What Does the New Quadmester System and In-Class Versus online Learning Mean for Secondary School ADHD Students?

Written by Heidi Bernhardt R.N.

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What exactly is this new “quadmester” system?

Instead of two semesters there will be four semesters in this 2020/2021 school year in Ontario. Two subjects will be taken per semester with each semester lasting approximately ten weeks. Students may choose in school learning or remote learning before each quadmester. If students choose in- class learning versus complete remote learning, they will be in school for approximately 2.5 hours per day, two days out of five one week and three out of five the next week. After their in-class sessions they will be expected to complete their day learning online. The days of the week that they are not in school will be spent in online learning.     

How might these changes impact our students with ADHD?

There may be a slight benefit for students with ADHD in this quadmester system because they will only need to focus on two courses at a time, rather than four. This means less juggling of multiple assignments, which is a challenge for many students with ADHD and executive functioning impairments. A more concentrated learning schedule will require a faster moving curriculum which depending on the student may be a benefit or drawback. Some students will find it difficult to keep pace requiring additional time to process and integrate new concepts. Others with ADHD who find classes too slow and boring may actually do better when classes move at a quicker pace. However, this faster pace will mean that if a student misses a day or two due to illness, they will most likely become overwhelmed fearing that they will never be able to catch up.

For most students with ADHD the expectation that they sit and listen to lecture style teaching for extended periods of time with minimal breaks will cause a problem. In addition, many of our students need to move frequently which will undoubtedly be even more restricted than usual. This will further reduce their attentional capabilities and may lead to more shifting of position, tapping, squirming etc., causing them to be unintentionally more disruptive. Also, the new schedule of moving from in-class learning to online learning at the end of the day and through the week will be difficult for students with ADHD. Consistency of routine is a necessity for those with ADHD.

Tips for students with ADHD and their parents on navigating this new quadmester system.

  • Anticipate that you may need additional accommodations for this system. Be proactive. Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed to ask for help.
  • Think about your learning style. Do you need more time to process and integrate new material? If so, notify your teacher and ask that they set up a time to check in with you every week to ensure that you are on track.
  • Have them help you chunk and time-manage your assignments.
  • Find out how the teacher wants to be notified about missed day and how they plan to bring students who are forced to miss days up to speed.    
  • Do you need to move while in class? What provisions can the school make for you to be able to move in place (stress balls etc.?) or, move within the classroom (pace at the back of the class?)
  • Develop a plan with your parents and teacher on how you will transition between class and online learning. Will you have an extended break when you get home and then get online? If so, agree on time to do so. Perhaps the walk home is enough of a break and immediately continuing online allowing you to finish your day is the best option for you.
  • Develop a schedule and a place for you to learn online and stick to it.
  • Access CADDAC’s Online Learning for Children and Adolescents with ADHD to explore benefits and drawbacks of online learning and tips for requesting accommodations.  
  • Remember that if you have opted for either the online or in-class option and find it too difficult, you may switch your option for the next semester. The school will need to be notified a minimum of two weeks prior to the new semester.
  • If you are having difficulty remembering new routines and navigating new school rules due to Covid during in-school learning access, Tips for Parents of Students with ADHD  returning to School During Covid.
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