Because of the nature of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), students with the disorder face special challenges at school.
For instance, most students lose focus easily. Some students with ADHD also have weaker working memories, according to Laurie Dietzel, Ph.D, a psychologist specializing in ADHD and developmental disabilities and co-author of Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning. She likens working memory to a brain scratch pad or storage area, which helps you briefly retain information in order to complete tasks.
Some students have difficulty completing boring or demanding tasks. They’re able to hyperfocus on tasks they find interesting, such as an avid reader whose attention never wanders with a book. But distractions are aplenty with tedious tasks. Procrastination also is pervasive among people with ADHD, and, not surprisingly, can sabotage school success.
The key to succeeding in school, whether it’s high school or college, is to determine your unique challenges and find specific solutions. “Everyone with ADHD is different, and finds different things that work for them,” Dietzel said. The best way to figure out what works is to experiment, she said. Here’s a list of strategies to get you started.
1. Have a planner. It doesn’t matter whether you use a paper planner, your cell phone or a calendar on your computer, every student needs to have a “central system” to record “what they’re supposed to be doing when,” Dietzel said.
2. Schedule everything in. Put everything in your planner, including your classes, library and study sessions and even breaks like exercise, relaxation and time with friends. This way you don’t even need to contemplate your next step (and possibly get distracted or interrupted).
For instance, every Tuesday and Thursday, you already know that you’re studying at the library for two hours. Eventually, your library sessions and other regular activities become as automatic as brushing your teeth. Dietzel also compared this to athletes on the field: When your teammate throws you the ball, you don’t need to think about catching it. You do it reflexively.
Dietzel also advises students to schedule in a lot of extra time, because tasks tend to take longer. Look at your track record, she said, and be honest with yourself about the time you spend writing a paper or studying for an exam.
3. Study in increments. Cramming the night before a test isn’t just stressful; it’s ineffective. “Our brains aren’t meant to absorb and retain information [that we] reviewed at the last minute,” Dietzel said. That’s because repetition is key to learning, and “last-minute stress can lead to anxiety that blocks our ability to readily understand and recall information.” Instead, Dietzel suggests starting a week ahead and studying in 15- to 20-minute increments.
4. Use whatever study tools work best. Consider what kinds of tools help you study effectively. Maybe you learn best by using flash cards, copying notes or talking with others about the material. Or maybe pacing helps you retain facts. In fact, some younger kids with ADHD prefer to move around while they’re doing their homework because it helps them focus. According to Dietzel, “Movement can stimulate some of the frontal lobe regions and attention control.”
Some students need to use a variety of techniques. They learn best with a multisensory approach, meaning they use techniques that involve more than one sense, Dietzel said.
5. Create a contingency plan. Setting up a system where you earn rewards for completing tasks may motivate some students. Here’s an example of how it might work: If you email your essay to the professor by next Wednesday, your reward is to attend a football game or do another activity you love. If you don’t, you stay home and work on your paper.
6. Have realistic expectations. Dietzel knows many bright and well-meaning students who load up their semester with challenging classes. Even though these students work incredibly hard and are highly motivated, they still struggle with paying attention and studying effectively.
Take the example of a high school student with ADHD, Dietzel said. A slow reader, she needs to re-read regularly, which doubles or triples her homework time. If she picks mostly heavy-reading courses, she’ll be stressed and won’t do as well. Instead of creating a needlessly tough situation, she can save one course for the summer.
Sometimes it can be hard to identify sensible expectations. Adolescents and young adults also might not admit they’re having trouble, Dietzel said. A consultation with a professional who specializes in ADHD can help. Dietzel regularly meets with parents and teens to help them create reasonable schedules and find solutions to common scholastic challenges.
Every child will likely have trouble with homework at some point. But for children with ADD and ADHD, the problem can go beyond a few assignments. Among other things, children with ADD and ADHD face challenges with focusing, patience, and organizing. These challenges can make it hard for students to perform to the best of their potential in, and out of, the classroom.
