Why Is Remote Schooling Taking Me So Much Time? A guide for teens with ADHD and slow processing speed

teens with ADHD and slow processing speed

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the face of schooling, and if you are a teenager with ADHD, it has probably made it more difficult. Remote schooling provides minimal structure and is often less interactive. Online classes often require more busywork, rather than interesting assignments. Many teachers speak very fast in their online instruction, and it is difficult to ask them for further explanations. And because there is far less instructional time than in regular school, teachers expect you to do more on your own. 

If you are a teenager with ADHD and do not rush through your assignments, you might notice that homework that is expected to take less than an hour is taking you two hours or more to complete. In a regular classroom, teachers can help you to get started if you’re not sure where to begin or even modify the amount of work they expect from you. But these accommodations are more difficult in the remote learning that is taking place during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, many teenagers who have been diagnosed with ADHD also have difficulty with executive functions. These self-management skills can improve your efficiency with work completion. Many teenagers acknowledge their struggles with executive functions such as time management (being unable to recognize how long a task might take) or organization (being unable to recognize what materials they will need to complete their work). 

You may have been diagnosed with ADHD and do not understand why it is so difficult to get your work done in a timely fashion. Remote learning has made this inability worse for many teens with ADHD. These teens report struggling to complete their work on time without their teachers in the classroom to keep them focused and help maintain their attention and effort. This might be an indication of slow processing of information, which is seen in about 60% of teenagers with ADHD, and might be more noticeable to you now because of the nature of remote online learning.

Prior to the coronavirus quarantine, classroom accommodations and caring teachers were able to help many students with ADHD perform to the best of their ability. Even so, many of these teens and college students still find it difficult to keep up with the pace of taking notes, completing tests in a timely fashion, and finishing their homework on time. While these same students are usually very capable and intelligent, they may put themselves down and feel inadequate. Many of you who have encountered such difficulties may be experiencing slow processing speed. While it may take you a bit longer to do simple tasks such as writing your notes, reading a book chapter, or doing math computation, you do very well when given enough time – or with the help of technologies or effective cognitive skills. 

In many ways, the worst thing about slow processing speed is that it can make kids feel dumb and not as good as their peers. But you can get to work on compensating for slow processing speed when you understand what it is and learn about the causes and impact of this. During remote schooling it may be more difficult to compensate for slow processing speed, but when the pandemic is over, you will be able to put yourself in situations where slow processing speed has little or no impact. First, though, you need to know more about it.

The following articles were written for teens and college students to help with 

understanding strategies and tools to improve processing speed and developing workarounds that minimize the impact of slow processing speed:

Slow Processing Speed: What Does This Mean For My Teen? Written for parents and teens about the impact of slow processing speed.

Using Videos to Explain Slow Processing Speed to Kids. A collection of videos that explain the nature of slow processing speed.

What Causes Slow Processing Speed? Describes the neuroscience of slow processing speed, with links to the basic references. 

Working Memory, Processing Speed, and Taking Notes: The Kitchen Sink. Details the relationship between working-memory skills and processing speed.