Children with ADHD and Homework

Health Writer

It's back to school time"and that means back to homework. For many parents of children with ADHD homework time is a nightmare. Sasha is one such mother. Her son, Sam, was diagnosed with ADHD three years ago when he was 8 years old. Last year, when Sam was in fourth grade, the amount of homework increased a lot from the year before. Once Sasha made sure Sam had all the books, papers and knew what the assignment was - and there were plenty of nights when he didn't have the right book or forgot the worksheet or didn't remember what he was supposed to do - it took her a long time to get him settled down. Some days they would start on the homework about an hour after Sam got home from school and still be working on it at 9:00 PM, when he should have been getting ready for bed. It was hard for Sasha to get Sam to sit still and work, hard for him to focus on school work that late at night, especially on nights when homework dragged on for hours.

Even more frustrating than the hours spend each night on homework, was the fact that Sam frequently received no credit - because somewhere between his house and when it was time to hand it in - he lost the papers. His teacher couldn't give him credit just because he said he had done it.

Sasha's complaints are typical. Many parents of children with ADHD dread homework time. They want to spend quality time with their child in the evening, want to enjoy a family dinner and ask about the school day. But school nights are often filled with frustration - for both the parent and the child.

Rules Help Homework Time

A study presented to the American Psychological Association's Annual Meeting in 2010 outlined four rules that helped reduce the number of homework problems for children with ADHD.   According to George Kapalka, an associate professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey and the lead researcher of the study, students who received specific teacher and parental interventions surrounding homework showed a significant improvement in homework problems.

The four rules or interventions applied during the study were:

  • Students showed their teacher their homework journal, where all assignments were written down, before leaving school each day.
  • Students were required to start homework within an hour of school dismissal time and were required to work in a quiet area.
  • Students could not watch television or play video games until homework was completed.
  • Students lost all computer/video game/television time for one day if they didn't bring home their journal or forgot anything needed to complete their assignment.

The study included 39 participants, divided into two groups - one group received the interventions and the other group did not receive any interventions. All the participants were boys, ages 6 to 10 and all had a diagnosis of ADHD combined type. They were allowed to continue medications if they were already taking them, however, no participant could add medication or change the dosage during the study.

While all homework problems weren't solved - researchers did see a 50 percent decrease in homework problems, which was considered significant.

Technology Helpers

Using technology, some teachers are making it even easier for parents to know exactly what is for homework. Some ideas include

  • Online programs to post all assignments. Students and parents can log in to view the assignment. Some may even have worksheets online to print out at home.
  • Accepting assignments via email.
  • Textbooks available online - with a user name and password students can access their textbook online.

Talk with your child's teacher about what types of online services are available to help.

For more ideas on making homework time easier and more productive:

Ten Suggestions for Winning the Homework Wars

Handing in Homework Assignments


"Structured Homework Strategy Helps ADHD Kids," 2012, Aug 16, Kathleen Doheny, WebMD