Seven Crucial Tips to overcome learning challenges

When I was in the third grade, I suddenly switched from top of my school class to the bottom.  My ADHD turned on.

I had long believed the trigger was from trauma I had recently experienced.  But it was simply because of my age.  ADHD symptoms typically show in children during third grade.

human brain on white background

This article contains both tips and resources (click on hyperlinks).  It is for those with ADHD.  But I have seen some of these hints work for people with dyslexia and dyscalculia.  And, really, all of us can benefit: most people have someone in their lives with these challenges.

Some of the suggestions are simple.  Some require complete restructuring of your life and relationships.

I.  Chop tasks into smaller chunks

In the past, I did scientific research in social sciences.  But my papers made no sense, because the writing did not flow.  The research and theories were solid.  But editors could understand what I wrote.  So I developed an 8-step process:

  1. type a first draft and print it.
  2. cut each sentence out of the pages with scissors.
  3. place each individual sentence slip on a large table in a quiet part of the university library.
  4. rearrange the slips until the paragraph made sense.
  5. tape it all together with cellophane tape, and take it back to my office.
  6. in the office, edit the soft copy to match the new structure.
  7. edit sentences, which is easier after the paragraphs are understandable.
  8. if necessary: print, cut with scissors, and rearrange again.

This might seem excessive, but it was key to my moving forward.

Do you struggle to complete tasks?  Is logical flow difficult?  Then chop up your tasks into smaller sub-tasks.

Is writing a speech difficult?  Then don’t write a speech.  Just write an amazing introduction to a speech.  Then write down 3 sub-topics, and write a short speech for each of them.  Then write a one-sentence summary of each of those sub-topics.  Put those one-sentence summaries together, and you have a conclusion.  Then, ask for help with transitions and with other sentences to fill out the structure.

II.  Create an environment of support

If someone in your life cannot be patient with your unique work style, throw that person out.  If a person does not value your strengths, walk away.  Toss out all prejudiced professionals and educators.  The following articles share some insights:

Examples of negative issues found in the blog world: attitudes of education authorities in the UK are worrying many people.  And some people describe ADHD as a mental illness rather than as a learning challenge, because children with ADHD often act up.  This worries me.  Stigmatizing ADHD merely makes the situation more difficult for those who are challenged.

Another idea: you might need a job with more structure, as with this young woman.

III.  Develop a growth mindset

Carol Dweck’s research has now become famous.  I read her book about 7 years ago, and now teach my children in a completely different way.

Apparently some people believe their success is based on innate ability.  This is called a fixed mindset.

Others believe their success is based on hard work, learning, training, and grit.  This is called a growth mindset.

Fixed-mindset people dread failure because it will expose their basic inabilities. (People will realize the person is not as talented as claimed.)  Growth mindset individuals, however, don’t mind failure.  They realize performance can be improved.  They realize learning comes from failure.

Your personal learning challenge might be either inborn or might result from injury.  But you can view your challenge as an opportunity and commit to grow with it.

Many extremely creative people, such as serial entrepreneur Dave Neeleman, are grateful for their learning challenges.  They believe that learning challenges enhance their abilities.

Learning challenges are not disabilities.  They are ASSETS.

IV.  Consider medication (as a last resort)

Parents and health care providers often agonize over whether to medicate or not.  A good article can be found here.  The article is written by people who prescribe medication, but addresses the wrestle.  As mentioned above, some prefer to keep their challenge. Some people believe their learning challenges makes them function better.  They refuse medication.

V.  Improve brain function as much as possible

A. Eat right

We have long believed that the brain can affect your digestive system.  But more recent research indicates the opposite is also true.  The situation in your gut can affect mood, such depression.  Johns Hopkins researchers have been studying the issue.  Others postulate that not only mood, but brain function, can be improved by eating right to improve the digestive system. Probiotics and prebiotics are recommended.

B. Fast

A potential shift may come from research on intermittent fasting.  Research is still early, but it seems that fasting promotes the growth of nerves in the brain, and encourages BDNF stands for Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein that enhances brain health.

B. Get more sleep

Sleep time is when the brain heals.  See this article.

C. Strive to heal PTSD, which is common among those with learning challenges.  EMDR is a treatment endorsed by the U.S. government for combat veterans.

We now know that PTSD shrinks the hippocampus part of the brain, making it hard to distinguish between past and present memories.  We also know that aerobic exercise increases the function of the hippocampus.  So perhaps anyone with PTSD shuld immediately start an exercise program.   Even brisk walking can help.

VI.  Consider that you might have two or more challenges

Apparently 40% of dyslexics have ADHD.

If you do face multiple challenges, the compound effect of both challenges might require more workarounds.  But you might have more opportunity with your creative mind.  Finding the challenges is a challenge, however.  ADHD is extremely difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms can be caused by many other things.

VII.  Lay off electronics

Use of electronics such as smartphones can increase risk of developing ADHD symptoms, according to research by Adam Leventhal at USC.

So I have been a bit contradictory: ADHD is good, but you should try to overcome it, etc.  So to conclude, this is my belief: learning challenges should be overcome as much as possible, without obliterating them through medication.  This is because they have benefit.  Embrace but curb the challenge.  The struggle to overcome itself builds competencies.