How to help your ADHD child focus on their schoolwork at home
Doing Homework (or Homeschool Work) a child who has ADHD might feel pretty impossible sometimes.
Between your child’s impulsive tendencies, inability to regulate actions, lack of focus, and lack of motivation, you might find yourself ready to throw in the towel.
Fortunately, there are some ways to help your child get through the assignments a little quicker and easier
4 quick tips for helping your ADHD child with homework (or homeschool!)
#1 Give them one project/problem at a time
Having ADHD means that your child knows how to look at the big picture. But it also means that he may have no idea how to take steps to get from point A to point Z.
In fact, he may be totally overwhelmed at the prospect. ADHD has been likened to having an “idea factory” in your head. Which means that when your child sees a problem, he knows he can solve it. He may even be able to see that it can be solved in several different ways.
BUT – he may not be able to figure out how to nail down each tiny step on the way to solving the problem. If your child can tell you the answer to a problem but can’t tell you why he knows the answer, then this is very likely a problem for your child
By giving your child an entire page of math problems or a whole stack of things to complete, you’ve just complexified an already complex problem for him.
Instead, try giving your child just one problem at a time. You can use blank paper to cover problems that you are not currently working on. Or you may even want to consider copying (or handwriting) your child’s problems onto separate pieces of paper so that each task becomes less distracting.
#2 Set time limits for each problem/task.
For a child with ADHD, putting “a rush” on things adds a new level of difficulty. Not only will that require him to focus, it will also give him a desire to rise to the challenge.
However, you should be careful to use this in a way that will help your child feel good about themselves rather than doing it in a way that will leave your child more frustrated and insecure.
A couple of guidelines to follow when setting time limits
Do not set an overall time limit for your child’s work and walk away. You will be setting everyone up for failure. This will not solve the complexity issue, it will only cause your child to feel anxious and overwhelmed.
Instead set time limits for very small tasks. You may give your child 1 minute to do 1 math problem. Or 3 minutes to read one page in their reading book.
Use an actual timer. Using an actual timer will put some weight behind your words and allow your child to visualize his time limits.
Sit with your child and encourage them when needed. Research shows us that children with ADHD respond to praise and need more encouragement than the average child. So make sure that you sit with your child and remind them to stay on task by saying things like “You’re gonna make it!” or “You’re almost there!”
#3 Give them time to figure things out
Most (if not all) teachers use a technique in their classrooms called “wait time.” Wait time is basically the time you allow to elapse between asking a question and getting a response.
As a student, I’m sure you remember the awkward pause when you didn’t know the answer but the teacher just kept staring at you. Right?
Well… that time is actually really important. And even more so with an ADHD child. Often, a child with ADHD will have trouble processing incoming information. It may take them a full 30 seconds to even digest the question. But 30 seconds feels like a LONG time when you are sitting in silence.
Even so, that time is important for your child and for his self-esteem. When your child feels less anxious about having to respond quickly, he’ll be more willing to figure out the answer and that will lead to all kinds of learning that you didn’t even know your child was capable of!
On another note: Be careful not to say things like “Come on, you know this” while you are waiting. Your child doesn’t need the added pressure, and this will only distract them from their process.
#4 Give them a lifeline when needed.
Okay, I know this one sounds like a contradiction to the last one. But it’s not!
You do need to allow your child time to figure things out, but as you get to know your child’s pace, you’ll be able to tell when your child is really struggling to answer a question, pronounce a word, or start a problem.
That’s when you should step in with no judgment.
This tends to be a big problem when it comes to reading because people often think that it’s better to push a child to sound out a word.
For a child with ADHD, it’s very difficult to slow down and sound out words. Even as an adult, folks with ADHD will often use an adapted reading method (or they won’t read at all.)
As an adult with ADHD, I often read sentences very quickly and by muscle memory. In fact, If a group of words is phrased oddly, I might find myself saying the words in a different order because they make more sense in my brain.
That’s okay for everyday reading, but when it comes to studying, it can make for a big mess. That’s why I will often listen to books on audible as opposed to reading them.
If you have a child with ADHD who needs to read as a PART of his assignment, then you can check out Learning Ally to get access to tons of books read aloud for your child.
However, if your child is just learning to read, then listening to the book isn’t going to be enough. They’ll need to actually practice reciting words as they see them. For times when my child struggles, I’ll often read the sentence fluently and with good inflection. Then I have my son repeat me while pointing to the words. After a few pages, he usually doesn’t need my help any longer because the words repeat and his brain has picked up the visual cue.
If your child is struggling with something other than reading, it is absolutely okay to give them examples or try to use leading questions to help your child figure out what they should be doing.
#5 Work with what works
Another FANTASTIC thing about homeschooling an ADHD child is that you can tailor everything you do to fit your child’s interest and style. If your child struggles with paper and pencil work, It’s absolutely okay to do an online homeschooling curriculum.
Our two favorite options are:
Prodigy for math, Grade 1 and up.) The games is set up just like a video game and the kids go on quests… they LOVE it! They have a 100% free plan that requires only a parent email to sign up!
Reading Eggs for reading. This one is also set up very much like a game. Each lesson is a new “level” on the map. This is great because you can give really clear goals for the day. i.e. complete three levels. Reading eggs has a 30-day free trial that does not require a credit card for sign up!
Also – This is a huge list of resources for free curriculums that are currently being offered due to the shutdown!
These are just a few of the tips you can use to help your ADHD through homework (or homeschool!)
Have any great tips? Share them below.
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