Tutoring an ADHD Child

When you are the parent of a child with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), you are used to accommodating your child’s needs in unique ways. School can be a significant challenge for many students who are dealing with ADHD, and some help beyond what a parent or a classroom teacher can provide may be needed. You may consider hiring a tutor, but there are some things to consider in this type of situation.

The goals of tutoring may be different with a student with ADHD

ADD, ADHD, and executive functioning coach Jonathan Carroll shares that tutoring can be very helpful for students with ADHD, but it is important to find the right tutor. In most tutoring partnerships, the benchmark for success is usually related to seeing the child get better grades on their schoolwork. When the situation involves a child with ADHD, however, the goalposts likely need to be moved.

With an ADHD student, it’s more than likely that the problem is not so much the child not understanding the subject, but that they are disorganized or are not following the teacher’s instructions. In this case, a tutor’s services are likely best spent working build academic skills that will help beyond the current homework assignment. You will want to talk with your potential tutor or tutoring agency to see how he or she typically measures success in a tutoring partnership, to see if they can think outside the box a bit.

A tutor needs to tailor their strategies for the individual child

Many of the strategies that can help a teacher succeed with a student with ADHD can apply to a tutoring relationship as well. ADHD Kids Rock! details that teachers or tutors need to look beyond the subjects or the ADHD and work to understand the individual student. Every student learns in different ways, but kids with ADHD may need a particularly individualized approach that is also flexible. Learning should be fun and capture your child’s attention, and sometimes this means presenting the material in a creative way such as this real estate scenario.

Ask your tutoring agency how they prepare their tutors for working with ADHD children. Will the tutors be encouraged to structure a session that has a predictable routine, but that also allows for movement? Many kids with ADHD are better able to succeed if they can do things like take a short walk during the session or sit on a yoga ball or in a rocking chair.

Successful tutors may need to break tasks down so that there are small goals and expectations that will set the student up for success. Keep the task, and the amount of time allocated to it, small, and build upon those successes. Consistency to allow for predictability is important, and a tutor should be prepared to create a learning area that is tailored to the student’s needs. Psych Central notes that this likely means settling in a quiet area without noise or distractions.

Aim for a tutor who has worked with students like your child previously

As you talk with potential tutors or agencies, ask about their experience working with students dealing with ADHD. Do they understand how an ADHD child may have deficits in Executive Functioning that need to be addressed?  Some companies, like HomeworkCoach, start with an Executive Functioning assessment. A tutor who can successfully work with kids with ADHD needs to be patient, encouraging, and organized, but also consistent and able to set realistic expectations with specific goals.

Tutoring can be a valuable asset in helping a child succeed in school, but tutoring for a child with ADHD needs a more specialized approach than what may work with other students. Ask potential tutors or agencies how they will approach working with your child and choose one who can demonstrate that they have strategies for helping these children succeed. Finding just the right fit may seem like a significant challenge, but the outcomes can be substantial if you are able to find the right match.

Kathleen Carter is a researcher at EducatorLabs.org, a group that is dedicated to providing a resource bank to educators and students. It’s their mission to assist teachers in finding valuable resources for classroom use.