home, but sometimes she had to sit with her son all day to help manage the school online. She also faces her own depression and anxiety in addition to her son’s problems.

“The stress of a global pandemic, a new day that changes from week to week, technological challenges and frustrations,” she says, “some days it’s really difficult because if I’m not level, it won’t be, “said Johnson.

Jeanine Kalulu of Vista, California, helps her grandson with homework while she works from home, and her daughter, who is an essential worker, works elsewhere.

They faced many obstacles, including equipment and technology issues, restlessness and distraction. The help in class and the individual time he had not transferred to a virtual medium, and the classes were not engaging to him.

“He got angry once because he didn’t want to take the lesson, and he said it was boring,” said Kalulu. “We were doing [the lesson] on the phone at that time because he couldn’t get it on the laptop. So he threw the phone away. ”

Now he only works on paper, mainly because his school has not yet provided him with a laptop and therefore cannot access online courses.

There are ways for parents to help their children thrive in distance learning, to balance a neurodivergent child while working from home and working together through frustrations.

Advantages of a school structure

Children with ADHD benefit from the structure of traditional school settings, said Robin Nordmeyer, co-founder and general manager of the Center for Living Well with ADHD-Minnesota, a coaching group for ADHD serving all ages.

A traditional school allows a student to introduce themselves and follow the movements of a class structure. The school bell ring helps to signal clear transition between classes and between school and family life. The consistent and predictable routine helps some students stay on track.

Children with ADHD also draw from the community, and connecting schools can provide, with peers and educators, who model behavior, provide emotional support, and advance the educational or social goals of the student.

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“What has happened with Covid-19 is that we have stopped having this infrastructure and support from the school,” said Nordmeyer. “And the parents had to pick up a lot of things that can’t be provided with virtual learning. And maybe they don’t know how to help them best because they haven’t been trained in it particular need. ”

“Parents must also take on this responsibility, while they still have their own routines and jobs to do during the day,” said Anabelle Morgan, school principal. at the Commonwealth Academy in Alexandria, Virginia, a day school for students with learning disabilities or ADHD problems. “So it makes it twice as difficult.”

Imitate him school environment

Children with ADHD don’t struggle to pay attention in general as much as they find it hard to focus and keep their attention on the good stuff, said Nordmeyer.

“When a child struggles with inattention,” she added, “whatever surrounds him in his environment can draw his attention to the moment, distract him. and get them caught up in something else that is not related to the purpose of the moment.

“[They] might start paying close attention, but then our brain wears out a bit. [They] use this dopamine or this availability of neurotransmitters and it is difficult to focus, focus and pay attention to it [they’re] try to do.”

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Given that they are inclined to launch out in a different direction, the creation of a simulated space which borrows from their school environment is the first step of distance learning.

Instead of having them do their homework in their bedroom, parents can set up a small desk with few distractions in a place that parents can easily watch. It can be across from where the parent works, or parents and children can sit side by side while working on their own homework.

Structure every day

One parent tweeted that home schooling for their ADHD child is an all-day affair. When trying to structure their child’s day, parents should practice structure, not micromanagement, said Nordmeyer.

Parents could start by huddling in the morning with their child at the same time each day to chart the course of the day. They can talk about all Zoom meetings, check-ins with educators, assignment deadlines or any other upcoming time commitments,

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In the absence of a fixed timetable, parents can co-create one with their child.

Nordmeyer recommended using the Pomodoro method, in which parents write on a sticky note what the child’s task is for the next 25 minutes or so – for example, “Do problems 1 through 12 for your math worksheet”. Children can work alongside their parents or at their work station, while parents or both parties monitor a timer. They then take a five-minute break.

“This is something that will really help children overcome what they feel is overwhelming for them, and it will also break it down into something they can manage,” said Nordmeyer. “It creates a certain consistency in focus and what they do throughout the day.”

