Best Practice

Autism and ADHD: Addressing three barriers to learning

The vast majority of teachers in mainstream secondary schools will be supporting autistic and ADHD pupils. Dr Pooky Knightsmith offers advice and tips to help you overcome three common barriers to learning

In order for ADHD and autistic students to truly enjoy and engage with school, there are a series of common barriers that need to be recognised and responded to.

In this article, I will address each in turn, considering both the student’s experience within the classroom without adjustments and adaptations and then exploring how small changes might make a big difference to their ability to thrive in your class.

I consider the following three barriers: sensory overwhelm, executive function, and working with others.


1, Sensory overwhelm

Many ADHD/autistic students will have heightened sensory processing which can make the classroom feel like a pretty overwhelming place. I always liken it to trying to do your homework in a nightclub.

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