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ADHD-Friendly Cognitive Strategies

Approximately 10 million people have neurodevelopmental differences that result in Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These neurodevelopmental and cognitive differences often come with exceptional strengths and creativity. They may also come with difficulty concentrating, sustaining attention, learning, and remembering new information. These difficulties may be managed with strategies, especially those that are tailored to the individual. Girls and women and people of color for example, often experience ADHD differently than their male counterparts and majority culture who have historically received the most attention. Autistic people are likely to have attention differences as well and may benefit from a particular set of strategies. One of the best ways to identify which strategies are best for you, based on your background and your set of cognitive strengths and weaknesses is by completing a neuropsychological evaluation. Our evaluations, which include ADHD testing and Autism testing, are followed by individualized feedback and tailored recommendations. Until then, you may consider the following:

Practice mindfulness and apply the present-moment focus to daily tasks. Pay attention to and use as many of your senses as possible while engaging in a task or attempting to learn new information. Tactile and visual learning are especially helpful for many neurodivergent people and our sense of smell is closely related to memory (probably because brain structures responsible for processing smells and encoding/retrieving memories are next to each other in the brain).


Taking notes gives you the benefit of having a reference to use in the future with the immediate benefit of working with information in a tactile and visual way. Many neurodivergent folx have an outstanding capacity for attention to detail but may struggle to hold onto these details in their mind for long periods, or to retain them. Notes can be a good way to keep track of them.


Link new or important information to something else. One of the best ways to make a new task routine is to do it at the same time as some existing routine, like making coffee or taking a shower. An effective way to encode new information is to connect it with something that is meaningful or memorable to you. And the more emotional, ridiculous, or otherwise striking the link is, the better.


Visualize your outcome and work backwards. Rather than attempting to recall all of the steps, in sequence, of a particular task or goal, imagine, as vividly as possible, what the successfully completed task or goal looks like, and complete the steps necessary to getting there. This approach lends well to the neurodivergent brain and to creative problem solving.


Use structure and organization in your environment. Designate a place in your home for important items used everyday (e.g., keys, wallet, phone, etc.). Make a habit of always returning objects to their designated place as soon as possible. An organized environment also decreases the likelihood that you’ll get distracted, overstimulated, or overwhelmed.


Ask for help and know your resources. If you are lucky enough to have people in your life who are compassionate and understanding, ask them to help! For example, family and friends can accompany you to important appointments, check in on you when it's important that you stay on task, and remind you about upcoming events or to follow up on a task. People with ADHD may also benefit from cognitive coaching focused on attention regulation and improvement of executive functioning. Finally, check out some of the following resources, which have invaluable information shared by generous experts:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Job Accommodation Network (JAN) and Offices of Disability/Accessibility at your school or workplace

  • Attention Deficit Disorder Association (

  • Children and Adults with ADHD (

  • Dr. Russell Barkley (


Finally, accept your differences and your strengths and give yourself permission to do what works best for you. It can be helpful to reflect on whether a behavior or way about things is truly ineffective or simply different. Resist the pressure to compare yourself to other people and to judge yourself against some arbitrary societal standard. Sometimes, you’ll have true difficulty and would benefit from the strategies we’ve mentioned here. And sometimes, you’re doing things just right, albeit a little differently.


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