ADHD homework struggles are a daily reality for millions of children. Doing homework may seem like a simple, mundane task to many people, but for children with ADHD, there is nothing easy about it. Fortunately, there are strategies that you can begin using today to make ADHD homework struggles a little easier for your child to manage.
ADHD Homework Struggles
Most kids would rather not spend their afterschool hours doing homework. However, for kids who have ADHD, the problem goes much deeper than just not liking homework. ADHD homework struggles are real. As a result, children with ADHD dread homework.
According to Ann Dolin, M.Ed, who is a former public school teacher with more than 20 years of experience and a recognized expert in learning disabilities, different approaches may work better with different children based on ADHD subtype. Dolin explains:
Hyperactive and combined type children need fidget toys, breaks between assignments, and, in many cases, exercise before starting homework. Often, these are our kids that rush through homework with little attention to detail. Inattentive type students are our dawdlers. They can drag an hour of homework on for three hours. They need a sense of urgency to get moving.
There are a variety of reasons that children who have ADHD struggle with their homework and tend to rush through their assignments as quickly as possible, even if this causes them to do poorly.
Why they struggle
- Problems with executive function - The processes involved in ADHD itself make doing homework difficult.
- Fatigue - Children with ADHD are in constant motion all day. Plus, after a long day of trying to behave and pay attention in school, they are often drained, both physically and emotionally.
- Medication rebound - Kids who take medication to control their ADHD symptoms can experience a "crash" when their meds wear off in the afternoon. This can make them too tired to focus on homework.
- Trouble holding on to information - For kids with ADHD, their thoughts often move faster than their ability to capture them in words. This can make things like essay questions difficult because they think faster than they can put it into words and write it down.
- Poor time management skills - Children with ADHD sometimes have trouble figuring out how much time to set aside for each assignment, which means they end up spending too much time on one and not enough on others.
- Difficulty staying interested - Because of low dopamine levels, kids with ADHD may have a hard time staying interested in repetitive tasks.
- Feeling defeated - Over time, ADHD homework struggles and other difficulties in school wears kids down. All too often, children get frustrated and start to feel like it doesn't even matter whether or not they try because they still won't get good grades anyway.
- Learning challenges - Many children who have ADHD also have other learning disabilities (comorbidities), such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia.
- Difficulty with self-monitoring - Children with ADHD often lack the self-discipline to check their work.
ADHD Children in School
It is vital that parents of children with ADHD work closely with their child's school. Together, parents and teachers can help children succeed despite their challenges. Look into an IEP or 504 Plan if your child is severely impacted by ADHD and/or other disorders. These programs are designed to ensure that all students have access to the services they need to get a good education.
Even if your child's ADHD is not severe enough to need an IEP or 504, you still have to work hand in hand with your child's teachers. Here are some steps you can take to facilitate this essential relationship:
Working with teachers
- Stay positive - A good attitude can go a long way.
- Plan ahead - Arrange to meet with your child's teacher on a monthly basis.
- Make meetings happen - Once you have arranged these meetings, stick to the schedule and make sure they happen.
- Create goals together - Work together to create realistic goals and write them down.
- Share information - You and your child's teacher spend more time with your child than anyone else on the planet. You both have valuable information to share with one another.
- Ask hard questions - Find out if your child is having problems in any areas at school and don't be ask the important questions, even if you aren't sure you want the answer.
- Give a complete picture - Make sure your child's school has all the information they need. This is especially important when it relates directly to your child's diagnosis, such as with medications and treatment plans.
How to Focus on Homework
ADHD homework struggles make things hard enough. There are several things you can do to set your child up for success when they start doing their homework. Begin by having them change into comfortable clothes and letting them have a small break between school and homework.
"The best thing to do is to have a predictable schedule. About a thirty-minute break after school is a good amount of time before getting started. When kids know what to expect day in and day out, they are less likely to procrastinate," says Dolin.
"Your child may need a break after school, but you may have to control what he does during that break. For example, many kids are quick to play Xbox, video games, or watch TV. It’s often hard to get a child away from a screen. Consider giving a break, but limiting it to outside play or another activity that doesn’t involve screen time," Dolin adds.
Have them do their homework in a comfortable room that is quiet and free from distractions. For some kids, a little background noise is actually helpful. Choose an area that has good lighting and allows you to monitor your child without hovering over them. Have them help set up the area so that it reflects what makes them the most comfortable and able to focus. Keep interruptions at bay even if this means you have to hold on to their cellphone until they finish doing their homework. Keep pets out of the room as well. Make sure your child has all the materials and supplies they need in their workspace. The video below offers some great tips for focusing on homework.
ADHD Homework Strategies
The skills needed to do homework don't come easily to children with ADHD. However, these ADHD homework tips will help with ADHD homework struggles.
- Use a planner to write down assignments
- File loose papers in course-specific folders
- Organize belongings, including their book bag, folders, binder, and assignments
- Set a designated time for homework to be done each day
- Read directions carefully
- Use colored pens or highlighters to highlight the important parts of textbooks, questions, and instructions.
- Write down important information
- Re-read for better understanding if needed
- Divide big assignments into smaller parts
- Use a calendar to plan out assignments
- Take short breaks
- Check your child's homework
- Praise your child for good effort
- Adjust when you see something isn't working
- Communicate with your child's teacher
Help for Homework Online
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, parents and their children are no longer on their own when dealing with homework. There are a variety of websites that offer help for homework online. Whether you need help with algebra or biology, rest assured, the answer is out there -- somewhere. The key is finding the answer you are looking for. It can sometimes be hard to know if the information you find online is trustworthy or not. This is yet another reason why websites that specialize in homework help are so useful. Here are a few of the top places to find help for ADHD homework struggles online:
- Tutor.com provides professional one-to-one tutoring in a multitude of subject areas 24 hours a day
- CourseHero.com allows students to ask a question online at any time of day and set their own price on a per question basis.
- PrincetonReview.com gives you the best of both worlds, letting you schedule tutoring sessions or ask questions on the fly.
ADHD Parent Support
Parenting a child with ADHD is not easy, which is why it is so important that parents reach out and find support. There are a variety of support groups that allow parents of children with ADHD to share their experiences with other people who understand because they live it too. These groups also allow parents to exchange ideas, telling others what worked for them and what didn't.
There are two national support and advocacy organizations, CHADD and the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, who sponsor networking and educational events at the regional level. The Learning Disabilities Association of America offers local meetings as well. In addition to these larger organizations, check to see if there are any smaller groups of parents who meet regularly to support one another in your local area. Schools, counseling organizations, churches, and community centers are all places to look.
Making Homework for Kids With ADHD Easier
ADHD home struggles are a daily battle for millions of children and teenagers. However, the situation is far from hopeless, even if it feels that way in the heat of the moment. There are ways to set your child up for success and strategies that will make homework less of a headache. None of these tips provide an overnight fix but with time and consistency, they can most certainly help in the long-run.