The Causes of ADHD Motivation Issues and Solutions for Increasing Student Involvement in Learning

Among other things, how the brain interprets problems affects motivation in kids with ADHD. Students are more likely to succeed and be less likely to fail when we design learning spaces and activities that foster safety and confidence in them. These outcomes boost motivation and make learning more enjoyable.

One of the most prevalent and difficult issues for kids with ADHD is a lack of motivation or fluctuating motivation. These students frequently find it difficult to focus on and commit to academics they find uninteresting. Poor academic performance is frequently the outcome of motivational issues, which lowers motivation even more and feeds a vicious cycle of self-defeating behavior.

However, motivation in kids with ADHD is complicated and frequently misinterpreted. Despite its seeming attitudinal nature, motivation is strongly related to the neurobiology of ADHD and the way the brain interprets obstacles.

Despite the fact that children with ADHD can have motivation issues, it is feasible to interact with them. Continue reading to learn the causes of motivation issues in kids with ADHD and practical solutions to end the vicious cycle of poor motivation in the classroom.


Motivation and ADHD: A Scientific Perspective

Motivation and the reasons why children with ADHD in particular struggle to start, maintain, or finish tasks can be better understood through the use of neuroscience and behavior research. Our strategies for enhancing motivation can be informed by our understanding of the science behind it.


Let us start by defining motivation.

A person’s motivation is their overall willingness or desire to do action. It frequently provides an explanation for a person’s actions or behavior.

Every one of us acts and behaves in ways that best suit our needs. Before we can address demands of a higher degree, our basic, primary wants must be satisfied, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of demands theory. For students with ADHD, safety and esteem—which encompass security, self-assurance, accomplishment-related sentiments, and other people’s respect—are among their most pressing requirements.


If not, why do we “do” things? Both the desire to survive and rewards—which can be either intangible and intrinsic (pleasure, the thrill of achievement, raising our status, or avoiding the misery of failure) or concrete and extrinsic (such gifts and money)—motivate us.

In general, we lack motivation to engage in activities we consider uninteresting (“Why should I learn that? “it is boring to me,” “I do not need it,” or it might be a “threat” to our security, well-being, or status.


Children with ADHD and Motivation: Unmet Critical Needs

In school, children with ADHD frequently have difficulty creating a positive sense of who they are. A child may find it difficult to learn if they have low self-esteem regarding their abilities.

Pupils with ADHD are more prone than their peers who are neurotypical to experience difficulties in their learning. They can have a lower chance of success than their peers, which boosts motivation and builds self-worth. Children with ADHD also struggle to remember and store successful earlier experiences when they do. Fear and failure have a greater neurological impact than accomplishment.

Even when incentives are given and earned, these negative experiences of continuous failure or little success add up over time and cause insecurities and low self-esteem. The brain recalibrates and attempts to defend itself as it hangs onto these negative events. This leads to the eventual development of a “I can’t” mentality in many ADHD children, which has a detrimental effect on motivation and thought processes.


Enhanced Fear Factor in ADHD Children’s Motivation

The prefrontal cortex (PFC), the front portion of the brain linked to motivation, planning, and decision-making, processes information differently in the brains of ADHD sufferers than in those of neurotypical people. It also connects information to other areas of the brain, such as the primitive survival center (the fear zone). Ultimately, these wiring abnormalities affect how kids with ADHD perceive and comprehend novel activities and obstacles.

When brain regions are not “talking” to each other in an efficient manner, learning becomes even more difficult. Proficiency in these linked tasks may be severely impaired in the absence of effective message integration within the brain:


  • Analyze a task’s intricacy or difficulty

  • Draw links to previous knowledge

  • Plan a course of action

  • carry out and assess a response

  • Save the encounter for future reference


It is understandable why pupils with ADHD could not succeed as frequently as other children. Because of their past failures, they are predisposed to believe that every new endeavor would be too stressful and tough. Furthermore, stress impedes the ability to learn effectively. Due to this reactionary reaction, kids with ADHD believe that academic settings are dangerous and threatening, which is furthered by a “I can’t” mentality and low self-esteem. Learning is hindered in those who do not feel safe and secure, including animals.

Children’s “fear factor” rises when they feel threatened, such as when they are terrified of appearing foolish, frail, or inept. When the brain comes across unfamiliar or challenging material, such as homework, its survival center perceives it as a threat and tells the person, “Well, if you cannot do it, you better walk away from it because it is harmful.” In the sake of survival, this process essentially “powers down” the PFC and the very cognitive functions that keep pupils motivated.

