TOOLS: Teaching Online Organizational and Virtual Learning Skills

Joyce Lui

 Attention Magazine December 2021

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TOOLS is a new video series that describes evidence-based strategies for youth with ADHD and their adult supports—parents, caregivers, teachers, and clinicians. These behavioral and organizational strategies are aimed to support learning and academic success for youth with ADHD.

Academic success requires ingredients such as planning, organization, persistence toward long-term goals, and the ability to inhibit or ignore distractions and task-irrelevant activities. The required skill set mirrors challenges often observed in youth with ADHD. Virtual learning places even more demands on their executive functioning given multiple distractions in the home, minimal direct supervision, and the lack of school-based supports through teachers and IEP accommodations.

Recent reports show that youth with ADHD reported more remote learning difficulties than youth without ADHD during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a great need to share evidence-based skills and strategies with families to best support youth with ADHD during virtual learning, and beyond.
The TOOLS series consists of eleven brief, animated videos with downloadable handouts for youth with ADHD and the adults who support them. The content was developed by ADHD expert Andrea Chronis-Tuscano, PhD, and her team at the University of Maryland ADHD Program.

The TOOLS strategies are drawn from decades of science on evidence-based treatments for ADHD, including work done by Dr. Chronis-Tuscano’s team. The strategies described in TOOLS are relevant for both virtual and in-person learning. TOOLS is available in English, Spanish, and Mandarin.


Each video and the accompanying handout describe one skill or strategy relevant for youth with ADHD. The eleven strategies are:

What is Behavioral Activation describes the connection between how the things you do affect the way you feel and think, and shares tips on how to do things that are important and meaningful to you.

How to Use a Calendar System describes tips for setting up a calendar system to plan ahead and stay ahead.

Creating a Home Workspace describes how to set up a space to help you stay focused and organized so you can finish work in less time.

How to Manage Emotions shares tips for how to catch yourself before you get too upset so you can get along better with friends and family.

Tips for Communicating with Parents describes tips for finding the right balance between being independent and asking for help.

Staying Connected with Friends shares creative ways to help you stay connected with friends.

Prioritizing What’s Important describes tips for prioritizing tasks using a to-do list so you don’t miss anything important.

Creating Daily Routines shares tips for turning behaviors into habits so they feel like a natural part of your day.

How to Sleep Better shares tips for healthy sleep habits so you can improve your mood, reduce stress, and be prepared to face the day.

Breaking Down Assignments and Tasks describes how to break down big assignments into smaller steps so they feel less overwhelming.

Tackling Unhelpful Thoughts describes how to help your brain learn more helpful ways of thinking so you are not stuck in low moods, anxiety or stress.

Students, parents, caregivers, teachers, and clinicians who are interested in supporting youth with ADHD are encouraged to watch the videos and download the handouts.

In order to evaluate how helpful these videos are, Dr. Chronis-Tuscano’s team will collect feedback from viewers. Viewers are asked to answer two questions after watching the video (How helpful did you find the video? How likely will you use the skills described in the video?). They will also have the option to complete two brief surveys (one month apart) to provide feedback on the longer-term impact of the videos, such as use of skills and the impact on academic learning over time. Dr. Chronis-Tuscano’s team will also collect Google Analytics metrics to assess the reach of these videos (how many people visited the webpage, how many people clicked on the videos).

To access TOOLS, go to

Joyce Lui, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and assistant research professor at the University of Maryland. She is part of the UMD ADHD Program, dedicated to understanding the developmental course of ADHD and developing treatments to improve the lives of individuals with ADHD. The UMD ADHD Program is directed by Andrea Chronis-Tuscano, PhD. In partnership with CHADD and with support from the Stroud Foundation, TOOLS is developed by members of the UMD ADHD Program: Joyce Lui, PhD; Andrea Chronis-Tuscano, PhD; Melissa Dvsorky, PhD; Nicholas Marsh, BA; Lauren Oddo, MS; and Anna Gardner, MA.