February 13, 2019
For some, homework and lessons go hand in hand with struggling, grumbling and teeth grinding. When a child has an attention deficit disorder, whether with or without hyperactivity (ADHD), the challenge is even greater. So what’s the solution? Here are some strategies suggested by our experts.
Planning and Structure
- Routines are soothing for children with ADHD, as there are no surprises that can cause anxiety. Putting the routine on display―with pictures in the case of younger children―will provide them with structure and reference points.
- Together, you and your child should determine the time, place and measures that best favour focus. Here are some questions to ask yourself: has your child had some downtime between the end of classes and homework? Is their medication, if any, still effective? Are there sources of distraction? Does he or she concentrate better in silence, or with soft music? Does your child feel the need to move to concentrate on the task at hand?
- Make sure your child has all the materials needed when starting homework time to avoid interruptions (or simply stop working because he or she does not have a ruler or the tool needed). Prepare a “homework kit” with pencils, a pencil sharpener or lead refills, an eraser, etc. Always store this kit in the same place for quick access when it’s time to start homework.
- Plan the length of homework time in accordance with your child's limits; you can even divide it into segments. For example: two periods of 20 minutes with a five-minute break in between. The notion of time being more difficult for a child with ADHD, you can use a visual timer to give him or her a better sense of time. Several free applications are also available.
- Spread assignments and lessons over several days, with extra reviews or practice as needed. If age-appropriate, involve your child in the scheduling process/planning and use tools within his or her reach (calendar, agenda, images, etc.)
- Finally, structure your homework schedule to split complex tasks and tackle the more difficult ones first.
Clear and Simple Instructions
- Clearly explain your expectations to your child. This should apply to homework time in general and to various specific assignments.
- Make eye contact with your child to ensure you have his or her attention when giving instructions. It’s possible you may need physical contact to draw your child’s attention first.
- Give only one instruction at a time and make sure your child understands it.
Support, Understanding and Encouragement
- Your child needs to feel you are there to help, without however doing things for him or her.
- Show interest. What are your child’s favourite subjects? What is easy or difficult? How was school that day? Contact the teacher regularly so that you can align your efforts and methods.
- Help your child understand that it’s ok to make mistakes; what’s important is to try and learn from them. Explain these mistakes and have your child correct these―you can point them in the right direction to find the answer if necessary.
- Encourage and commend perseverance and effort!
- You can also plan for immediate, simple rewards when everything goes smoothly. For instance: an extra 15 minutes of play time. If the reward isn’t immediate, the correlation between good work and the reward will be less obvious, if at all, as the case may be.
The needs and learning difficulties that stem from ADHD, as well as the different aspects of school progress are varied and evolve with the child's school career. There is no need to face this situation alone in doubt. Specialized help is available to provide you with personalized advice, tools and references. Learn more about the Stepping Stone Program, a free service offered to Universitas subscribers.