Children become even less effective learners and more inclined to “escape” from the environment when anxiety levels rise and their cognitive capacities deteriorate. It is a vicious, repeating process. Fundamentally, though, it is defensive. This is how our brain defends us from danger in the outside world. However, in this instance, homework has turned into the predator and a menace.

This explains why occasionally we witness children who choose to be completely passive—almost aggressively so—and not complete any homework at all. These are the pupils who, in an effort to protect themselves from humiliation and embarrassment, may sit in the rear of the classroom with their hoodies up and headphones in. They reason that “nobody truly knows if I am smart or stupid if I do not do it.”

In conclusion, neurobiologically imposed obstacles pertaining to a student’s sense of the task’s difficulty and her capacity to do it are typically blamed for a lack of motivation. Past performance in a similar endeavor, whether successful or unsuccessful, shapes these perceptions. Avoiding “risk” circumstances makes one feel unable, which perpetuates a negative loop of “I cannot do this, so I will not do this.”


No More Distractions: How to Boost Your Interest in Studying

1. Discuss the ADHD Brain

Students will learn that their motivation issues are not caused by attitude or some other personal default if they are taught about the neuroscience of stress and fear and how it affects motivation in ADHD brains. Equipped with this clarification, kids are more likely to gain a greater sense of control over the circumstance and are less likely to claim ADHD as a justification.


2. Apply Scales for Success Rating

It matters more to a kid how they view a task’s level of difficulty and their capacity to do it than what their parents or teachers may say. (This is why remarks such as “I am sure you can pull this off.” It is simple. Though well-meaning, comments like “You have done it before” should not always be directed at a student who is making an effort but struggling to succeed. To figure out how to help kids, it is critical to understand how they view a task. Success rating scales can help with it.

Students can rate the starting difficulty of classwork and homework at the top of the page by placing their ability rating, and they can also rate the ultimate difficulty of the assignment at the bottom. For example, students may discover that a job that appears to be a 4:4 is actually a 3:3. This distinction may serve as the starting point for conversations between educators and learners over how to enter a “go-go zone” at the start of an educational task. A work file should be maintained by educators and parents so that it can be utilized as an impartial log of the student’s development and achievements.

Motivation can also be measured using a similar scale in terms of how valuable a task is to a learner. Teachers can design a learning activity that is connected to a student’s interests or life experiences in order to boost motivation for a task that the student thinks “boring” or irrelevant. In this manner, it will enable the learner to accomplish or exhibit the desired target ability more personally. If a student does not want to write an essay about a book, they might want to write about a video game they like to play instead.


3. Optimize Resources and Reduce Obstacles

Parents and teachers ought to assist pupils in analyzing their asset profiles. Stated differently, what advantages they may have over others that could allow them to do a task successfully.

It is a common misconception among students that they have “nothing” going for them. Teachers and parents can assist students re-establish a positive outlook and lower their fear factor by providing them with a “competence anchor,” which is a recollection of an activity or time when they achieved accomplishment. Use a comparable assignment from the student’s work file (as previously suggested), for example, to demonstrate that they have persevered, challenged their beliefs, and succeeded in the past and that they are capable of doing so again. Remind them of the extracurricular pursuits they maintained, such as the hours they dedicated to mastering an instrument or completing a challenging level in a video game. The stereotype of the “lazy” student can be debunked by showing that a student has the perseverance and motivation to finish a task.

The reason a competency anchor works is because the brain, which regrettably is quite adept at clinging to memories of fear and failure, responds strongly to success. (The excitement of achievement accounts for the widespread appeal of video games, which are made to introduce children to success at lower performance levels and only raise the challenge level in response to performance.)

Lastly, it is critical to assist a child in identifying the obstacles to achievement. In addition to a lack of ability, obstacles may include items in the child’s immediate surroundings that disrupt motivation and focus, such as noise or activity outside the window. For this specific problem, relocating the student to a more peaceful location or getting rid of the distraction could be solutions. Until pupils can solve on their own, parents and instructors may need to provide recommendations.


Educating children about the neurological underpinnings of motivation and stress can help set them up for greater success. Making learning more enjoyable and lowering students’ odds of failure and raising their possibilities of success—factors that boost motivation—occurs when we design learning spaces and activities that support students in feeling safe and confident.

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