Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impulsivity, hyperactivity, forgetfulness, and inattention. Symptoms vary from person to person but many with ADHD struggle with time management, memory, and staying focused on one task. ADHD can significantly detriment a person’s home and work life and impact their ability to study.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a type of neurodivergence, those who describe themselves as neurodiverse have a condition that affects their cognitive functioning, other types of neurodiversity also include Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
There are several types of ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, Predominantly Inattentive and Combined Hyperactive-Impulsive, and Inattentive Type. The Hyperactive and Impulsive Type display impulsive behaviors which include fidgeting and interrupting conversations and struggling to focus on tasks. The Inattentive Type displays more reserved behaviors and is more commonly known in girls and typically affects concentration, finishing tasks, and following instructions. If a person has a combination of Hyperactive-Impulsive and Inattentive behaviors they tend to struggle with focusing, have above-average levels of activity and energy, and have some impulsive behaviors.
The science of ADHD
Despite all the research into ADHD, scientists still don’t have a definitive answer for what causes it. Some scientists believe genetics play a role in ADHD and others think that structural differences in the brain cause it. There is no single test that can tell you if you have ADHD or not. Although there are some medications and behavioral therapies that can help those living with ADHD, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all simple solution that makes the lives of those living with ADHD easier.
One medication that is often used to help those with ADHD is Ritalin, which is a central nervous system stimulant that increases the amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. However, there are natural remedies that are highly beneficial for those with ADHD, including maintaining a nutritious and well-balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep and exercise, and limiting daily screen time. Studies have also shown that meditation and yoga are significantly effective at calming overactive minds.
Strategies for students with ADHD to maintain focus
How can students with ADHD thrive? With a few adjustments and an understanding of how you learn, there is no reason why a student with ADHD cannot succeed and achieve every academic goal. A few strategies you could think about are choosing a study space that is a distraction-free zone, somewhere that is separate from your hobbies and relaxation space, studying in your bedroom might not be the best idea, similarly, choosing an environment such as a cafe may hinder you when you sit down to study because you will become easily distracted. Pick a clutter-free, quiet and comfortable space that allows you to fully immerse in the work you have to do.
Another way to help you stay focused if you have ADHD is to move around as much as possible, staying in one place for too long can be challenging, so take regular breaks to move around if possible, or sit in a chair that rocks, this allows you to move gently without distracting you from the task at hand. It’s also important to identify your distractions, if it’s your phone, then move it away from your study area and switch it off so you are not tempted to scroll on your social media. It’s also vital to understand how you like to learn, what works for one student may not work for you. Identify if you like listening to white noise or ASMR in the background or if you prefer complete silence. Do you prefer to be surrounded by other people studying in a library or do you work better alone?
Students with ADHD will also benefit from The Pomodoro Technique. The purpose of this technique is to break down tasks into manageable chunks and take short, five-minute breaks in between 25-minute study sessions. Walking in the fresh air is also a great way to spend your longer breaks between studying, this will leave your mind and body feeling recharged before you begin your next round of studying. Another way to recharge if you have ADHD is something called shifting. When your attention begins to drift, move on to a different task or subject and return to the previous one when your attention wavers again. Shifting back and forth between multiple tasks is often not seen as productive for a neurotypical brain, however, those who have ADHD, thrive on this way of working as it keeps them from feeling overwhelmed.
With the right support, knowledge, and understanding of ADHD, you can thrive and be successful in whatever you choose to do. Always be kind to yourself and remember that you are not lazy, you don’t have a poor work ethic and you will not fail. Your brain functions in a different way and you may find it challenging to focus for long periods but all you need to do is to try different methods and find out what works for you. If you have the ambition to succeed, there will be nothing standing in your way.