Back to School for Children with ADD/ADHD

Back to School for Children with ADD/ADHD

Parenting a child with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) can be challenging – particularly once school begins. For these parents, a new school year often means meeting with teachers, monitoring homework, encouraging good study habits and establishing new routines. As a parent, you want your child to have a successful school year. Below are some strategies and resources to help make that happen.

Daily Routine Strategies
• Structured, consistent routines greatly benefit children, especially those with ADD or ADHD. Once a favorable routine is established, stick to it.
• Post a copy of the weekly schedule where it is clearly visible so that you and your child can consult. If you would like to see a sample schedule, you can check out this article by ADDitude Magazine.
• Avoid distractions when trying to stick to a routine. Keep the television and computer off when your child is getting ready for school.
• Simple exercises like writing lists (of ingredients in a recipe or of favorite movies) will also help strengthen your child’s memory and attention to detail.
• Make preparations the night before so that you and your child can get out of the door on time. Go ahead and lay out clothes, pack book bags, and make lunches/snacks.
• Maintain a good sleep schedule. Children with ADD/ADHD are notorious for having sleep difficulties. It is believed that this is because the same regions of the brain that regulate attention, also regulate sleep. Bedtime routines need to be consistent. That means that your child needs to go to bed at the same time each night – even on weekends. In addition, the hour leading up to bedtime should be calm and quiet – no video games or TV. Also, keep your child’s room as dark as possible. If he/she needs a nightlight, make sure that it is dim. Use soothing music or sounds to make falling asleep easier.

Organizational Strategies
• Your child should have an organized backpack, with lots of pockets to separate their binders, pencil case, wallet and lunch.
• Your child should keep multiple copies of a laminated class and activities schedule. Copies should go in their backpack, taped up in their locker, and on their desk at home.
• It may help for your child to use one large binder with labelled dividers for each subject. These sections can then be further divided in to schoolwork that is “complete” and “incomplete.” You can also color code different subjects with labels or dividers.
• For older children, once a unit of study is complete and the test is over, your child can remove the papers and homework from his/her binder and keep it at home in a file. This will keep his/her binder light and organized.
• Post a “master” calendar listing each family member’s activities and projects. Use color coding for each member and post the calendar in a place that is easily visible to everyone.
• Make sure that you give reminders in the morning about important details (e.g., your dad will pick you up this afternoon) or change of schedule (e.g., you have tutoring this afternoon). Be sure to get your child’s attention before talking. You might also post a sticky-note to his/her planner as an extra reminder.

Homework Strategies
• To avoid procrastination, make your child’s homework space somewhere like the living room or kitchen where they feel more accountable to get work done. However, some children work better in a quiet space. Try to adjust the workspace to match your child’s strengths.
• Ensure your child understands their homework instructions by asking them to explain it before they get started.
• Encourage self-reliance. If your child gets stuck remind them to check their notes.
• If your child still has difficulty, try giving them an example or a template to follow. If that doesn’t work, they should leave the question blank and move on.
• Physical movement may help your child with homework. Squeezing a stress ball or walking on a treadmill could help them stay on track.
• Homework checklists will help your child know what’s next and stay on track.
• Homework completion should be the goal; the teacher is the one who will evaluate quality.

Study Strategies
• Visuals will help your child retain information. Encourage your child to watch videos or look at photos of the subject they are studying.
• Keep attainable study goals so your child doesn’t feel overwhelmed. For example, Monday night’s is to write Spelling words two times each. For older children, a study goal might be to finish reading chapter 5 and to take 2 pages of notes.
• For older students, make sure that they spread studying throughout the term so that he/she avoids “cramming” before an exam or final.
• Use a timer to indicate when study breaks can be taken. ADHD children struggle to maintain attention for long periods of time. Allow them to take a short break (no more than 10 minutes) and then come back to homework.
• Reviewing study material for 10 – 15 minutes right before bed will help your child retain information.
• Older students may benefit from being part of a study group. However, it is important to make sure that your child studies with peers who have good study habits.
• Ensure your child has a comfortable spot to study in. Try a bean bag chair for comfort, or an “exercise ball” if your child studies better when they don’t have to sit still.
• Communicate with your child’s teacher. Set up extra time for tests or a less distracting environment for taking tests, like during lunch or after school.
• Try to make studying fun and active. Flashcards don’t need to be on paper; words and definitions can be written on rubber balls and thrown back and forth between you and your child as you help them study.

If you have more questions, or would like to schedule an appointment with a family therapist, reach out to us at Family & Child Development.