5 Tips to Increase Your ADHD Student's Motivation to Study

parenting kids with adhd

For students with ADHD, getting started on studying can be the most difficult part of the process. However, there are ways to increase motivation that are effective with ADHD students. Read on for some specific tips.

ADHD Students and Motivation

It can be very difficult to motivate your student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to study. ADDitude Magazine suggests that this is because ADHD makes it difficult to think about future consequences, such as a grade on a paper or test that is a week away, or a cumulative grade in a course.

According to C8 Sciences, most students with ADHD cannot generate motivation on their own. Motivating your student may be the most frustrating aspect of getting him or her to study; however, there are motivation techniques that don't require incessant nagging or frequent breakdowns.


Motivation Tips

One: Know Your Child

At the core of all tips regarding motivating ADHD students to study is knowing your child. Each of the following tips requires that you adapt it to best suit your child.

Study Schedule

Some study tips include the importance of entering every part of the study time, including breaks, into a planner or smartphone calendar. This is a great idea, but you need to know in advance if your student requires more time for certain subjects or gets frustrated by some projects. This will help you tailor the use of a planner or smartphone to best suit his or her needs. Additionally, if a student gets overwhelmed by numerous calendar entries, this might not be the best strategy for him or her.


Study Location

When considering study locations, where does he or she work best? Many sources suggest the kitchen table, but if it faces a window or dinner preparations cause distractions, it might not be the best spot. Some students need white noise, and others work better with music.

Study Breaking Point

Many ADHD sources also mention the breaking point and knowing when it occurs. If your student is headed for a meltdown or has hit a wall, it might be time to call it a day to preserve everyone's wellbeing.

Two: Offer Study Rewards

ADHD students are concerned with the now, and some research suggests that offering a reward can be helpful in motivating them to study, as it provides immediate gratification. Rewards can take many different forms and be adapted for multiple age groups.

Healthy Family Magazine proposes that if you are quizzing your student with flashcards, let him or her keep the ones answered correctly and offer a reward for a certain number of cards. WebMD suggests giving your student poker chips when homework or other assignments are completed, and then letting him or her trade it in for television or video game time.


PsychCentral mentions the Daily Report Card, which can be adjusted for different ages and target behaviors and used with your child's teacher's assistance. Just remember, the point of giving a reward is to encourage a student to keep going, so make sure that he or she can reach the goal that you set.

Three: Make Changes to Study Habits

There are so many ways to study that whatever your student enjoys, something can be found that fits with his or her interests and attention span.

Several sources, including Oxford Learning, suggest that allowing your student to squeeze a stress ball while he or she studies might help with the need to move around. Some students learn best by pacing or sitting on a balance ball while studying.

Besides allowing your student to release energy while studying, change how it happens. The Healthy Family Magazine article mentioned earlier suggests practicing spelling words while playing catch, or letting your student quiz you for a change.


Many studies suggest using a timer, which ADHD Kids Rock uses to both break up study time and as a challenge to see how many math problems can be done before the time expires.

As mentioned before, each child is different, so know what he or she enjoys and adjust study time to play to a student's strengths. Even adults know that it takes a lot less motivation to do something fun rather than something tedious.

Four: Focus on the Positive

Ann Dolin at Impact ADHD emphasizes that the result is not nearly as important as the process involved. Developing good study habits starts with praising your student for efforts made to improve, not just the score earned on an assignment.

Any improvement is worth noting, and grades are not the most important aspect, according to Dolin. She notes that studies have shown that when students are praised for their efforts, their study skills improve, and consequently their grades improve as well.


Five: Structure Breaks

Breaks are important in many ways for ADHD students; they give them a tangible end time and allow them to burn off energy and recharge. For example, let your student get up and pace, or run around outside for ten minutes. Students are more likely to focus if they have a chance to release some pent-up energy. You can also combine breaks and rewards: follow up 20 minutes of good study time with a short walk or quick game.

Break Down Tasks

Many studies suggest breaking down larger tasks into more manageable portions. For example, submitting an essay by the following week can seem like a large and overwhelming task. However, organizing the assignment into a series of daily mini-tasks, such as an outline and an introductory paragraph, can make the assignment more manageable. And if you think an outline may take an hour, think about breaking it down into 15-minute work segments.

The WebMD article mentioned earlier also suggests switching focus and returning to a subject if it is overwhelming. Your student will likely come back to it with renewed energy after having had some time away from it.

Break for Water

Dr. Maggie Wray at Creating Positive Futures notes that attention can be impacted by not having enough water. So make sure your student takes breaks for water as well.


Final Thoughts

While motivating ADHD students can be difficult, these five tips can make studying more effective and enjoyable for everyone. Remember that long-term planning can be difficult, so break down large tasks and offer tangible rewards. Praise your student for his or her efforts, not the final grade, and make learning fun. By adapting these tips to your specific child, you can increase his or her motivation to study and make the process more enjoyable for both you and your student.

By Michelle Garrigan-Durant
January 2017

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