- Mental Health
Struggling with ADHD: Homework Strategies
Most parents know that homework and children go together as well as oil and water. When you add in the fact that your child has ADHD, homework can be an open recipe for disaster. Just think about it, you take a child who is restless, inattentive, disorganized, impatient, has trouble completing tasks and send them to school all day. THEN, after that long hard day, they are expected to do homework, its not always a pleasant situation.
I yearn for the day that I can just ask my child to go do her homework, she complies with out a complaint and returns with perfectly done assignments. What a fantasy. As a parent of a child with ADHD I have to take an active role, I have to coach, teach, and guide her though her homework. I have to make her realize that homework is important, I have to teach her good study habits, and I have to help her understand the benefits being organized.
Before my daughter was even diagnosed with ADHD homework was a battle. Some nights we spent over three hours doing homework. There were frequent tears and raised voices from both of us. She would get tired, aggravated, and just plain obstinate at times. Part of her problem stemmed from the fact that she was just so far behind in school. Her undiagnosed ADHD was crippling her in most of her subjects. Her teacher recognized this and started getting her the help she needed to get caught up. Still undiagnosed, he also helped us set up some homework strategies. My husband and I came up with a few strategies of our own and homework started becoming less of a struggle.
Now that she has been diagnosed, I’ve realized that we have set up some of the same homework strategies that experts recommend for children with ADHD.
Below are some of the techniques we have used to make daily homework time less of a battle and more of a positive learning environment. In my opinion, the biggest thing any parent can do in battling homework is to know their child so they can set up routines that will work for them. These work for us, maybe some or even all will work for you.
Creating an Organized Workspace
Any expert on ADHD will agree that a designated, well organized workspace helps to keep children on track. When their workspace is in a state of disarray its easier for children to become distracted and may cause them anxiety . When creating a workspace keep in mind that it needs to be well lit, quiet, comfortable, and fully stocked with supplies.
To help keep my daughter’s workspace space organized we schedule a time to reorganize weekly. This keeps the area homework friendly, and helps her get in the habit of keeping things in their place.
My daughter’s school requires an assignment notebook for each student. Every day she writes down her homework for the night. The notebook is signed each day by her teacher and then by a parent at night. There is a space on the assignment notebook for parent or teacher notes. What a great tool for students, teachers, and parents. It gets kids in the habit of writing down and being accountable for their assignments. There is also the added bonus of a constant open line of communication between teacher and parent.
If your school doesn’t have a program like this, I would recommend having your child create their own assignment notebook. You can try to get your child’s teacher involved, but many kids don’t like to be singled out by having to do something their peers aren’t doing. Even without teacher involvement, having your child write down all their homework gives you, as a parent, a glimpse of what they are working on. It also helps foster responsibility in the child.
Keep to a Set Schedule
Kids need structure, especially children with ADHD. Pick a routine that works for your child and stick to it. This will help your child develop a sense of order and make them aware of your expectations. Some kids need to come home and unwind after a long day at school before getting started, and others may just want to get their homework done. Figure out what works best for your child. Our routine consist of coming home, a quick chat about the day and a snack…then homework.
In making a schedule, keep in mind your child’s medication. Some ADHD medications may have worn off by homework time. If that is the case, talk to your doctor about the possibility of taking a dose later in the day.
Review Homework Before They Begin
Every night before she starts, my daughter and I review her homework assignments. This gives me a chance to see how difficult it is going to be for her, how much time it will take, and get an idea of where she may need help.
Many nights when there is a lot of homework we make a list of the order for her to complete her assignments. In dealing with a child with ADHD, it is better for them to do the harder homework first. This way they can face the bigger challenges when they are more alert and save the easier assignments fro when their attention may be waning.
Taking short breaks while doing homework may be necessary since ADHD kids have a hard time focusing and completing tasks . Our therapist recommended my daughter take a 5 to 10 minute break for each 30 minutes she spends doing homework. The break helps her keep on track and stay focused. I’ve noticed that since she started taking breaks her homework is less sloppy, and she gets less frustrated on days when her homework pile is overwhelming
Monitor Their Progress
Check in on your child from time to time while they are working. There has been more than one time I’ve walked up the stairs to my daughter’s room and found her staring off into space or doodling mindlessly on a piece of paper. Usually, just peeking my head in and asking how she is doing can put her back on track.
Review Completed Work
Kids with ADHD are notorious for not being able to complete tasks. To remedy that in our house, I check my daughter’s homework every night. I’m not trying to be the homework Nazi, so I don’t make sure it is all perfect. I try to make sure that most of her answers are correct, that she understands the subject matter and the homework is complete. She knows that if she needs assistance with something to leave it blank and we will go over it together.
Give Positive Feedback
All kids need positive feedback when it comes to homework, but for a child with ADHD reassurance and praise becomes even more important. Their self-esteem tends to be low, and they need the extra confidence boosts.
When your child struggles, remind them that some subjects may be more difficult than others. Try explaining it to them in a different way to help them understand better. Talk to them about what could be done to help the situation. My daughter, for example, struggles with reading comprehension, so her social studies and science homework give her the most difficulty. We’ve found that reading the accompanying chapter out loud, each of us taking turns reading a sentence, helps her find the answers.
Make Sure Homework Is Placed In Their Backpack When They Are Done
Start the next day off right, instruct your child to put their completed homework in their backpack. This can put an end to stressful morning searches for homework. It can also put your child at ease by knowing everything is ready to go for then next day.
These simple strategies have greatly improved our homework time. We started the year out with missing assignments, uncompleted tasks, and daily tears. We still have our stressful moments, but in general homework goes smoothly, takes less than an hour, and my daughter doesn’t even complain when I tell her, “time to do your homework.”