How Students with ADHD Can Improve Their Study Habits

Mother and son work on homework togetherFor many individuals with attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), and even for many people without it, the idea of sitting down to study can seem daunting. A lot of people don’t exactly find studying fun, but staying focused and sitting still for long stretches can be especially difficult for people with ADHD.

If you’re a student with ADHD, or if you have children with attention-related challenges, it’s important to work on developing study skills that maximize academic payoff while minimizing angst. Here are some suggestions for making the most of study time:

  1. List specific study tasks as if they were daily assignments. For example, you might write out the following items and set dates to complete them.

Day 1: Read through notes.
Day 2: Write out list of key terms and definitions.
Day 3: Create trivia game where each term is worth 10 points. Have an adult, classmate, or other person ask the student to provide the term or definition and keep track of points. To make it more interesting, the student and person helping the student could take turns asking and answering questions. This may help keep the student more engaged, and the act of asking questions will also help him or her learn the material. When the student gets an item wrong, he or she should be provided with the correct answer immediately.
Day 4: Make outlines of important chapters. For textbooks, a student can copy the headings and make a few bullet points under each one.
Day 5: Take out key words from outlines and try to fill in the missing words. A student could make it into a game with points awarded, if desired.
Day 6: Practice writing out answers to essay questions from the textbook or make up questions to answer. This should be done with notes the first time to prevent learning and practicing incorrect material.
Day 7: Practice answering essay questions without notes.

  1. When possible, especially for younger children, try to turn studying into a game.
  2. For students of all ages, it is important that active study methods are used, which will encourage studying material in a manner that allows it to be better understood. It will also make it easier to retrieve information to produce on exams even when the questions don’t ask about material in the same way it was studied.
  3. Take frequent breaks when studying. This allows time for material to be processed and allows students to study for longer periods without being as fatigued. It is important to set a time limit on each break and resume studying as soon as the break is over.

Unfortunately, many students do not learn study skills directly in school. For individuals with ADHD, goal-oriented active study methods are especially important to keep them engaged and motivated to complete study-related tasks. If you or your child or teen struggle with study skills and need additional assistance, consider seeing an executive functioning/ADHD coach or therapist, scheduling a few sessions with a trained tutor, or seeking the help of another similar professional. It might make a big difference.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey A. Heller, PsyD, therapist in Bethesda, Maryland

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Lindy

    Lindy

    May 26th, 2015 at 7:37 AM

    We have to take some breaks in between doing certain things. I know that it might take us a little longer to get everything done but it seems to keep him a little sharper and more focused on the task at hand.

  • Peyton

    Peyton

    May 26th, 2015 at 2:48 PM

    I have been that student
    Believe me when I say that “to do” lists should become your best friend
    I got no greater satisfaction than being able to mark things off of my list every day so that I had a visual of exactly what I was accomplishing

  • Lesley

    Lesley

    May 27th, 2015 at 3:46 AM

    tHere are people who think that this is a thing that they can get to go away with the child popping a pill every morning but it goes so much deeper than that.

    yes the medication can help but I think that it has to be used as a supplement to a change in the behavior and should not be used as a band aid.

    There are some great ways, many of them listed here, that students can work through having ADD and ADHD that doesn’t have to modify their personality as a whole.

  • Glenn

    Glenn

    May 27th, 2015 at 7:47 AM

    MY kids are not ADD but it has always helped them to take notes on the material while studying. There is something about writing it all down, just going through the material that way helps them to retain it soooo much better than simply studying aloud verbally.

    There are all kinds of neat little tricks that you can find to help your children study, but you have to know that every child is different and so what works for one may or may not work for another.

  • Stef

    Stef

    May 27th, 2015 at 10:41 AM

    It has always worked for me when I am able to keep up with things on a day by day basis instead of waiting until the last possible minute to step in and try to study. I go through everything that we did in class on a nightly basis even if there is no upcoming test because the more exposure I have to something the better I understand it and can regurgitate that info when needed. Added to that, I like to make index pr even flash cards for myself. Great tool to have my mom quiz me with later!

  • matt

    matt

    May 28th, 2015 at 10:43 AM

    I try not to do the helicopter parent thing but I know that when I stay on top of the kids, helping with homework, asking about school etc., they tend to do much better than I think that they would if I was to simply bow out and leave them to it on their own. I mean, they are good kids, but they still need encouragement and guidance and I honestly think that this can help even the most distracted kid stay on track. With that being said, I am know that I am fortunate to have the kind of job that gives me the time to do this while there are some parents who do not have this much time to devote to their kids and their school career. they have to be very dependent upon the help from others and on the student himself. I think that the best thing that you can do is to implement many of the things that are listed here and make really good friends wiht their teachers because they will be your allies when you are unable to be there.

  • Alton

    Alton

    May 29th, 2015 at 11:43 AM

    A tutor can actually be good because then it takes some of it off of the parent and I have found that my kids will always listen more to someone else than they will to me!

  • Kristin

    Kristin

    May 30th, 2015 at 7:16 AM

    Until you have lived with two totally different types of students in your house then it is hard to know if what will work for one child could ever work for another. I have one of my children who likes to make everything into a game and I am like hey if this helps her learn then why not? But my other daughter thinks that things like this are a total waste of her time and it is a chore to get her to do anything that remotely looks like studying. So it can be hard to find that perfect balance of what will work for you and what will not. I just have to say to keep trying and don’t give up on them, because once they ever see that you are giving up on them then it is likely that they will then start to give up on themselves.

  • Layton

    Layton

    May 31st, 2015 at 5:44 AM

    Children are all so different and will discover different ways along their path to cope with this strain of ADHD. Unfortunately many of them never discover the ways that help them shine as the academic success stories that they could actually be with the right kind of help. That’s why I think that it is so critical for parents and teachers to form a team of sorts with these kids to help them manage this until they are ready to manage it on their own.

  • Carey Heller, Psy.D.

    Carey Heller, Psy.D.

    June 1st, 2015 at 1:55 PM

    Thanks for reading this article and sharing your thoughts.

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