With the start of a new school year you probably find yourself searching out the newest and best ADHD homework strategies. On many levels, you welcome a new school year. For instance, school means that your ADHD child has a structured learning environment to go to for most of the date. It means that your child can learn both textbook materials and more about engaging with new social realms.
While school brings with it many positives, it also, though, brings a number of, how should we say, challenges or obstacles. Foremost amongst these challenges for many families with ADHD children is the prospect of nightly homework. Not only does your child dread the advent of homework, if you were honest with yourself, you probably dread it even more.
You possibly hate cajoling and coaxing and badgering your kids to do their homework as much as they hate having to sit down and do the homework themselves. If only you could have a method to make the whole ordeal less of well, an ordeal. In this article we want to unpack some fail proof ADHD homework strategies to help make homework completion a little less painful. We want to give you quality tools and resources that turn homework time into a productive time instead of a constant battle with your kids.
#1 Make Space for Work to Happen
Any useful list of ADHD homework strategies needs to begin with having the right environment. When it comes to running a successful business, any expert will tell you that success hinges on three things: location, location, location. Why does location matter? It matters because we all need the right environment to thrive.
This happens to be true for business, but it also happens to be true for most anything you do including homework. For your child to focus and perform at their best, they need a space that allows for focus. To help make this possible, you should try to provide your child an area of the home set aside for studying, quiet, or learning. This could be a section of their own bedroom, or better yet, a section of a different room in the house like an office or spare bedroom.
You want to set this space up so that your child knows that when they go there they need to focus on homework and not play. This distinction matters in regards to helping your child separate play and learning distinctly in their mind. If you can show with space when homework time should begin, your child can catch on to when play should happen and when they need to stick to studying.
#2 Kill the Distractions
If you do any kind of writing, you might have heard the advice of “kill your darlings.” In writing, this means that you have to cut out those really neat flowery passages and stick to the story. You have to eliminate some of the writing or things that you really like so that your reader doesn’t get distracted from the main story progression.
This seems like an odd way to jump into the next thing on our list of ADHD homework strategies, but in a way, killing the distractions is similar to killing your darlings. To make homework successful, you need to get rid of things that divert from the main progression of getting homework completed. Remove entertainment. Take away books or toys or screens that do not help to get the homework done.
With the right space devoid of needless distractions, you might find that your child might actually be able to get into their homework. If your child has nothing else to turn their attention to, they might sit down and get into their math equations. Removing distractions helps funnel attention back to the main thing: homework completion.
#3 Strike Up the Band
Ok, so you maybe now have the right environment and have removed distractions what do you have left? Well, you might just have an empty boring space. That doesn’t sound too engaging does it?
For work and learning to happen you really need to engage the mind and imagination. You don’t want to do it too much so that your child just gets distracted. Still, you don’t want to take away all stimulus so that they end up just being bored and unengaged.
In order to keep to the middle road, you should strike up the band and put some music for thought on. Studies have shown us time and again that music helps engage the brain and can improve focus and memory. In particular, ADHD and music go well together. If studying for a test or learning a new subject, one of the best things for you could be to do it while listening to music.
As odd as it might seem, music can be a powerful tool in your kit of ADHD homework strategies. You should be careful, though, as to what music you turn to. We would recommend sticking with classical music as much as possible.
Also, it shouldn’t be so loud as to be obnoxious or overbearing. Instead, you should play it at a comfortable level so as to be heard but just enough. For some ideas, check out these tips on finding music to increase productivity.
#4 Use Fidget Toys
Ok, first we said take away distractions, now we add back in music and fidgets? Doesn’t that seem counterproductive? Possibly, on the surface giving your child fidget toys seems counterproductive, but it all depends on what toys you use and how you use them.
If you don’t know already, fidget toys can provide a great way for kids to get rid of restless energy. For many children with ADHD, they struggle daily with just sitting still. Their minds go at a million miles an hour and their bodies want to go just as fast. As a result, if they have to sit still but can’t get their energy out, they have to now deal with the distraction of wanting to move.
Ultimately then, using fidgets provides an excellent option for useful ADHD homework strategies helping to redirect restless energy back to homework. As mentioned, though, you want to be discerning in how you use the toys. You don’t want to give your child a toy that consumes all of their attention. Rather the idea should be something that they can play with in their hands or chew on or kick with their feet while their main attention focuses on homework.
If homework time ever becomes more about playing with fidget toys, you know then that you need to change out the fidget you use. Try out and discover what toy or approach might work best for your child. Once you have something that you know helps, try to make sure they have access to that fidget toy when they need it. For ideas on different options, check out our article on ADHD fidget toys.
#5 The Right Time Can Make All the Difference
When it comes down to ADHD homework strategies that actually work, many times it involves you adjusting things to fit your child and household. No two children are the same, and no two households are the same. We call these fail proof ADHD homework strategies because they work most of the time. Most of the time, though, they work only with some personal adjustments.
One of the biggest adjustments that you will need to work out for yourself is the timing. Timing can make the difference between a successful homework session and an absolute disaster. Different kids function better at different points in time.
For your child, this might mean they do their best work an hour after getting home from school. For others, this might mean after dinner works well. Still for others, the morning actually serves as a prime time to engage with learning and to get homework done.
So that you don’t have to always fight with your child to do homework when it’s just not working, learn to be flexible in when homework time occurs. Try out several different times and find out which one works best for your child. If it turns out that 5:30 am happens to be the ideal time, try to work with your child to have them sit down and do homework then. In finding and using the right time, you ultimately will save yourself a lot of headache and stress.
#6 Consider a Homework Contract
Most all ADHD children need help forming structure and routine in their lives. With structure and routine, kids know the boundaries within which they need to act and behave. When this comes to ADHD homework strategies, one option might involve considering creating a homework contract for your child.
