• Dec 11 / 2013
  • 2

Thoughts on Being an ADHD Computer Programmer

I recently answered a question on Quora about being a computer science student with ADHD. You’ll notice that some of it is stuff I’ve written about already but there is a LOT that I haven’t. Check it out.

The initial question was, “Is there any advice you can give to a CS student with ADHD?” My answer is below:

CS specific stuff:

  • For learning, seek out short tutorials (the shorter they are, the more likely you’ll complete them. Look for ones with lots of code examples, and less text. If you’re like me, the reading is more boring than trying stuff and seeing how it works.
  • Use Code Academy, it makes learning to code a lot of fun. (http://codeacademy.com)
  • Consider jumping jacks (or other simple, cardio exercise) before you start doing tutorials, and while you’re doing them (at 15 or 20 minute intervals…play with the duration). Get your heart pumping a little, and get blood to your brain, and you’ll learn better.
  • Get a toy like a rubber ball. When something isn’t making sense, think about the problem while throwing the ball up and down. This is like taking a ‘play’ break; I believe it decreases the mental frustration of not understanding something and helps your brain process it in the background.

Strategies for Compensation:

  • Get noise cancelling headphones immediately – Sony makes an awesome pair for $20 (MDR-NC7 is the model number).
  • Binaural beats / white noise audio can REALLY help you concentrate. My blog below has an article on these, but you can find them for free online.
  • Pandora and Songza also have some good instrumental playlists – I find vocals very distracting.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, and it’s bad, consider medication in the short term. But it can have long-term health effects, which is why I recommend looking at long-term strategies (below).

Long-term strategies:

  • Above all, keep learning – not just about CS, but about your brain, and how to improve it. Your attention, motivation, memory and so on can all be improved with the right training, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. I’ve had to do a lot of experimentation in this area. I’ve tried at least a half dozen things from brain training software, to reflex integration exercises and more. I’m still experimenting and far from the results I want, but I’ve definitely seen great results over time. So I believe that you can improve your brain drastically – it’s a matter of persistence and continual learning.
  • Vipassana meditation is very powerful, and has helped my attention noticeably. It is quite challenging – to learn it, you have to commit to a 10-day retreat in which you don’t talk for 10 days. But it’s entirely free, and their centers are around the country. You can find out more about this at Vipassana Meditation; I also have a good article on my experience with Vipassana on my blog.


  1. Bereket

    check Harold Levinson Videos on You Tube after that Go to http://www.learningbreakthrough.com
    i am sure the program can give you a new insight. Harold Levinson is saying ADHD rises when there is a simple fine-tuning problem within the inner-ear. if you stimulate the inner-ear all symptoms will either lessen or disappear. learning breakthrough program uses neuroplacticity to strengthen the inner-ear while Harold Levinson uses the medications. try it.

    • mcavaliere

      I’ve definitely heard of Learning Breakthrough, but have yet to talk to people who have had firsthand success with it. Have you used it? What was your experience?


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