Remote Learning & ADHD: How Has Social Isolation Affected Our Children?

The pandemic has without question had an impact on us all, but for school age children, life and learning is completely different to how it used to be. As children are slowly returning to schools, parents across the country are concerned that the extended period of isolation will have had an effect on their performance, concentration and social skills.

Many parents noticing concentration or behavioural concerns in their children are seeking Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) evaluations, to better support them through home learning as well as the return to school. Psychologists have confirmed that the unavoidable lack of consistency and structure during the pandemic may have caused an uptick in instances of ADHD, anxiety and depression in children and young children, so if you are concerned about the wellbeing of your child, we recommend seeking advice from a professional.

What Is ADHD?

Childhood ADHD is an extremely common developmental disorder that will usually last well into adulthood. While some symptoms are barely noticeable, others can have a significant impact on important elements of your child’s life, including their socialisation, behaviour and performance at school. ADHD is generally defined as being a disorder that causes a lack of self control and/or hyperactivity. Common symptoms include:

  • Hyperactivity or restlessness
  • Concentration issues
  • Lack of patience
  • Problems multitasking
  • Being accident prone
  • Struggling to control emotions
  • Inability to follow simple instructions
  • Regular bouts of forgetfulness
  • High levels of stress or anxiety

If you think your child might be exhibiting symptoms of ADHD, it is recommended that you talk to a specialist child ADHD therapist to arrange a children’s ADHD assessment. Alternatively, you may be able to seek ADHD support in UK schools, but the quality of this support will vary, and you may not find personalised guidance for your child’s specific needs.

The Impact Of Social Isolation & Home Learning On Children

Government home learning regulations have been in place since late March 2020, and while there were some short periods of being back in the classroom, it is really over 12 months later that schools are starting to bring children back to school full time. It’s safe to say that home learning and social isolation have caused more than just academic problems – at the beginning of the pandemic, as many as 40% of parents were not able to give their children access to the internet, devices for remote learning or even stationary supplies.

For parents of children with learning difficulties, and the children themselves, home learning will have posed even more of a challenge. Maintaining focus while undergoing a significant routine shift is no easy task, particularly for children with ADHD or other disorders. And while many parents will have been primarily concerned about the impact of this extended isolation on their child’s learning, there is also the resulting loneliness and mental health to consider. Being away from friends, teachers and having to attend classes via video call will have no doubt affected the ways in which children perceive school, and parents across the UK are concerned that their children will struggle to readjust to school routines again.

Children, particularly those with ADHD, rely on structure, organisation and the ongoing support of teachers and peers to succeed at school. Having to stay at home and still be expected to learn with far less structure will have been extremely difficult, and it’s important to remember that many parents will not have had the capacity or facilities to provide a school-like structure for their home learning experience.

How To Help A Child With ADHD

If you’re concerned about how your child may have been impacted by social isolation and home learning during the pandemic, or you think they are showing signs of ADHD or another condition, it is recommended that you seek professional help in addition to any ADHD support available in schools. Below are some additional steps you can take at home to support your child in their learning and development:

1. Limit distractions

As children with ADHD often have concentration difficulties, limiting the distractions available to them while they’re on ‘school time’, or doing homework after school, is vital. If possible, they should be encouraged to work in a room without a television, toys or other temptations in sight.

2. Create structure wherever possible

Having a consistent structure to your child’s home learning activities, homework sessions or reading time, can help them to focus and successfully complete schoolwork. A timetable of activities and regular, timed breaks are just as useful at home as they are at school.

3. Encourage out-loud thinking

As children with ADHD can suffer from a lack of self-control, encouraging them to verbalise their emotions before taking any action can help them to process what they are feeling and manage their behaviour.

4. Stay positive and encouraging

If you have noticed a change in your child’s behaviour and ability to concentrate over the home learning period, it is important to stay positive, and to help them refocus and readapt to school routines. Children are sensitive and can sense your concerns, but they are unlikely to be able to understand why you are worried about them. This sense that something is wrong they don’t quite understand can cause them to experience nervous anxiety or stress. So, maintaining a positive attitude, praising your child and encouraging them every step of the way can make a real difference, and can benefit your mental health as well as theirs.

Mavish Sikander

Mavish Sikander

Mavish is a BABCP Accredited CBT and EMDR Therapist and CBT Clinical Lead at Psymplicity.

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