Unlocking the power of learning styles for kids with ADHD
Being neurodivergent in a neurotypical learning environment can be challenging for your ADHD-diagnosed child. But what if you can help them become a beter student, by harnessing their strengths rather than weaknesses? And what if they could be taught in a way tailored to their learning strengths so that they can engage with the material and focus for longer? This is where learning styles come in.
A learning style is basically the sense/senses you rely on the most when learning. There are three main types of learning styles:
1. Visual – visual learners absorb information better when they can see it.
2. Auditory – auditory learners learn best by listening and talking.
3. Kinesthetic – kinesthetic learners learn by physically experiencing the information, i.e. hands-on learning – when they engage their fine and gross motor skills in the learning process.
By recognizing and understanding which learning style your child has, you can use the learning tools best suited to them – at home and, with the school’s cooperation, in the classroom – to help them thrive academically.
How to identify your child’s learning style and the best strategies for visual, auditory and kinesthetic styles
Does your child enjoy diagrams, puzzles, charts and other graphically-organised informaton? Can they tell you exactly on what page of a book you can find certain information? Do they tend to notice the teacher’s facial expressions?
They tend to cue into visuals of any kind:
- charts, pictures, illustrations, diagrams
- educational videos and film
- written lessons on the board or screen
- note-taking (for older kids)
- have your child doodle and draw what they are learning
- add colour to enhance key points, e.g. spelling lists
- show older kids how to organise information by creating mind maps or visual diagrams
Is your child extremely interested in listening to music? Do they benefit from classroom conversation? Do they verbally process their ideas? Can they often be heard muttering aloud as they read or write?
They learn best by listening to lectures and participating in class discussions. They tend to cue into voice tone, speed, volume and body language, such as:
- recording classroom lectures, when they are older (if the teacher allows). It removes the pressure to take notes to keep up, so that the student can concentrate on understanding the lesson. The student can replay any material they were not able to grasp, and hence move along at their own pace.
- reading text out loud, alone or with a partner. This can be done using flashcards, which will also keep your child engaged.
- presenting learned material orally
- rephrasing and repeating back new material to help them study.This works even better when your child has a partner that they
can discuss concepts or talk through their ideas with.
- listening to background music when studying
Does your child enjoy crafting, dancing, or hands-on science experiments? Do they remember facts better when they can draw, touch, or act out what they are learning?
They learn best with hands-on activities:
- role-play, e.g. historical scenarios or exam situations
- act out scenes or skits
- model building
- science experiments
- field tripsSince these students need to move often, experts suggest that they:
- sit in the front of the class as the teacher teaches to keep themengaged
- fidget while doing work, e.g. play with silly putty or a stress ball, or doodle
- change positions when studying, i.e. moving or standing or sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair
- may benefit from being permitted to work standing up (in a classroom)
Knowing your learning style goes well beyond the educational setting: as your child develops and becomes aware of their own learning style, they start developing their metacognition (the process of thinking about one’s own thinking and learning) and will eventually learn to adapt or transfer their learning to new tasks and contexts – a useful skill to becoming lifelong learners.
1. Chick, N. (2013). Metacognition. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved [2 November 2021]. Available from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/metacognition/
2. Cooney, M. (2020). ADHD & Learning Styles: Understanding How Your Child Learns. Study.com [Online]. Accessed on 17 April 2023. Available from https://study.com/blog/adhd-learning-styles-understanding-how- your-child-learns.html
3. Feter, B. (2021). See It, Learn It: Make Homework Come Alive for Visual Learners. ADDitude [Online]. Accessed on 17 April 2023. Available from https://www.additudemag.com/visual-learner-homework-help/