For many children, homework is a mundane but routine task. For others, especially those with ADHD, homework is a process where any number of things can go wrong. To complete homework, your child must write down the assignment, bring home essential papers and books, complete the homework and get it back to the teacher the next day. Along the way, just about anything can derail the homework process including forgetting to write down the assignment or forgetting the book. Once home, finishing homework takes focus and concentration. Your child might complete his homework and then lose it before he gets a chance to hand it in. For children with ADHD, and their parents, homework is often a nightmare.
The following tips might help homework time go a little easier:
Know what is expected. Before battling with your child each night, talk with the teacher to find out what is expected and the consequences of not completing homework (or not turning it in.) Ask if you can have advance notice, such as an email, on homework assignments or if the teacher posts the assignment online.
Set a specific time for homework. Children with ADHD work much better with routine. If homework is to be completed each day, at the same time, your child knows what to expect. If you want homework done immediately after school, consider having your child do some physical exercise for a few minutes before starting homework. Exercise has been found to improve focus and after a long day at school your child might be ready for some physical activity. Set a time limit, such as 15 minutes, for your child to move around and be active.
Set up rules. Decide what time homework starts, how long breaks should be and when they should be taken. Make sure all electronics are turned off (unless background noise helps your child focus), and where homework should be done. Write down the rules and post in the homework area.
Help your child organize homework. Start by having your child create a checklist of what needs to be completed, checking off each item helps him a sense of accomplishment and can motivate him to continue. Be sure your child has all the supplies he needs so he doesn’t need to continually get up to get something and increase the chances of being distracted.
Have a folder for completed homework. Many times students with ADHD finish their homework only to lose it before handing it in. Have a folder designated for completed homework only. At the end of homework time, use the checklist to make sure everything is in the folder and ready to go to school the next day. You can use this folder for any papers you needed to sign as well.
Advocate for your child when necessary. If your child has a section 504 or an IEP, you can ask for an extra set of textbooks or the ability to do every other math problem. Consider problems your child has when doing homework and whether these can be solved with accommodations.
Make sure you stay close by. While you want your child to be able to complete homework independently, you also want him to know you are around should he have any questions or need help. Stay in the area, without hovering over him.
Use timers to help keep your child focused. Set a timer for a certain amount of minutes (less for younger children, longer for high school students), and say, "Let’s see how much you can get done in this amount of time." Then go back to check how much work was completed. Trey to keep it positive and use the timer as a way to stay focused and motivated.
Use a color coded notebook for homework assignments. Have your child write down every assignment in one place. For older, high school students who have phones, have them record their assignment in the phone or send themselves a text message with the assignment.
Always point out what your child is doing right. It is easy to become frustrated and focus on what your child isn’t doing right, but take time to point out when he is focused or works hard to get the right answer. Positive reinforcement works much better as a motivator.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.