Transitioning to STEM Toolkit for Students and Adults With ADHD or Learning Disabilities – Free Tips and Resources

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 9 percent of U.S. children suffer from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Current research also indicates 70% of children with ADHD also have learning disabilities, which may hinder academic and career success. However, this difference in the way these children process information may be why many thrive in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. 

The basic principles that inform STEM education – design thinking and creative problem-solving — are also conducive to successfully working with children who have ADHD, says Parentology. This is in part because students with ADHD tend to be able to reason problems out intuitively, without having to practice a conscious reasoning process, according to Moreover, the creative and design-oriented nature typically seen in children with ADHD and learning disabilities may lend itself well to STEM’s core methodologies.

Using the resources in this article, parents, caregivers, teachers, and early childhood educators can connect youth with ADHD or learning disabilities with STEM education opportunities. Additionally, resources are available to help adults with ADHD and learning disabilities transition to the STEM workforce.

STEM Tips for Teaching Students With ADHD or Learning Disabilities

When teaching students with ADHD or learning disabilities, it can be challenging for parents and teachers to know where to begin. In order to assist you with this process, we have shared some tips below.

1. Engage Students With Learning Apps

Learning apps can be lifelines for students struggling with reading, writing, math, time management, and other challenges according to ADDitude Magazine. Using apps to help learn how to manage time, improve memory, organize information, and process information can be highly beneficial for students with ADHD or learning disabilities.

2. Use Fun Games and Activities

Learning how to recognize, match, and manipulate patterns is an essential early STEM skill for learners of all abilities. Activities and games can be a great way to introduce these concepts to learners. To help you get started, Careers With Stem has outlined a number of easy STEM activities for students with developmental disabilities

3. Try Classroom-Based Intervention Strategies

Students with ADHD can become disruptive in class, through no fault of their own. It is best to practice patience, try to understand the root cause, and refocus the student’s attention, says Stem Jobs. The educational system puts a great deal of stress on teachers to cover standards and prepare students for tests, so classroom disruptions can be frustrating. Make sure to remember that a child’s behavior may result from their disability, not a choice. This Considerations Packet by William and Mary School of Education can help you get started with classroom interventions for teaching students with ADHD. 

Free STEM Resources for Students With ADHD or Learning Disabilities

STEM Grants, Awards, and Scholarships for Those Living with ADHD or Learning Disabilities

  1. Gemm Learning Dyslexia/Auditory Processing Disorder Scholarship: Gemm Learning provides an undergraduate scholarship to students with dyslexia and/or auditory processing disorder attending college/university in the U.S. and Canada.
  2. Joseph James Morelli Legacy Foundation Scholarship: This foundation provides a STEM scholarship for individuals with a demonstrated learning challenge.
  3. The Student Award Program of FSD: This program helps to increase opportunities in STEM for students with disabilities.

STEM Events and Camps 

  1. Audubon Nature Camps: National Audubon Society offers a wide variety of Nature Camps across the country. Their next camp, Wild Birds Pathways to Nature, will begin taking applications in April 2022.
  2. Vision Tech Camps: Vision Tech offers camps for kids ages 7–17 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Camp topics include robotics, programming, Minecraft, and more.
  3. Digital Media Academy Adventures Camp: The award-winning camps offered by Digital Media covers everything from cartoon creation, to computer coding, to advanced robotics with LEGO® EV3. The camps are designed for children aged between 8 and 12.
  4. Engineering for Kids: Engineering for Kids is a company focused on educating kids aged 4–14. It offers a variety of STEM programs, including in-school field trips, birthday parties, workshops, and camps.
  5. iD Tech Camps: The sky’s the limit at iD Tech’s day and overnight camps. Children can make their own video game, program their own app, or even code in Java.
  6. Cosmophere Camps: At Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center (KAOS), the Smithsonian’s affiliated center offers fun flight and space adventure camps.
  7. Destination Science Camp: Children can learn about robots, build a digital music system, train a chameleon, or even prepare a mission to the moon during the summer. This camp is held at 130 locations in six states.
  8. KinderCare® Summer Camps: KinderCare has a variety of programs for pre-K through high school-aged kids, including “wacky wet science of water” and “survival skills.”
  9. Science Explorers: Sharks and submarines, potions and slime, castles, catapults, and everything else children love, these science-based summer camps have just the activity to make learning STEM fun. Programs are offered in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
  10. Snapology: Snapology partners with schools around the country to offer STEM programs, contests, and camps. The programs are interactive, which allows kids to learn through hands-on instruction and play. Programs are offered in a number of different formats, including after school, on weekends, and over the summer.

Note: It is recommended that parents contact camps to discuss how each organization can accommodate their child’s needs and facilitate the best experience possible.