Remove them from distractions

If a child is having trouble becoming really distracted, parents can help them back off by shortening working hours. Reduce working time on appropriately distributed assignments and allow more room to move around and cool off before coming back to start over.

“Meet the child where he is,” said Nordmeyer. “If they can do something for 10 minutes, expect that.”

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If there are computer classes, parents could try to make sure that the only browser open is the one that matches the task at hand. Depending on whether the computer is privately owned or owned by the school, parents can customize the Internet router’s settings to block certain games or sites at certain times of the day, said Morgan.

Social and emotional support

Children with ADHD always need emotional and social support to stay engaged. They have probably already found ways to connect virtually with their friends via their phones.

Parents need to monitor their child’s mental health and mood levels, Nordmeyer said. Some school counselors and teachers may still be available for individual one-on-one meetings for mental and educational support.

Mix in stimulating activities

Because some children with ADHD are hyperactive, they have to move, said Nordmeyer. They have a kinetic connection to the way they learn and process information, so agitations can help them pay attention. Office work all day burns them.

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Stimulating activities add excitement, boost endorphins, and help manage the hyperactivity and impulsivity that children try to keep under control while doing homework. Indoor or outdoor nooks with physical or creative activities in the morning, around noon and in the afternoon can help them regain their energy and be productive when they return to their desks.

“Exercise really counteracts that and [can be] a normalizer when it comes to these neurotransmitters, which means that students after a lot of exercise can concentrate better, “said Morgan. The children again feel like being a little more in control. ”

Theme days, such as “cooking in the kitchen” can keep things interesting and expand a child’s skills, added Nordmeyer.

Balance home education while working from home

Structuring a child’s day with the Pomodoro timed assignment method can allow parents to work while a child intermittently focuses on school. They can also develop a system for what the child can do while the parent is completing a project.
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This system could include visual communication signals. If there is a red cup on the table, for example, it could mean that children should not interrupt the adult, except in an emergency.

If a child needs constant assistance, parents can create a visual chart that helps the child know when a parent is busy or available. With two parents, they can discuss when they can take on home teaching responsibilities.

Parents can also request virtual assistance from grandparents, aunts, uncles or babysitters who understand the child’s learning differences and can communicate with them as he or she works on missions.

Manage frustrations and obstacles

If school or other obstacles arise during the week, do not rush to put the child under control and put him back on track, suggested Nordmeyer. And don’t tell them to “calm down,” because saying it can have the opposite effect, Morgan warned.

Instead, find ways to take a break and breathe. For children, this could mean having them play or run outside. Perhaps you meditate with them, take a walk, listen to soothing music or practice breathing.

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Then recognize what the child is feeling, ask them what they need and continue.

This gives the child freedom of action and avoids emotional diversion or the fight or flight response of the brain that leads to misunderstandings, challenge or hurt feelings, said Nordmeyer. This response is more easily triggered in people with ADHD.

Take time to think

At the end of the week, parents should sit with their child at once reflect and think about the future, said Nordmeyer.

It’s time to decompress and debrief when the school week is almost over or over. What did parents and children think went well? What could be improved? What are the goals for next week?

Shed some light on what’s good, suggested Nordmeyer.

“We hear too much about what went wrong, and all that happens is to cause emotional outbursts and stop everyone, right?” she added. “So pay more attention to what is right.”

Parents may want to seek an ADHD coach if their child is in college or high school, said Nordmeyer, because parents and teens can do better with an involved third party. Parents can focus on the dynamics of their relationship while an ADHD coach supports the adolescent through learning challenges.

Parents can also create weekly notes of ups and downs for teachers, so everyone is on the same page. And communicating with the child’s school helps educators and therapists understand what works and what doesn’t, and how to support, Morgan suggested.

In addition, with the help of the school, parents could create opportunities for other parents to come together virtually to share ideas, frustrations, suggestions and support each other, she added.

At the end of the day, parents should “show compassion” to their whereabouts and to the child, said Nordmeyer. This is unprecedented, and truly, the future is unknown.

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