Minimising homework and study battles with your attention deficit disorder (ADD /ADHD) child & helping them succeed in homework is often about separating out the tasks into 20 minute chunks and reinforcing their positive behaviour with specific praise.
Below are some hints, tips and techniques to get you started.
- Plan homework for a set time every day & be consistent. Pick a time that suits your child, not necessarily you! Perhaps your child is at their best straight after they get in from school, or maybe they’d prefer it do it an hour after chilling out from school. Perhaps they are better after they have eaten something. Whatever time you choose try and avoid doing it late in the evening, as your child is getting tired, may have a meltdown and may panic about running out of time before bed.
- Be consistent every weekday. If after-school activities make that impossible, pop up a daily plan or weekly calendar in your kitchen that includes homework start and finish times each day. It helps to focus your child and gives structure to their day.
- Schedule and plan enough time for your child to complete homework without rushing, based on your child’s maturity, concentration and level of ability to work alone.
- Give advance notice of homework time. This is important, because ADHD kids don’t easily move from one activity to another — especially from fun time to work time. You might say, “You can play for 15 more minutes, then come and do your homework.”
- Help your child select their most productive homework place. Try the kitchen table, (make sure it’ s free from jam!) where they can spread out their books, pens, and materials. Or perhaps your child would like to sit at a desk in a quiet room.
- Steer clear of electronic distractions – iPads, smart phones & technology. But be mindful if your child concentrates better with soft noise, (try some gentle background music, not rock & roll)
- Stay nearby (if possible). ADHD children concentrate better when they know you’re close by. If your child needs to use the bathroom, remind them to come straight back afterwards. We know how easily a ADHD child gets distracted.
- Set up rules. Draft and print out a sheet that is specific: what time homework starts and finishes; the regular place; when and how long breaks are; and that you will be nearby to help them understand their homework, plan and get organised, offer support — but DON’T do the homework for them. Avoid arguments — calmly refer your child to the Homework Rules. Make sure you’re not tired or you’ll get exasperated. Have a cup of tea with you and relax and stay positive, grounded and focused for them.
- Help them start. Make sure your child knows what the homework task is and how to go about it. Talk them through what they have to do. Get them to tell you back what they have to do to check that they understand what’s being asked of them. Offer assistance that matches their learning style. Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic. For a verbal processor, read directions to them or get them to read them out loud; for a visual learner, show them how to use highlighters and coloured marker pens to outline key words and sentences.
- Keep them going with praise and positive encouragement. If your child tries to stop before they’ve finished, encourage them to go on a bit longer, and remind them there’ll be a break soon & how proud they’ll feel when they’ve finished.
- Give them a break. ADHD kids may become tired due to being distracted, their difficulty in concentrating, their frustration, and their restlessness. Help your child recharge by scheduling frequent, short breaks.
- Check in at the finish. Review your child’s work to see if it is complete. If your child consistently takes more time than they should, speak to their teacher to see if they are willing to adjust the amount of homework or day it needs to be handed in. Work together with the school not against them.
- Offer praise. Compliment your child when they stay on task and be specific. Say, for example, “I really loved the way you concentrated on that maths fraction problem and stuck with it until you solved it.” Give them an acknowledging hug, smile or a cuddle mid-homework, too.
- Give rewards. It’s OK to offer a “prize” to motivate. For a younger child, try an extra playtime, a favourite healthy snack or play a favourite game, or read a favourite book; for an older child, allow an extra favourite TV programme, a bit of extra computer time, or phone time.
- Stick with it. A new homework routine requires solid commitment. It’s not quick or easy and it can take up to 12 weeks for a routine to become a habit maybe even longer for a child with ADHD. But the payoff is discipline, self-control, and success-building skills and better grades at school. So, keep the bigger picture.
For more support with your ADHD child, here are some further resources