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How to Make Easy ADHD-Friendly Homework Instructions

written by: Ann Olson • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 8/2/2012

Concentrating and deciphering instructions are difficult for children with ADHD. When the instructions are given in school settings, their comprehension skills are further reduced. But simplifying homework directions to include visual aids and short, easy-to-follow sentences reduces confusion.

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    Why ADHD-Friendly Homework Instructions Are Necessary

    Children with ADHD have a harder time comprehending and listening to directions, especially in a school setting. Repeating the directions over and over will not help children understand or memorize the directions—it simply doesn't "click" with their brain.

    Instead, teachers and teacher aides can use these five steps to simplify homework directions in an easy-to-follow, ADHD-friendly format.

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    The Five Basic Steps

    1. Strip the homework directions down to their basics. Using easy words and direct commands makes it easier for the ADHD child to understand and follow. Keep the sentences as short as possible. Avoid using commas to separate ideas, which can add extra confusion and possible misinterpretation. Instead, use periods to separate ideas. Turn the instruction into a question if possible. Do not elaborate on the instruction unless it is absolutely necessary.

    For example, let's use the direction "Begin by reading the first story and identify the subject, the main characters, and the moral of the story". This will confuse any ADHD child because all of the information is jammed into one sentence.

    An improved, ADHD-friendly version would be "Read the first story. What is the subject? Who are the main characters? What is the moral of the story?"

    This eliminates any wordiness, separates each thought into a direct, easy-to-follow format, and also turns most of the thoughts into questions. Using questions act as a signal to children, commanding them to take an action instead of simply reading the instruction.

    2. If possible, use pictures or charts to illustrate homework directions. ADHD children respond better to visual cues, which reduces the amount of time they have to concentrate. The less time they have to concentrate, the better their school grades will be.

    For example, let's use the same direction. For the first part, "Read the first story," draw an arrow from the homework direction to the story. For the direction "Who are the main characters?" include a drawing of the two main characters described in the story next to the question. Not only does it make it easier for the ADHD child to comprehend, the visual aids also provide additional clues for comprehending the question's meaning.

    3. Split each set of homework directions. Do not include more than one set of homework directions on one page. If the child loses concentration and scans the entire page, he or she may see the additional instructions and become confused.

    Instead, only include one set of homework directions on each page. For example, you would include the example "Read the first story" draw an arrow from the homework direction to the story. For the direction "Who are the main characters?" you would not include instructions for the next story.

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    Will This Strategy Work For Everybody?

    Though each child's ADHD can vary in severity, these simplification techniques help most ADHD children improve their homework grades and comprehension skills. The key here is easy-to-follow formatting with plenty of visual aids, avoiding homework instruction "clutter" when possible. This creates easy, ADHD-friendly homework directions that are easily understood by any child.

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