A Deeper Understanding of ADHD and How It Can Affect Learning

Children with ADHD often experience a difficult time in school, especially with tasks such as sitting still, listening to instructions, completing homework and basic executive functioning skills. As a result of the unique challenges faced by some students with ADHD, it is common for these students to fall behind. . In fact, early issues with attention have been shown to have a negative impact on achievements at school and cause secondary problems such as anxiety and poor self-esteem due to kids not fitting in with the ‘normal’ classroom setting. With ADHD affecting 4%- 12% of school-aged children, it’s important to understand the challenges they’re facing, in order to provide the support they need.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a common childhood disorder that can impact many skills such as focus, memory, organisation and self control. Kids with ADHD have been shown to have small differences in brain function compared to other children, especially with thought processes that control attention and organise memory, often referred to as executive functions.

Common Symptoms of ADHD

Often kids won’t show signs of ADHD until they progress in school, where there are higher demands on their executive functioning skills. Even though everyone can show signs of ADHD at one time or another, kids affected will often be experiencing three groups of behavior symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms can present singly or in combination. Here are some common symptoms to look out for.

Inattentive symptoms

  • Makes careless mistakes and overlooks key details
  • Is easily distracted
  • Has difficulty getting started on tasks
  • Finds remembering/following instructions tricky
  • Doesn’t appear to listen when spoken to directly
  • Has trouble organising tasks/possessions
  • Avoids or resists tasks such as homework and fails to complete work in the classroom
  • Misplaces or loses things easily

Hyperactive or impulsive symptoms

  • Often fidgets or squirms
  • Can’t stay in their seat
  • Unable to play quietly
  • Very impatient
  • Is always “on the go”
  • Talks excessively
  • Doesn’t think before saying or doing things
  • Has problems interacting appropriately with peers and teachers
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others conversations/activities

If you think your child is suffering from ADHD or if you need more information, please refer to this NHS page. Though most kids don’t ever fully outgrow ADHD, symptoms can often disappear as they get older.

How ADHD can affect your child’s learning

ADHD can have a huge impact on your child’s ability to take in new learning and demonstrate their learning, which will affect their academic performance.Here are some common challenges kids with ADHD face.

Poor Concentration

ADHD can cause significant challenges with concentration levels and many children can find tasks that require focus very difficult. This can include paying attention in the classroom, learning time-tables or working on homework for a long period of time. Many kids will go to great lengths to avoid these tasks, rush through the work and take shortcuts.

Impact on Memory

ADHD can have a huge impact on a child’s memory, which directly affects their academic performance. It can lead to difficulty memorising simple spellings, historical dates and math formulas as well as forgetting to do homework, take books home and hand in assignments on time.


Kids who have ADHD will often have poor organisational skills. This means they may have problems thinking through tasks in a logical way which may cause issues writing essays and knowing where to get started on a task. It can also lead to an impaired sense of time, which means they can find it difficult to prioritise tasks based on the importance of each one, can often show up late and may be unable to anticipate how long a task will take to complete.

Language Difficulties

Often children with ADHD will experience difficulties with reading, spelling, writing and oral expression. This includes possibly becoming confused with lengthy verbal directions, having trouble taking notes, poor reading comprehension and slow reading and writing. It can also mean they avoid responding in class, especially if they have to provide a concise or methodological answer.

Supporting a child with ADHD

Supporting a child with ADHD is crucial, especially if you want to help them be more successful in school . Here some general principles you can apply at home.

Provide structure: Kids with ADHD often prefer routine and structure in their day . Make sure that rules and instructions are clear but brief.

Good relationships: Have a positive relationship with your child and spend quality time together doing things you enjoy. Feeling loved and valued makes everyone feel connected and can reduce stress. It can also help raise the self esteem of your child.

Observe: You may find certain things trigger specific behaviours in your child. Taking note and trying to prevent these triggers may help avoid those behaviours and can help your child feel more secure.

Praise: It’s extremely important to praise your child when they’re behaving well. Focus on making positive comments rather than being negative about their challenging behaviour.