A homework contract is a written agreement between you and your child that outlines when and how homework should happen. Additionally, you should probably include rewards and punishments if homework is or isn’t completed. A homework contract then presents a clear outline of the boundaries for homework time. It gives a clear structure and rhythm for your child to follow and stay within.
If your child throws a fit or says they want to play instead of do homework, you should remind them of the contract. Show them the contract and what they had agreed to. Remind them that they get rewards when they hold up their end of the bargain.
Homework contracts might sound rigid, but they create clear boundaries and structure. With a contract, your child doesn’t have to guess when they fall out of step or fail to follow through. Additionally, they know exactly what they need to do in order to get their reward at the end of the day.
#7 Get Accommodations for Less Homework
You can do many things at home to try to make homework go more smoothly. Ultimately, though, you can’t do everything and sometimes you might need a little help. If you have tried everything and you feel at your wits’ end as to what to do next to make homework happen, you should consider seeking accommodations.
To help the rest of your possible ADHD homework strategies have a chance to succeed, you should talk to your school about accommodations that might be available. Many times, schools can assign less homework for children with ADHD or structure a plan that works better for their learning style. After all, not every child learns at the same pace or on the same schedule.
If you ultimately decide that your child needs a break when it comes to homework, start the conversation with your child’s teacher. Addressing ADHD well when it comes to school depends a lot on communicating well with your child’s teacher. After talking to the teacher about the situation, work with the teacher and administration to determine the right accommodations.
In the end, both you and your child’s school want to see your child succeed. If that means that they need less homework on a nightly basis, you should be able to work out a better structure for your child to flourish in.
#8 Get a Homework Tutor
As a final part of our ADHD homework strategies list, we recommend seeking out additional help. If you have tried everything and find that you can’t do it on your own, find a homework tutor to help. Tutors trained in working with ADHD students can play the role of savior that you really need one.
To find a tutor that might really work for your needs, ask at your local library or at your child’s school. You can also look online for community resources and those around you and in your neighborhood. You can also possibly ask other parents with ADHD children. Sometimes the best recommendations can come from other parents who have tried similar solutions as what you’re looking for.
If all else fails, get help and look for a tutor. You’re not a trained teacher to deal with ADHD in a homework environment. Though you can work hard to become your own ADHD expert, sometimes you just need help. In those times, seek out a homework tutor to help.
Fail Proof ADHD Homework Strategies to Implement Today
Any new journey takes a first step to get started. Perhaps you see before you the start of a new school year. Perhaps, you fear the idea of more conflict at nights over homework and studying. We hope that this article has given you hope for a change.
More than anything, we want you to know that you can change the direction of your journey today. To start a new path, it only takes one step forward. To start a new way to do homework, start with putting some of these strategies into place today. You can decide how your homework time goes. Start finding success today with these tips.
Your ADHD child is resisting getting started on homework, as usual. You’ve learned that yelling and nagging won’t work. So what should you do? This blog post suggests a starting point: determining whether your student is overstressed or bored.
The graphic above — which we have taken from a nice article by BEabove Leadership — illustrates an interesting aspect of ADHD. Your child’s ADHD-typical behaviors, such as poor impulse control, procrastination, inability to follow directions, lack of organization, can result from both stress and boredom.
These behaviors are managed in the brain’s pre-frontal cortex, and this part of the brain functions best when it has the optimum level of neurotransmitters. If your child is bored or un-stimulated, the pre-frontal cortex will not have enough dopamine or norepinephrine to kick-start homework. If your child is stressed, too much dopamine or norepinephrine will have the same effect. Lack of focus, inability to get started. That’s why the BEabove authors joke that the pre-frontal cortex is like Goldilocks. It needs its neurochemicals to be just right.
So that’s the theory. How does that help you as a parent? Our suggestion: find out which side of the curve best fits your child right now and from that determine the best strategy to get them going on their homework.
When your child is stressed:
You can usually tell when your child is stressed. Anger toward you or a sibling is one sign. Did something happen at school? Talk to your child, see if they can identify what they are feeling. Simply naming their feelings can begin the process of reducing stress and lowering adrenaline levels.
Create a relaxing homework environment
Remove distractions including pets and have your child sit at the homework table or desk. Background music is effective with a lot of children.
Try breathing exercises
If your child still seems agitated, see if you can get them to take deep breaths for a few minutes. Here are some ideas to make the breathing exercise fun. Keep a pinwheel on hand, for example, and see how long your student can keep it spinning by breathing out slowly.
Help them get started on the first assignment
Many ADHD children struggle with “initiation” which is not quite the same as procrastination. Often you will find that if you help them start their homework, for example, complete the first math problem or write the first sentence, they will keep going without you.
When your child is under-stimulated:
Turning to the left hand side of the curve, you no doubt know when your child is simply bored and is therefore resisting what seems like the torture of doing homework. Your goal is to find a way to increase the flow of dopamine to the front cortex and that is usually all about rewards.
Set short-term goals with a reward at the end
ADHD children do not respond well to far off goals (“get good grades so you can get into a good college”). They do better with a short-term incentive that will help them focus. If they have a daunting worksheet of 20 problems, break it up into 5 problems at a time with a reward of a cookie or two-minutes to check text messages.
Find ways to challenge your child
An ADHD child really struggles to focus on a topic that holds no interest or challenge. See if you can work on that somehow. Can you talk through the history assignment and find ways to make it interesting? Can you make a game out of a repetitive assignment, timing how long each homework section takes, and seeing if you child can beat the clock? Challenges and sparking curiosity have both been shown to stimulate dopamine production.
We hope you find these ideas useful. If you wonder whether you have the time or energy to put these ideas into practice every school night, you might consider hiring a homework coach who can help your child complete homework while strengthening their executive function skills.