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Study Skills Tips For Adults With ADHD

23/03/2022
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Anne Betteridge

ADHD Coach & Mental Health Mentor

With contributions from Anne Betteridge, PG Dip in Adult Dyslexia Diagnosis and Support, and author of Chambers Adult Learners’ Guide To Spelling. Anne is an ADHD Coach and Mental Health Mentor at The ADHD Centre. From her work supporting ADHD adults with study skills, she has identified a number of specific challenges to studying with ADHD. You can learn more about Anne here.

It’s not unusual for adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to have difficulties in skills related to learning. In recent years, assistive technology to support people has greatly improved, and our recommendations are listed below. We have also outlined some strategies to support you in overcoming these difficulties and help you to study more effectively.

Assistive Technology

For reading support, Read And Write Gold is text to speech software that reads aloud to you.

For taking notes, you might want to try AudioNotetaker by Sonocent/Glean. This software synchronises note-taking and audio recording.

For writing, you can try voice recognition software. When you speak, you will see your words appear on the screen. Software that does this is developing and improving all the time. Dragon by Nuance is a very popular choice but there are many different options available.

Trello is a planning tool that works a bit like electronic post-it notes and can be really effective for many things, including planning writing. There are editable cards you can write on, colour code, and move around.

For mind mapping, Mindview and Inspiration are popular choices that are worth looking into if you like using visual thinking tools.

Study Skills

There are a number of study skills that ADHD adults may have difficulty with. Here are our top tips to support you with study skills.

Reading

If an adult with ADHD also has dyslexia, this can impair processing speeds and make reading very challenging. ADHD makes concentration and focusing difficult so reading can take a long time. Someone with these difficulties can be very intelligent but they are often reluctant to read.

Reading tips and techniques:

  • Pose questions before starting to read to create a connection to the text.
  • Activate the brain. Prepare by thinking through what is already known about the subject. Students may benefit from their tutors sharing slides with them before lectures.
  • Summarise each paragraph before moving on to the next.
  • Walk and read at the same time if it is safe to do so.
  • Read aloud.

Active Reading Strategies help to make reading more meaningful. These techniques enable greater connection with a text and understanding at a deeper level.

Visual Stress

Visual stress is also known as Scotopic Sensitivity and Meares-Irlen Syndrome. It causes text to look strange on the page and makes it difficult to read. Black print on a white background can be particularly difficult to read. There are a number of ways to support someone with visual stress:

  • Change the background colour of screens.
  • Change the colour and size of the font.
  • Wear tinted glasses and/or use a coloured overlay with tracking lines to keep their place. The most suitable tint colour can be determined by using a Colorimetry Assessment.

Writing

Writing when you have learning difficulties or concentration issues can be extremely laborious. If you’re someone who loathes writing, then here are two ideas to help you:

If you tend to write the same thing over and over again, try making editable templates and re-using them.

You can also use movable cards. This works well as a planning tool for longer pieces of writing and allows you to move away from technology. Using planning cards helps to give clarity to kinaesthetic learners and is often a good starting point for your writing.

Spelling

A spellchecker tool can be helpful but it is not always the best solution. It tends to give a few choices and someone may not know which choice is correct. Also, spellcheckers don’t tend to sense check, so if you insert a wrong word that is spelled correctly but doesn’t make sense, it might not identify an error.

If you know you struggle with spelling, it is a lifelong issue but there are things you can do to help yourself:

  • Ask someone to proofread your writing.
  • To learn how to spell a word forever, you need to break the word up, focus on the difficult part(s) and then find a visual way to remember it.
  • If there are common words you find difficult, you may want to keep a list of these words either in a notebook or on your phone.
  • Use mnemonics to remember spellings. Here is an example for the word rhythm:

Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move.

Mnemonics are more memorable if you say them out loud so try repeating them to other people. Often people find silly and rude ones are easier to remember!

Note-taking

As adults, we often find ourselves note-taking, whether this is in a lecture, meeting or discussion. The key to making useful notes is to find the way that works best for you. Line after line of text on a page might be meaningless for some people, and visual representations such as mind mapping or storyboarding can be helpful if you have ADHD. Mind mapping engages the brain and can help with focus and concentration.

The Cornell Method is also worth considering. It involves breaking up the page into sections and then reviewing and summarising the content.

ADHD and Dyslexia

There’s a 45% overlap in ADHD and other comorbid learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dyspraxia. We have identified the following key indicators and characteristics of people with combined dyslexia and ADHD:

  • Creative
  • Good people skills
  • Reluctant to write at length
  • Difficulties with spelling
  • Good verbal skills
  • Avoids reading
  • Muddles right and left
  • Disliked school/hated having to read aloud
  • Good work ethic
  • Poor short term and working memory

ADHD and Dyspraxia

In a similar way, these are the key indicators of ADHD and dyspraxia that have been identified:

  • Creative
  • Executive function impairment
  • Problem solver, lateral thinker
  • Poor handwriting
  • Speech difficulties
  • Difficulty with one, two or all of: fine motor skills, gross motor skills and balance

Some of these characteristics, such as the executive function impairment overlap with ADHD symptoms and it is often poor handwriting that stands out. Just like ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia can go undiagnosed, especially when they are comorbid with other conditions.

At the ADHD Centre, our specialist coaches can advise you about study skills and help you to work out what style of learning works best for you. It’s important to realise that it’s never too late to learn and maybe the way you learnt at school didn’t suit you.

To learn more about our ADHD Coaching, private ADHD Assessments and evidence-based treatments, please get in touch with The ADHD Centre. You can reach us on 0800 061 4276 or by email at [email protected]

Further Resources

Our guide Practical Tips And Techniques For Students With ADHD is FREE to download.

The book Chambers Adult Learners’ Guide To Spelling by Anne Betteridge has some brilliant techniques that you can work through in your own time.

Crossbow Education for visual stress and dyslexia resources

Dyslexia Box has resources and support for dyslexia in the workplace.

British Dyslexia Association

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