Dyslexia, ADHD, Procrastination, and Perfectionism

On the surface, procrastination and perfectionism seem to have little in common. The two, however, can be intimately related, especially for students with ADHD or dyslexia. By recognizing when students procrastinate due to their need for perfection, you can help them to identify the best strategies for getting their work done.

Students with learning differences, such as ADHD or dyslexia, often suffer through making many mistakes in their academic lives. They compensate by putting in extra effort to reduce the number of mistakes. In moderation, this impulse can be a good thing. But for students with learning differences, this self-imposed pressure to be perfect can be paralyzing, causing them to put off schoolwork that they sincerely want to be their best.

According to Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders:

Procrastination doesn’t look like perfectionism on the surface. Instead, it often looks like laziness or distractibility. But if you’re worried there’s no way you can meet your own standards or that you’ll make the wrong decision and later regret it, it’s understandable that you put off writing that term paper, moving forward on home renovations, or settling on a vacation destination.

If students are afraid of making mistakes, they will often avoid doing a task. This makes sense—you can’t make mistakes on something you haven’t started yet! When working with a student who tends to procrastinate, take time to investigate the reasons behind the procrastination. This will help you formulate strategies that are more likely to help them succeed.

Teaching students time management strategies is a great way to help them understand the impact of procrastination. One of my favorite SMARTS strategies is from Unit 4A , Lesson 2: “Understanding Time. (This just happens to be the current preview lesson that you can download for free). This lesson teaches students to develop a more objective understanding of the passage of time and a greater appreciation for using time management to work effectively and reduce stress. These are essential skills for all students, especially those prone to prefectionism.

Have you encountered students who procrastinate because of their need for perfection? Let us know in the comments.

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager




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