STEM Support Organizations

  1. AccessSTEM: AccessSTEM helps students with disabilities excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and reach critical milestones along their pathway.
  2. National Science Teaching Association (NSTA): The NSTA is a vibrant community of 40,000 science educators and professionals committed to best practices in teaching science and its impact on student learning.
  3. Actua: This STEM outreach organization has a list of helpful resources, including a recently published article, ”Delivering Accessible STEM Education to Youth with Disabilities During a Pandemic.”

Free STEM Games and Apps 

  1. Machine Learning for Kids: This is a free tool that trains a learning algorithm to recognize text, words, images, or numbers/sets.
  2. CoolMath4Kids: CoolMath4Kids is a great resource for kids who love playing games. It combines education with gaming activities to deliver extra mathematical fun.
  3. Evolution Simulator: The browser-based evolution simulator allows users to practice game-based AI learning.
  4. BrainPOP Jr.: Do you like mathematics? Want to be able to calculate numbers quickly? BrainPOP has all the tips and tricks to get better with numbers.
  5. Minecraft Educational Edition: Children can now learn the basics of coding and AI through Minecraft.
  6. Kids Do Ecology: This game can help children learn about biomes, blue whales, and data collecting. They can even create their own classroom experiment.
  7. Funbrain: Funbrain is sorted by grade level and has great mathematical resources for your pre-K through middle school kids.
  8. PBS SciGirls: These short videos follow a group of middle school girls who are designing and building STEM projects.

STEM Tips for Adults With ADHD or Learning Disabilities

Individuals with ADHD or learning disabilities may also encounter additional obstacles in the job market, especially in competitive STEM fields. The tips below may make the transition easier and help you more successfully navigate a STEM job search.

1. Take Advantage of Various Support Services

There are a number of advocacy and support groups for individuals with ADHD and learning disabilities that can aid you during your job search. These services provide everything from free job training to job placement services. It can also be helpful to attend networking events that specialize in hiring people with disabilities if you are looking for companies with excellent facilities and support.

Free Resources for Networking in STEM

  1. Inclusion Matters Networking Opportunities: This resource page from Northern Power Inclusion Matters shares a list of networking opportunities for STEM professionals with a disability. 
  2. STEM and Disability Symposium: The University of Toronto has created a symposium to broaden participation of persons with disabilities in STEM fields through dialogue while increasing knowledge of the strategies to respond to perceived barriers in STEM.

Job Accommodation Networks and Groups 

  1. Job Accommodation Network: JAN: The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) refers to itself as the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on job accommodations and disability employment issues.
  2. Discover Ability Network: The Discover Ability Network is an online portal where job seekers with disabilities and employers can connect. 

2. Identify the Accommodations You Need 

Today’s employers are legally required to provide all employees with reasonable accommodations to be able to perform their job responsibilities. Perhaps you require repetition of information during the interview process, or additional time for answering questions. Forbes recommends letting new or potential employers know about these needs up front, as this gives them the time and ability to make reasonable accommodations.

Free Accommodation Resources 

  1. How to Request Disability Accommodations During a Job Search: This article by The Muse shares advice on requesting disability accommodations during a job search. 
  2. A to Z of Disabilities and Accommodations: Explore an in-depth guide to disabilities and accommodations, with filters by disability, limitation, accomodation, and more. 
  3. Sample Language for Accommodation Request Letters: This article by the Job Accommodation Network shares a list of sample language that you can use in an accommodation request letter.

3. Understand Disability Disclosure

In the event that you have a learning disability that does not require accommodations or affect your ability to perform the functions of the job, you are under no legal obligation to disclose your disability to a prospective employer, says Monster. Find out what you should share, and when to share it, with the help of these disclosure resources. 

Disclosure Resources (What to Disclose vs. What Not to Disclose)

  1. Should You Disclose a Disability on Your Resume?: This article by Monster discusses whether you should disclose a disability on a resume. 
  2. Tips About Disclosure — Discover Ability Network: The Discover Ability Network also offers a list of helpful tips about disability disclosure. 

4. Plan Your STEM Job Search

Searching for a STEM job can be challenging, but it’s a worthwhile process for those professionals who are passionate about their field. Move your job search along with these tips on how to plan your STEM job search and enhance your professional presentation.

Free Resources for STEM Job Search Planning 

  1. Resume Tips for a Person With a Disability: This article by Disability Access shares a list of helpful resume tips for those with a disability engaged in a job search. 
  2. Five Tips for Job Hunting With a Disability: Find out how to job hunt with a disability with these tips from Monster. 
  3. How Workers With Disabilities Can Successfully Job Search: This resource from AARP explains how workers with a disability can be successful in their job search. 
  4. How to Use Your Disability as a Strength When Applying For Jobs: This article by The Guardian offers advice on presenting a disability as an advantage when applying for jobs. 

The inclusion of these resources is for educational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement by UT Austin Boot Camps.

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