Helping Your Child Tackle ADD/ADHD and Homework
Children with ADD and ADHD can be hasty, rushing through their homework and making mistakes. They may lose homework, struggle to organize thoughts and tasks, and fail to plan ahead.
The challenges your child faces can be overcome with practiced habits and proper study skills for ADD/ADHD students. With these 10 ADD/ADHD homework tips, your child can learn how to focus on homework with ADD/ADHD and achieve success in the classroom.
Learn how you can help improve your child’s academic skills with these homework and study tips for kids with ADHD/ADD.
Study Strategies for ADHD & ADD
1. Create a homework-only space
Children with ADD and ADHD can be easily distracted by their surroundings. Find a comfortable place where your child can work with few distractions. Use this as a quiet study space away from noise and movement where your child can clear his or her mind and focus.
Don’t do homework in the bedroom. The bedroom is a place for sleep, rest, and relaxation — not work and stress.
2. Create a consistent schedule
It is important for kids with ADD/ADHD to have a consistent routine. This will help your child start his or her homework and focus. Set a time each day for your child to sit down and complete his or her work.
3. Study in spurts
ADD and ADHD can make it hard to focus, so breaks are a must. Studying in short spurts can help. Give your child regular breaks from homework for a snack or a walk, and let the mind refresh and reset! This will give your child a chance to burn off extra energy and improve concentration when he or she returns.
4. Get the teacher involved
It’s hard to always know what is happening with your child at school. Talking to his or her teacher can help make sure you’re informed. Ask the teacher about sending regular reports on your child and updates on homework assignments. If possible, meet with them every few weeks and for progress reports. Knowing what is going on in the classroom can help you and your child’s teacher make changes to make sure your child is learning effectively.
5. Get Organized
Organize school supplies and make checklists and schedules for homework and assignments. Help your child get his or her bag ready for school the next morning and make sure all homework is complete. You can make organization fun for your child with coloured folders, special pencils, stickers and cool labels.
6. Show Support
Encourage your child to always try his or her best. Although your child should be completing his or her work independently, it is okay to help when asked. Help your child look at challenges in a positive light to keep him or her motivated. This will show that you are willing to always help him or her do better.
7. Understand how your child learns
Whether it is auditory, kinesthetic or visual, knowing how your child learns is important. Change studying habits to fit his or her learning style with graphs, visuals, music, walking, or talking out loud. Every child learns differently. Studying in a way that works for him or her can help improve understanding and retention.
Read our Complete Study Guide For Every Type Of Learner for more study tips!
8. Know when it’s time to quit
Children with ADD/ADHD can become easily frustrated and overwhelmed. Encourage your child to keep going as long as he or she can, but don’t push your child too much. If he or she has hit his or her limit, stop for the night. If homework hasn’t been completed for the following school day, send the teacher a note to explain.
9. Offer praise and positive feedback
Congratulate your child after he or she finishes his or her homework. You can also do something special, like a small treat or trip to the park. Even if your child was not able to finish his or her work, praise his or her efforts and strive for a new goal the next day.
10. Move around
Sitting for long periods of time can be challenging for students with ADD/ADHD. Letting your child get up to move around can help him or her maintain focus. Try making studying into a physical activity, where your child counts out steps when practicing math problems like addition and subtraction. Having something he or she can fidget with while doing work can also help. Stress balls are a great item your child can take with him or her wherever he or she goes.
Children Can Succeed With The Right ADD/ADHD Study Skills
Children with ADD and ADHD feel at times they cannot control their own actions. They can become easily distracted, which can lead to poor grades, frustration, and disappointment. These ADD/ADHD study tips will help your child conquer these academic challenges, with improved concentration, time management and organizational skills. Most importantly, they will also help boost self esteem and confidence.
Remember, these changes won’t happen overnight. It will take time for your child to adjust to new routines and habits. Once you, and your child, understand how to study and do homework with ADD/ADHD, your child will be on the way to more effective learning.
Does your child struggle with a learning difficulty? Find out more about Oxford Learning’s Learning Disability Tutoring programs.
ADD Strategies For School Success
It’s Not ADD; It’s Childhood