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Blog

ADHD and Critical Thinking: Can skills improve?

People with ADHD and thinking skills?  It’s tough… how about critical thinking?  It’s tough, but there are strategies.

Critical thinking uses working memory to think and solve problems.  It requires learners to recall previous information, training the brain during the process.  It recognizes the changes as a result of  greater demands.

The United States ranks 24th of 29 developed nations in critical-thinking assessments.  With executive functioning deficiencies, people with ADHD are especially vulnerable.  This occurs regardless of intelligence.

To develop as thinkers, students with ADHD must pass through stages of development in critical thinking.  Parents and teachers must recognize that improvements occur through proper cultivation.  This takes place and must be tested in both the classroom and everyday life.

  • Lacks common sense.
  • Doesn’t think for self.
  • “Freezes” under pressure.
  • No filter for speaking.
  • Poor working memory due to distractions.

Memorization is the cornerstone of critical thinking.  In fact, some research correlates working memory with IQ and problem-solving ability.  Students who struggle with learning processes, like those with ADHD, face many challenges.  Their tendency toward distraction can lead to a weakened ability to think about problems.

Evidence shows that there is weak brain function in both the left and right hemispheres.  Extra help and support that targets and strengthens the areas of delay allows students to catch up with their peers.  It also increases opportunities to experience new learning success.

Situational variability is based in specific tasks or circumstances.  Students claim that “I get it,” but they really don’t.  This results from weaknesses in thinking critically about problems.  Providing a structured, organized learning environment is the key to developing understanding.

  • Recognize common reading fallacies.
  • Identify relevant information.
  • Create categories and classify items appropriately.
  • Analyze analogies.
  • Distinguish between evidence and interpretations of evidence.

Critical thinking impacts the workplace as answers come from within, not from books.  Using lists provides structure in the midst of chaos.  It also provides a set order to follow, reducing drifting focus.

While workers with ADHD often feel alone, success results from human interaction.  Collaborating with co-workers helps to provide a foundation upon which to support subsequent ideas.  Checking in at scheduled intervals will help to ensure progress.

There has been some discussion that critical thinking cannot be taught in a traditional manner.  In fact, many people think logically without formal instruction in logic.  Because of the strengths and challenges associated with ADHD, they can make better improvement when they are forced to explain how they solve problems.  Keeping an open mind encourages creativity as well.

Parents can take a positive role in improving critical thinking abilities.  Teens and young adults with ADHD are notorious when it comes to arguing.  Turn it into a “teachable moment” by teaching the art of debate.  Encourage reasoning about ethical, moral, and public policy issues.

Critical thinking is about curiosity, flexibility, and keeping an open mind.  The key is to focus on the process, not on the destination.  Practicing by doing creates a foundation upon which to build further skills.  While you are in a role of authority, avoid pushing dogma by including reasons as well.

“Our kids” talk about fairness.  How do they ask, or is it tell?

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