5 Ways to Accommodate Tutoring for a Child with ADHD

What is ADHD?

ADHD (Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder) is a mental disorder that causes a person to have difficulty controlling their attention, executive functions, and impulsive behaviors. ADHD looks different depending on the individual, but a person with ADHD usually has difficulty paying attention when spoken to, cannot sit for an extended time without moving, talks excessively, loses or misplaces items often, and has a hard time completing chores. A key factor about ADHD is that the person does not have a lack of attention but, instead, an inability to manage their attention span. Many people with ADHD can intently focus on tasks they find interesting – even hyper-focusing (staying so focused on a task/interest that they ignore other needs), but cannot remain diligent for unfulfilling activities. 

Most people with ADHD are diagnosed in their early childhood. Symptoms usually become prominent once school is introduced and the child cannot use the organization needed for academic success and the self-control necessary for classroom behavior. However, some children may show signs of ADHD before they enter school in the form of emotional or behavioral issues. Throughout early academics, a child with ADHD will likely be forgetful and unorganized. They may forget to complete assignments frequently, lose schoolwork, overlook details, make seemingly careless mistakes, and avoid tasks that require a lengthy attention span (essays, school projects). Behaviorally, many children with ADHD find it difficult to conform to classroom expectations and have positive interactions with their peers. They may leave their seat when not allowed, talk excessively, frequently interrupt, have difficulty taking turns, intrude on others, and be constantly “on the go.” They may develop social anxiety due to their difficulty with social interaction or feel an underlying anxiety and restlessness. 

It is important to note that ADHD is unique to each person. There are two primary forms of ADHD: inattentive and hyperactive (some people have a combined form). This means some individuals have more difficulty with inattentive traits (overlooking details, listening and remembering, forgetfulness), and others display mainly hyperactive symptoms (fidgeting, trouble reading social cues, restlessness). Even if a child with ADHD is quiet and shy, they are just as affected by their ADHD as someone showing more visible symptoms. 

How Does ADHD Affect Tutoring?

The individual attention tutoring provides is incredibly valuable for children with ADHD because the academic struggles from their symptoms can be overlooked in a classroom of students. Tutoring is also where students with learning disabilities can learn how to adjust school to their unique needs and advocate for support. However, tutoring can be challenging for any child, so with ADHD, they will likely find it incredibly taxing. 

Working Memory:

A common symptom people with ADHD experience is a weak working memory. Working memory is the ability to retain information as an easily accessible tool. When an individual struggles with working memory, problem-solving skills, digesting new information, and planning, they are all impaired. This means that students with ADHD may not remember instructions given or can work on problem-solving solely using their memory (e.g., mental math or spelling silently). They will likely need instructions given multiple times and reminded of information throughout tutoring.


Behavior management is an essential element of effective learning and is something people with hyperactive ADHD struggle with immensely. Tutoring requires students to remain seated and focused. Students with ADHD may struggle with remaining still and engaged. Not using appropriate speaking volume, talking excessively, blurting out answers, and making impulsive decisions are likely behaviors. 


Remaining attentive is a difficult task for children in the first place, and for a student with ADHD, it is an incredible challenge to stay focused. While attempting to listen to the tutor, the student may appear distracted and need help retaining the information given. They may need help finishing their work due to distraction or have work with careless mistakes. Often, conversations with the student will suddenly jump from one topic to the next and leave issues unresolved. 

Ways to Accommodate

So, how can tutoring be accommodating for students with ADHD? Ideally, the student will be able to learn while also seeing tutoring as a good experience. Here are some tips and tricks to keep the student focused and engaged. 

*Are you a parent? Please talk with your child’s tutor about how they can adjust tutoring sessions for ADHD using these tips.

  1. Structured Lessons

Children with ADHD struggle with organization and will benefit from predictable and consistently structured lessons. Predictability lessens the need for them to remember new instructions and expectations. Tutors can establish routines and expectations from the first session and break down tasks into smaller, digestible steps. A visual schedule outlining each lesson plan is also helpful and can encourage the student to keep on track. 

  1. Multisensory Learning Style

Nontraditional teaching methods can be highly beneficial for neurodivergent students. For instance, engaging multiple senses can help children with ADHD stay focused and remember information. Tutors can use multisensory teaching techniques such as hands-on activities, visual aids, and interactive games. Using fun, new learning methods will encourage students to maintain their attention and interest throughout the session.

  1. Clear Instructions

Lengthy and complex instructions are difficult for children with ADHD to keep track of. Therefore, clear and broken down instructions are highly beneficial for tutoring lessons. Breaking down activities into smaller portions can help children with ADHD stay on track and make their learning much less frustrating. 

  1. Take Breaks

Long tutoring sessions are challenging for children with ADHD. Incorporating breaks into a structured lesson allows students to refocus and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Taking breaks when the student is frustrated is also helpful in keeping a task productive. Short, frequent breaks such as 5 minutes every 20 minutes or a break between activities can transform a lesson from frustration to focus. 

  1. Show Patience and Understanding

The most important way to encourage a child with ADHD to learn is to build a good relationship with them and show them patience. Creating a safe and non-judgemental space where the child feels comfortable is key for them to learn effectively. Keeping firm boundaries, expectations, and consequences while not punishing the child for their ADHD behaviors can be difficult, but it is essential. Fostering trust with the student increases the likelihood of the child choosing to participate in the tutoring process.

Tutoring children with ADHD requires a thoughtful and accommodating approach, and the payoff is entirely worth the effort. Students with ADHD greatly benefit from a structured environment, unique learning techniques, and patience and understanding of their learning disability. All of this combined can significantly impact academic success and the student’s relationship with learning. 

READ Academy is a private school in Sacramento for children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Our sister company, READ Learning Center, offers dyslexia screenings and private after-school tutoring. If you are interested in our services and want to learn more, contact us at (916) 258-2080