Of the many new challenges the pandemic has introduced, going to school without actually going to school is one that millions of students face.
Some students seem to be hit harder by remote learning than others. A new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that the sudden transition to online learning may be an especially difficult hurdle for students with ADHD.
Anecdotally, that fits with what we’ve been hearing from parents of children with ADHD. It fits with the fact that children with ADHD are now apparently being sent to prison for not doing their online schoolwork. And while the plural of anecdote is not data, we now have some actual data to highlight the negative impact of remote learning on students with ADHD, thanks to the newly published study.
In the study, researchers surveyed 238 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 18 during the months of May and June, looking at how the teens were doing with the shift to online learning.
Overall, students with ADHD had more difficulties with remote learning, and their parents felt less able to support learning from home. Many of the services available to these children at school had been discontinued in the transition to remote learning, with only 59 percent of services still available.
Teenagers who had received accommodations or who had Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) were particularly struggling with online education. Parents of such teenagers described remote learning as “very difficult” 31 percent of the time. For parents of students with ADHD but without IEP/504 plans that number was 18 percent, and for parents of students with neither ADHD nor IEP/504 plans it was 4 percent.
The authors of the study found several other factors associated with difficulty during remote learning. For example, teens who had fewer routines in their lives tended to struggle more – and, perhaps unsurprisingly, teens with ADHD tended to have fewer routines. Those who were experiencing more negative moods and who reported difficulty concentrating because of COVID-19 also had a harder time with online education.
The results of this study underscore the burden that remote learning is putting on students with ADHD. Many of these students have lost access to services they would have received at school, just as their typical coping strategies have been upended and they need support the most.
As many school districts remain remote, there’s a need to prioritize supporting students’ mental health, including through services that help students with different ways of learning. Of course, for that to happen, schools must be given enough resources to meet their students’ needs.
Looking at what remote learning has meant for students with ADHD, the authors of this study point to a similar takeaway in their paper. To use their words: “It is imperative for schools and communities to provide the necessary supports to adolescents, particularly those with mental health and/or learning difficulties, and to their parents.”