Working with ADHD students

This summer (after several years at a University tutoring center), I decided to take on two high school students with ADHD. I had previously worked with a small handful of ADHD students and thought I knew what to expect. I did not think it would be so challenging! But with a few sessions of adaptation, a lot of home research, and a barrel full of patience, I am ready to share both my experience and advice with fellow tutors looking to work with this group of learners.
Of my two learners, one was severely hyperactive and highly distractible while the other had little self motivation or ability to concentrate. These two boys were quite opposite and would have undoubtedly never been good companions. I will begin by discussing my hyperactive student as he forced me to make the most adjustments to my tutoring techniques.
First, I would suggest that any highly distractible learner using technology to PUT IT AWAY. If the student needs a computer, ensure that it is another family member's or they make a separate account just for tutoring sessions. Games, documents, and saved browsing sessions tended to distract my learner to the extreme. So much so that our first few sessions resulted in him showing me all of his favorite video games rather than us learning about writing and essay formation. Don't be afraid to speak to the learner or their parents. This experience is to benefit them, not just a way for you, the tutor, to earn money. I confronted the parent, asked her for an alternative laptop, and she was pleased that I saw a need a found a solution. Technology can definitely become an issue for a student with ADHD, so put a limit to its usage. 
Second, try to have appointments in the same place and time for every session. Rules, limits, and routine are excellent for distractible learners. Once the student has acclimated to an environment and the surrounding stimuli (thought it should be as minimal as possible), the area becomes less interesting and he or she can focus on the work at hand. I like having appointments in the home or in a study room at a library. Never go out in the open of a library or a coffee shop with this student. It's just asking for him to look around, notice the people, look at books, etc.
Third, don't shut down the student every time he or she begins talking about something unrelated to schoolwork. A little rabbit trail isn't bad, as long as you redirect them as quickly as possible. Letting the him or her have a little breathing room can decrease confrontation and any perceived "smothering" the student may feel. Letting your students talk a little bit at the beginning of a session can help you to get to know them and for the students to feel more open and comfortable with you.
Also, some tutors will have sessions in which there are multiple students being guided in a single session. Often students can help each other and gives a classroom feel to a session. It may even be less threatening than one on one tutoring. BUT, this is a technique that should be avoided when working with ADHD students. These students need the isolation and one on one tutoring in order to increase focus.
These are just a few of my tips that have aided me in adjusting to working with ADHD students!


Thanks Emily!


Emily M.

RN/MSN/FNP Tutor & HS and College Level Science and Algebra Tutor

300+ hours
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