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How to Deal with Homework and Children with ADHD

written by: Sandy Fleming • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 1/5/2012

For many families of children with ADHD, homework is a nightly ordeal lasting four, five or even six hours each and every evening. These homework tips for parents of children with ADHD will make the load more manageable and provide ways to help your student get set up for success in school.

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    A Common Problem

    Homework assignments can be a huge source of stress to students with ADHD and their families. It can be tough to get materials home, difficult to maintain focus and challenging to get assignments returned on time. Students often have a low tolerance and get frustrated with independent assignments, and it is hard to keep them moving forward with their work. Don’t give up hope! There are proven strategies to get your student over the hurdles in spite of having ADHD. Try these homework tips to help your student learn to effectively manage homework assignments.

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    Getting Assignments Home

    The first hurdle is bringing home what is needed. Your student needs to understand what's needed, bring the supplies home, and remember where everything is. Here’s how to help your student:

    • Enforce use of a planner or assignment calendar. Many schools provide them, or you can purchase one at the discount store or make your own in a notebook. Check each day for each class: a detailed assignment or a notation about no assignment that day. Do not accept a blank spot, and reward completeness to build this habit.
    • Enlist the help of the teacher. Sometimes the teacher can initial assignment notes to ensure correctness, or perhaps s/he could email you the correct assignment. Teachers might help your student create a checklist for supplies so the student can be better organized.
    • Utilize the district’s homework hotline or assignment website. Most districts now have a system in place so parents can get assignments after hours through a recording or a posting.
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    Structuring Effective Homework Time

    Like most students, children with ADHD need structure to get their assignments done. Unlike most students, gentle hints and suggestions may not work, and neither will flexibility. Make sure your student has a specific time and place to work. Be sure the allotted time is adequate and that it comes before most fun for the evening. Also check that the homework area is free from distractions and diversions. Have all common supplies ready and available. By doing these things, you will remove most of the delaying tactics that children tend to use to avoid homework.

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    Managing Troublesome Behaviors

    Here are some homework tips for children with ADHD:

    • Monitor your student’s focus. Use a timer and set goals for small sections or specific amounts of work to be completed. Do not assume your student can work independently until he or she has demonstrated the ability to do so consistently. Plan to remain in the homework area and to check frequently to see that work is being accomplished.
    • Modify assignments to keep your student from being overwhelmed. Help your child break larger tasks into smaller ones, set up a plan for completion of projects and assignments, and set goals for accomplishment. Remember that large pages of work can seem insurmountable, so cover a portion to be completed later, or fold the paper so only one row shows at a time, or make a light pencil mark below a stopping point.
    • Reward focus and time on task. Set a timer for short intervals, and check your student’s focus each time the timer sounds. Praise and offer incentives for being “caught" while being focused on the work at hand.
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    Getting the Work Back to School

    Once the work is completed, be sure it is put into a designated spot so it can go back to school. Be sure the work is put into the backpack. Be sure the backpack is taken to school. Build the habit of always placing work into the same spot. Make a checklist in the front of the notebook to remind your student to hand in the work. Go through the book bag, locker, or desk on a regular basis to find and return work that has been neglected. Pay close attention to missing assignment reports and track down late work immediately.

    Remind your student to get any make up work after an absence, and to turn in the work that has been missed. Use all of the tools at your disposal, and these homework tips for children with ADHD should help your student keep the homework to a manageable level this school year.