Guest Expert

How to Manage ADHD and Homework

7 Ways that Parents can Help

Is your child easily distracted? Does homework that should take 45 minutes end up consuming two hours?  If so, you are probably a frustrated parent. Chances are you have learned that punishing inattentive behavior doesn't work. The question is:  What works? Here are some ideas that might do the trick for managing ADHD and homework.

Set Up the Correct Type of Study Space

Most inattentive students need a fairly quiet place to study, but a small group of these students thrive on the hum of a busy area. To determine the type of space your child needs, you'll need to do some detective work.  For two days, have your child do their homework in a well-traveled area and then switch to a quieter area for the next two days. If you determine your child does better in a quiet place, find a couple of areas free from household action, but close enough to monitor their activity. Interestingly, kids retain more information when they vary the place in which they study, and this is especially true for kids with ADHD and homework.  Switching locations every day or few days is a good idea.

Don't Fear the Floor

For some students, sitting at a traditional desk isn't productive; however, there are other options. One is an exercise ball chair which is a sturdy exercise ball in a steel frame with a comfortable backrest. Another option is a lap desk – a mini-desk that lies across your child's lap. With a lap desk, the student can sit on the couch or another chair more comfortably. Some children actually perform better doing their homework standing up.  Still others need to stand, pace, or even lay on the floor; therefore, don't fear the floor!

Make a Mountain a Molehill

Depending on the age of your child, they may only be able to focus well for 20 minutes at a time. Often, the time you spend refocusing their efforts after 20 minutes may be better spent giving them a break so they can recharge and begin again. This can be done in two ways – by task or time.

  • By task – Fold a worksheet in half. Instruct your child to do the top half, show it to you, and then finish the second half. Allow them to choose the problems or questions they want to do first. When they're done with half of them, go on to the rest.
  • By length of time – Set the timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes. Tell your child, “Work as hard as you can for this time. When the timer goes off, you can daydream or play for 5 minutes.” Another option is to set the timer for a length of time for which you absolutely know he'll be successful. When they succeed, lengthen the span by a minute.

Let Them Fidget

Various studies have shown that distractible students can actually attend better when they are given something to hold or touch. A few good options are Tangle Junior, Wikki Stix, or even a simple stress ball. By simply manipulating these toys in their hands, many students are better able to focus.

Insist On Exercise – The Miracle Drug

Aerobic exercise almost immediately elevates the chemicals in the brain that increase attention and focus. These chemicals act a bit like medications used to treat ADHD.  With frequent aerobic exercise, a distractible student can improve their ability to learn, so be sure to encourage your child to get out and exercise regularly.

Nag No More

If you feel like the only way your child can focus and finish is with your constant reminders, try a different method.  Ask your child how many reminders they'll need to finish an assignment.  If they say they'll need two reminders, then stick to that number.  When they're off track, state that you are giving a warning and then walk away. At any point when you see that they're doing the right thing, praise their diligence. By giving warnings and positively reinforcing on-task behavior, constant reminders will be gone for good.

Keep a Homework Log

Teachers may be unaware that homework is so problematic. They only see the final, corrected product, not the inordinate amount of effort behind it. For at least one week, jot down the date and length of homework. You may also want to document any reasons you see for your child's homework struggles. Meet with the teacher and share the information you've recorded. Ask for suggestions to help your child accomplish homework tasks. Remember, students should be spending about 10 minutes per grade level on homework per night.

Try using a few of these strategies and see what works with your child.  Odds are they will be focusing and completing work in no time at all!

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