Minor Changes Can Create Dramatic Improvements
Most students experience occasional difficulties completing homework assignments. But for students with ADHD, homework challenges are often the norm rather than the exception. Fortunately, you can reverse this trend by making some minor changes to the student's homework routine. From creating a distraction-free homework zone to encouraging physical exercise before diving into homework activities, there are many measures you can take as a parent to help students with attention deficits successfully complete school assignments.
Establish a Schedule
A clearly defined routine is the cornerstone of a productive homework strategy. Nailing down a firm homework schedule offers structure and security to students with ADHD. Because every student with ADHD is different, the routine you establish should be carefully designed to reflect the strengths of your child. For instance, some students are able to focus best after they arrive home from school and have a snack while others seem to concentrate better right after dinner.
"Children with ADHD need routine. Reliable schedules for mornings, after school, and bedtime make a tremendous difference in setting expectations, building good habits, and improving ADD-related behavior.""
Use a Weekly Calendar to Post Homework Times
At the start of each week, create a calendar that lists designated homework times for each day of the week. Make three copies of the calendar and post them in the following locations to help students with ADHD remain on track:
- Post one copy in the student's designated homework area at home
- Post the second copy in a highly visible location in the home, such as the kitchen refrigerator
- Place the third copy in the student's backpack
"If after-school activities make a regular schedule difficult, help your child's time management by posting a weekly calendar that lists homework start and end times each day."
Create a Distraction-Free Place to Complete Homework Assignments
Once you have created a homework routine, you need to make sure students have a quiet place to study and complete their assignments. Minimizing distractions is especially important, as it can take the average person engaged in a task 25 minutes to get back on track after being interrupted. Regaining focus is even harder for students with ADHD, highlighting the need for a homework environment that is conducive to sustained concentration. Here are a few ways to create the ideal homework zone for students with ADHD:
- Look for a work space away from windows and doorways
- Choose an area with minimalist decor
- Make sure students have comfortable seating
- Remove or turn off electronic devices in the area
Provide Encouragement During Homework Time
Receiving encouragement from parents and caregivers helps students with ADHD view homework in a more positive light. Homework is less apt to be approached with dread and procrastination is less likely to occur. There are many ways that you can provide encouragement before, during, and after homework time, including the following:
- Recognize students for being early or on time to their designated homework space
- Provide praise if you notice that students do a good job of staying seated and focusing on the assignments at hand
- If distractions arise, provide praise to students who are able to remain focused on their homework
Encourage Physical Activity Prior to Tackling Homework
Research shows that exercise sharpens brain focus in students with ADHD. Before settling into homework duties, encourage students to take their dogs for a walk or play a bit of basketball to improve their mental functioning. You can even try a new physical activity each day to keep things interesting. You can help students build exercise into their routines by adding their selected physical activities to their weekly homework calendars.
"Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise a day, four to five days a week, improves focus and executive functioning skills, especially in students with ADHD. If your child doesn't play a sport, encourage him to run with your dog or shoot some hoops just before he sits down to do schoolwork. Although any aerobic exercise will do the job, the most helpful exercises for students with ADHD are ballet, yoga, and tai chi, all of which require students to focus on their body and their mind."
Take a Break Every 20-30 Minutes
Sitting in the same place for long periods of time can be difficult for students with ADHD. You can help students keep their energy levels high by taking a short five-minute break every 20-30 minutes. Breaks may include stretching, drinking a glass of water, or taking a brisk walk around the house. Make sure to limit breaks to five minutes by offering a visual and audible timer that alerts students that break time has come to a close.
Communicate with the Student's Teacher
Some students with ADHD exhibit good study habits in the classroom but do not exhibit those same productive behaviors at home or in an after school program. And in other cases, students may have difficulty transitioning study habits developed at home to the classroom. In both of these cases, you can gain valuable insight about a student's approach to homework and studying by communicating with the student's teacher. Here are a few questions to ask the teacher:
- "Are there certain times of the day when Michael seems to be able to better focus on learning?"
- "What strategies seem to work best at school to encourage Michael to focus on his assignments?"
- "Based on your experience, is there anything I can do at home to help Michael grasp key concepts better?"