What it’s like to have ADHD during a remote semester

Fourth-year student Alex Gagne has ADHD and finds himself jumping between five different ideas throughout one conversation. (Matthew Daigle/AQ)

Remote classes have shifted the way students learn and some students with ADHD are finding classes harder to adjust to. 

Michelle Chisholm, St. Thomas University’s accessibility advisor, said the students’ accessibility centre caters to each individual, such as those with ADHD, and treats them on a case-by-case basis.

“When working with clients at STU, we take a client’s experiences and their medical professional’s opinion into account when supporting them,” said Chisholm.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said ADHD has three common types: inattentive, hyperactive, and combined. The CDC said inattentive ADHD often presents as disorganization or becoming easily distracted, while hyperactive individuals are impulsive, restless and tend to fidget. 

STU accessibility advisor Michelle Chisholm said the accessibility centre caters to each individual on a case-by-case basis. (Submitted)

Chisholm said a notable factor in students with ADHD is not necessarily physical manifestations, but overactive thoughts.

Alex Gagne, a fourth-year political science and Great Books major at STU, has ADHD. He said he finds himself jumping between five different ideas throughout one conversation.

“It’s so much more an effect on your mind compared to your body, even though people only see the body,” said Gagne.

Gagne finds the lack of structure in asynchronous learning frustrating. Gathering with classmates while studying helps to keep him focused, but COVID limitations on campus make this difficult.

“Most people that are any level of neurodivergent, whether it be ADHD or other things, need a very structured lifestyle, and asynchronous learning really throws off that structure,” said Gagne.

Emily Frost, a fourth-year Native studies student at STU who has inattentive ADHD, said she is lucky with her professor Roland Chrisjohn. Frost said she is able to speak one-on-one with Chrisjohn which adds structure and eliminates distractions. 

Though Frost is registered with student accessibility services, she does not like the connotation ADHD receives when called a learning disability. Frost said it is not an impediment to learning but trouble focusing.

“A lot of times we get diagnosed as being dumb, but it’s just different. We’re extremely intelligent when it comes to things that are interesting to us.”

Chisholm said it’s important to note, not all students with ADHD are struggling in this new environment. Student accessibility offers a student success coach where ADHD students can find help with time management.

Frost and Gagne said time management is an issue in their online learning. Both find they lack the motivation to start lectures or keep up with readings.

“In order to remain highly functional, you need routine,” said Frost.