By Adrien Harrison and Adriana Ogle

According to a 2018 study, one in five students with ADHD do not receive school services despite experiencing significant academic and social impairment. This is especially likely if the child comes from a non-English speaking and/or lower-income family.

On page 61 under “Diagnostic Features”, the fifth and most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders raised the age of when symptoms should be documented. Clinicians now look to age 12 and teen years for the onset of symptoms instead of early childhood, which meant previous children whose symptoms developed later in childhood, or at the beginning of adolescence, went undiagnosed and untreated prior to this revision.

ADHD and COVID-19

To no one’s surprise, COVID-19 has put a tremendous amount of stress on families and instructors. Now confined to their homes, the global pandemic presents challenges to children’s routines, development, and optimal learning environments. Children with ADHD will also have difficulty navigating online learning as the academic year begins because of the sudden adjustment.

However, the situation also presents an opportunity to cultivate your child’s development and academic habits. Considering how the future will likely encompass more online-based learning, taking the time to learn about ADHD, how it manifests in your child or student, and implement evidence-based techniques will help support your child through this experience. Besides, without the array of distractions present in schools, now is an excellent time to hone in on techniques to help your child throughout COVID-19 with schooling as well as behavioral management strategies.

Techniques to Implement

Last week, Smart Course hosted an online ADHD in Middle School summit with lectures given by over 40 hand-picked and world-renowned experts in the field. Each of the five days focused on a particular theme with takeaways to consider and implement. Below are a handful of tips from just a few of the many speakers who presented in the summit. Remember: the information and techniques are meant to help you learn and adapt to your child or student rather than force them into a certain behavior.

Day 1: Parenting & Executive Functions Takeaways

Peg Dawson covered “The 12 Most Common Executive Function Deficits and How to Turn Them into Executive Skills” and addresses why your child may seem “smart but scattered.” One of her strategies for building executive skills is bolstering your child’s working memory by helping them keep track of everything they need to keep track of. Finding a memory aid that works for your child, such as a notebook or even a smartphone app, to create checklists of things they need to remember is one way to utilize this strategy. Even making the reminders more tactile, such as putting something by the door where the child will come in contact with the reminder, will help build their working memory.

Day 2: ADHD in Middle School, Accommodations & Homework

Dr. Manju Banerjee Ph.D. and Dr. Adam Lalor Ph.D. discussed “Online Learning for Students who Learn Differently: What Do We Currently Know and How Can We Become Better?” For teachers, one of the most important qualities to maintain during online learning is empathy because of how this adjustment is particularly challenging for students with learning disabilities. For parents monitoring their child’s homework, Dr. Benerjee and Dr. Lalor advise against asking “Have you done your homework yet?” and “Why?” questions because they may trigger defiance and anxiety in your child. Instead of asking your child why they have not done their homework yet, ask, “What happened that held you back from doing that?” Not only does this way of asking lessen tension, but it works towards understanding your child and finding a solution.

Day 3: Family Relationships & Your School

Dr. Anna Vagin utilized an interactive presentation, “Play2Practice: Gaming for Social Learning,” to demonstrate how gaming can be an engaging way for children to build their social skills. Card games, tabletop games, competitive games, Role Playing Games (RPGs), learning games, dice games etc. all exercise different skills to build upon Games help children: practice sustained engagement in an activity, understand mistakes are okay, accept rules to meet a goal, become resilient, gain a larger perspective, learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations, control impulsivity, read verbal and non-verbal cues, demonstrate flexibility, and manage competitiveness, among many other skills.

Take Monopoly, for example. If someone else uses the dog game piece, which happens to be your child’s favorite and preferred piece, they must be flexible enough to play without having something they want while also maintaining the larger perspective on the goal of the game. Strategizing and maneuvering through obstacles to win games also encourages a sense of accomplishment, which helps bolster a child’s resilience and confidence in their capabilities.

Day 4: The Tougher Side of ADHD, Comorbidities, and How to Cope with Them

Dr. Jerome J. Schultz Ph.D. discussed “Middle School, ADHD, and Stress. What to Know & What to Do.” For many students, Middle School can be a particularly challenging transition and experience, which can result in chronic stress. The transition to middle school is difficult for many students with ADHD because of how the child’s life now moves at a faster pace, excellence is considered as the new average, increased academic demands, one-size-fits-all education etc. Dr. Schultz hones in on the impact of chronic stress on the brain’s efficiency, executive functions, learning, emotions, and behavior in students with ADHD, particularly during the middle school years. Among other techniques, Dr. Schultz presents a model for de-stressing as well as rating tasks on difficulty and ability in order to help manage tasks.

Day 5: Medications & Medical Professionals

Dr. William (Bill) Dodson MD explained “ADHD and Medications: How to decide whether to medicate and How to do it best.” He outlines the different perspectives surrounding using medications, having that conversation with your child, how to find a good clinician, as well as the two main types of medications used for ADHD.

The Smart Course multi-day summit contained over 50 hours of evidence-based strategies specifically for caregivers and educators to help their children with ADHD thrive through the middle school years. This is the first of many summits and webinars from Smart Course as they continue to provide knowledge and actionable steps to addressing learning disabilities in your children and students. Smart Course offers engaging online courses and consulting catered to the disability space. We use smart adaptable online courses to teach parents the most effective way of handling all aspects of their differently-abled child’s education in order to empower parents with the tools they need to help their kids create their own success.

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Adrien Harrison is an award-winning serial entrepreneur dedicated to revolutionizing the education system around the globe. His most recent venture, SmartCourse.io, is an education technology and digital healthcare startup that uses big data and world-leading instructors to empower caregivers of kids with special needs so their kids can reach their social, behavioral, and academic goals.

Adriana Ogle is an intern on both the Research and Operations teams at Smart Course.

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