The Cluey Approach to Tutoring Students with ADHD

Cluey’s Chief Learning Officer, Dr Selina Samuels, defines ADHD in the context of learning and discusses how Cluey’s approach may be highly effective for these students.

adhd tutoring support
Dr Selina Samuels Education expert BA(Hons), LLB, PhD, MEd Wednesday, 17 March 2021

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a condition that makes it unusually challenging for children to focus on tasks, pay attention, sit still, control impulsive behaviours and follow directions.   ADHD affects about one in twenty Australians, so is relatively common amongst school students but frequently misdiagnosed or diagnosed late in a child’s school career.

ADHD is characterised by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with the daily functioning or development of a child. Experience and manifestation of ADHD differs from individual to individual; some only have problems with one of the behaviours, while others have both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. To be diagnosed with ADHD, the symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity need to be excessive for the age of the person in question, present before the age of 12 (often considered retrospectively), have persisted for longer than six months and must be evident across multiple settings rather than just evident at school or work. It is important to recognise that ADHD is much more than just a student finding it difficult to sit still for extended periods of time.

ADHD symptoms can change over time as a person ages. In young children with ADHD, the most obvious symptom is hyperactivity-impulsivity. As a child reaches primary school, the symptoms of inattention tend to become more prominent and obvious as the schoolwork they are expected to do becomes more demanding. In adolescence, when students enter high school, inattention and impulsivity become more prominent.

Key symptoms of inattention in children with ADHD are:

  • Easily distracted and tends to wander off task
  • Difficulty sustaining focus in tasks, including conversations, lectures or lengthy reading
  • Does not seem to be listening when spoken to directly
  • Fails to finish assigned schoolwork or homework
  • Has trouble organising tasks and activities
  • Does not follow instructions
  • Tends to overlook details and therefore makes careless errors in schoolwork.

Key symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity in children with ADHD are:

  • Fidgeting or squirming in their seats
  • Inability to stay in one place or wait for their turn (extreme restlessness)
  • Tendency to leave their seats in situations when staying seated is expected
  • Extreme impatience
  • Constantly in motion or ‘on the go’
  • Excessive talking or interrupting (e.g. blurting out answers before a question has been completed, finishing other people’s sentences or speaking without waiting for a turn in a conversation)
  • Tendency to interrupt or intrude on others (e.g. in a game or activity).

Children with ADHD often find themselves getting into trouble at school, largely because they do not understand or cannot conform to the rules of engagement in the classroom and playground. A common catalyst for parents seeking a diagnosis of ADHD is when they find their child is routinely getting into trouble at school without having any understanding of what they have done wrong.

For many ADHD students, their different approach to learning only becomes evident when they start high school and they have to organise themselves, concentrate for longer periods of time and manage larger quantities of homework. For many students – prior to receiving a diagnosis of ADHD – the experience of school can come to feel overwhelming and terrifying. Not only do they find it difficult to assimilate and make sense of the quantity of information that they receive, their impulsivity and energy can make it difficult for them to comply with the rules of the playground, and they may find it difficult to make and sustain friendships. It is not uncommon to find that these students start to believe that they are “just stupid”, they lose their confidence and enthusiasm for learning and can become discouraged and even anxious. And without intervention and the appropriate support, these students may find it harder and harder to go to school. School refusal is often associated with learning difficulties and can lead to parents opting to homeschool their child with ADHD. 

At Cluey, we have noticed a consistent increase in our number of students with diagnosed or suspected ADHD, and are very proud of our success in supporting their learning. We believe that the key to helping these students learn is to personalise their experience of learning.

Our tutors are flexible, they recognise and support the individual needs of all their students and maintain a positive learning environment, particularly important for those who have developed a fear and distrust of school.

We also find that the online learning environment can promote the ability of students with ADHD to focus and concentrate, without the distractions of other students working around them.  Working one-to-one with a tutor as their learning partner means that they cannot disrupt other learners and incur the disapproval of the teacher and of their peers. Essentially, the one-to-one tutoring environment is a safe learning space for these students and can provide a sanctuary from the sometimes confronting world of school.

Cluey Learning has 915+ tutors, many of whom are qualified teachers with extensive experience working with students with special learning needs, and others with specific training in this area.  Our tutor-matching algorithms ensure that we can match students with tutors that have the necessary skills and experience.  Cluey also offers ongoing training to our tutors to ensure that they can adapt their knowledge to the specific context of online tutoring and the Cluey platform.  

Some of the key approaches we take to support ADHD during our tutoring sessions are:

  • Dividing tasks into smaller manageable chunks so that students don’t feel overwhelmed;
  • Focusing on completing the more challenging tasks/questions at the beginning of the session while the student is still fresh;
  • Providing plenty of verbal encouragement and positivity;
  • Setting achievable goals and keeping instructions clear and concise;
  • Asking students open-ended questions so they have to engage and think for themselves; and
  • Keeping a consistent routine and pattern of learning.

The experience of ADHD is often to make students feel that learning is not for them.  This can become a bigger problem the longer the condition is left undiagnosed. Working with a tutor on the same curriculum that is studied at school, but in the way that the individual student needs to learn, is a great way to break the negative cycle and to build confidence and a love of learning.

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