An ADHD Tutor’s Advice on Helping Distracted Kids Study


If you have a child with ADHD, you probably know they don’t relish studying for tests. The challenge is that test-taking anxiety makes ADHD symptoms, such as hyperactivity and low impulse control even worse. I want to share with you what methods work best for me as an ADHD tutor.

Set short-term study goals

I usually start out my tutoring sessions by helping the student break down the different areas of study. Then we talk about how long we will spend on each subject. This helps them to feel less overwhelmed. Use a timer (a visual, analog timer is best for ADHD kids) to keep track of how long they have been studying. If they get really into one particular area, we may stay there–and you can do the same. Just make sure they aren’t hyperfocusing to the point of getting over-prepared.

Establish rewards for completing a study session

I like to tell my students that if they work hard on an area they find the most frustrating, we can move on to the more fun areas next. Or I will say, “Let’s put five more minutes in, and then we’ll take a break and get some fresh air.” As a parent, you have a lot more leeway. Rewards can run the gamut from screen time to a later bedtime to cold, hard cash. Also feel free to reward them with plenty of praise.

Start studying early

ADHD children have time blindness. Even if they know the test is next Tuesday, they may not realize this is a few short days away. They may avoid studying for a simple vocabulary test out of dread because they think it will take hours, while thinking they will breeze through a term paper in a few hours. That’s why studying early is so crucial.

A final note: If your child (or anyone) brags that they get their best results when they pull an all-nighter cramming for a test, they are almost certainly kidding themselves.  Plenty of research shows that depriving yourself of sleep will almost always result in academic problems.

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