ADHD As A Special Learning Need & Technology





Every year, I have a student that is either diagnosed as ADHD or undiagnosed and that child poses some curious questions as to how best to meet his/her needs.  Children who are Learning Disabled/Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity may exhibit the following characteristics according to Leons and Gobbo,

“Students with AD/HD are likely to exhibit difficulties in a number of areas related to executive functioning, such as planning, organizing, maintaining focus, and following through on tasks. Moreover, students with AD/HD typically struggle with tasks that require active working memory (Barkley, 1997). In the foreign language classroom, this often results in uneven focus and problems studying independently and consistently, i.e., doing the key work of building competency through out-of-class practice.” (Leons,, p. 43) “In spite of their strong cognitive potential, environmental demands are often a poor match for their learning difficulties.” (Leons,, p. 44)  Therefore, AD/HD students could benefit from goal setting technology as well as supports built into the learning such as text-to-read or Dragon Naturally Speaking software.  This assistive software allows the user to write by using text-to-speech.  In our Universal Design Learning module, we learned that “The burden of adaptation should be put on curricula, not the learner.”  Yet, this is precisely what happens with students who have learning barriers.  Typically, general education teachers feel absolved of the responsibility of teaching a child with needs like this stating that it is the special education teacher’s responsibility or justifying that there isn’t enough time to devote all of his/her attention to the child with special needs.  This is not an option.  If a child is in a teacher’s class (special education or general education) it is that teacher’s obligation and responsibility to meet that student’s needs.

 Some technology that could assist in this area include:


Both of these web 2.0 tools allow the learner to have text-to-speech reading and an embedded talking dictionary.  This is very important because as Leons, Herbert, and Gobbo illustrate, “AD/HD students have difficulty in spelling and reading alongside weak memory, attention and phonological processing.”

     McKinley and Stormont in their article “The School Supports Checklist:  Identifying Support Needs and Barriers For Children With ADHD” claim that “Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are at significant risk for experiencing failure in school.” (McKinley and Stormont, p. 14)  Traditional methods work in opposition to the way that these students learn.  Therefore it is necessary to adjust the curriculum tools to fit the needs of the learner.

Furthermore, Voicethread is an excellent tool to utilize speech and collaboration for students with ADHD.”Important ingredients for learning success in school include the ability to engage and sustain attention, participate actively, maintain high levels of motivation, and complete assigned tasks. Yet many students at risk and students with disabilities experience difficulties in these areas. For example, students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or a learning disability (LD) often struggle with attending in class and completing assignments (Lerner & Johns, 2009). Moreover, students with emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD) often demonstrate low levels of school or task engagement and show little motivation for learning (Lerner & Johns, 2009). Active learning is important for learning success (Lerner & Johns, 2009); yet, educators often consider students at risk or those with disabilities ‘passive learners.’ ” (Brunvand and Byrd, p. 29)  Voicethread is engaging and motivating.  It also helps students to be more independent as they are working through an assignment.  The beauty of a tool like Voicethread is that it is so flexible.  Students can work collaboratively, in small groups, or individually at school or at home.  It’s versatility is shown by the fact that it can be used in virtually any subject and in any environment where a computer is available!

This link will provide student profiles of how Voicethread can benefit students with ADHD.

Voicethread is a win-win in so many ways.  Students with ADHD can work on a single task at a time and eliminate unneeded distractions.  They can work individually or with a small group.  The student is given the opportunity to respond in writing or by speech (ADHD children oftentimes have difficulties in spelling and reading)  Students with ADHD oftentimes have difficulty with working memory but Voicethread would allow the student to refer back to what was learned without relying on either short or long term memory.  The research that supports this idea is from the Foreign Language Annals:  “Students with ADHD are likely to have difficulty with executive functioning (planning, organizing, maintaining focus and following through on tasks. Students with learning disabilities oftentimes have weaknesses in language areas, memory (short and long term) and difficulties in spelling and reading.” (Leons, et. al., p.44)  In addition, Martinussen and Major support this idea in their text “Working memory Weakness in Students With ADHD Implications For Instruction”

“Working memory has been defined as ‘a limited capacity system allowing the temporary storage and manipulation of information necessary for such complex cognitive tasks as comprehension, learning, and reasoning” (Baddeley, 2000, p. 418). For example, when composing a text, the author must keep in mind the overall goals for the text (e.g., the audience) while generating ideas, thinking of how to spell words, and monitoring the text for errors.” (Martinussen & Major, p.69).  By alleviating the need for an ADHD student to “hold information in their heads” Voicethread allows them to put their ideas down immediately and use recorded audio so that the student does not struggle through writing responses.

Web 2.0 tools are just starting to hit the teaching scene and it is exciting to see what benefits they will employ for all of our students!


Brunvand, & Byrd. (n.d.). Using Voicethread To Promote Learning Engagement and Success For All Students.

Leons, E., Herbert, C., & Gobbo, K. (2009). Students With Learning Disabilities and AD/HD in the Foreign Language Classroom: Supporting Students and Instructors. Foreign Language Annals, 42(1), 42-54.

Martinussen, R., & Major, A. (n.d.). Working memory Weakness In Students With ADHD Implications for Instruction. doi: 0.1080/00405841.2011.534943

McKinley, & Stormont. (2008). The School Supports Identifying Support Needs and Barriers for Children With ADHD. Teaching Exceptional Children, 41(2).

 You Tube. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2013, from


2 thoughts on “ADHD As A Special Learning Need & Technology

  1. Pingback: Coping Tips for ADHD | Laura Niederer Counseling

  2. Pingback: LDAWE | My First Blog – How I Learned About ADD/ADHD

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