After a long day at school, homework can be very difficult for children ADHD because of their struggles with organisation, time management and memory. Homework requires all these skills, as they must remember their assignments, bring home the right books and materials, and keep track of due dates.
ADHD symptoms directly impact these skills because of difficulties with sustained attention and resisting distractions and impairments in executive functions like memory, motivation, and self-monitoring.
Some aspects that make it harder to complete homework for children with ADHD include:
- A disorganised desk and work area
- Procrastination and easily distracted
- Difficulty pursing boring or difficult tasks
- Forget and loses important books, materials and assignment instructions
- Poor planning, scheduling, prioritising and pacing
- Lack of awareness of time and estimating time required for tasks
- Missing deadlines and due dates
- Late for class, activities and appointments
- Difficult keeping on top of things
- Poor management of long-term projects
With a good system in place, you can take the dread away from homework and bring some calm to your evening routine.
Create a nice workspace
Find a nice comfortable space for your child to work, and minimise distractions as best as you can. Remove as much unnecessary clutter as possible. As they say “a tidy space, a tidy mind”.
A folder is a great way for kids to keep their materials and worksheets organised. Different coloured dividers can help to delineate different subjects and tasks. For example, a red folder could be labelled homework that needs to be submitted.
Avoid the morning rush
To avoid the morning rush, teach your child to get ready for school the night before. They could put out the clothes they will wear, have lunch prepared and pack their bag, and even shower/bathe in the evening.
Use reminders and cues
A whiteboard can be used to write down important messages and reminders such as “remember to take your assignment”. Sticky-notes can also be placed on things like mirrors and doors where your child is likely to see them. If they remember to take their homework but forget to hand it in, put a sticker on their lunchbox or in their pencil case.
Use a calendar
Have a family calendar, that is kept somewhere central like the kitchen. Make it a family routine to check the calendar to see what you have on this week. Each person should use a different colour on the calendar so they can easily look out for events and due dates.
Help the child to notice how long their regular routine usually takes. How long does it take to get home, how long does it take to eat dinner, do their homework, and get ready for bed? Then they can start planning their time better in the afternoons.
Have your child wear a watch or work with a clock in sight.
Break down long-term projects
Big assignments with a long dead line can be overwhelming for your child. Mark a deadline on the calendar, and have the child regularly check the calendar to keep track of when the date is approaching. Help your child break the assignment down into smaller chunks and create a plan. They might enjoy crossing the smaller tasks of the check list as they make their way towards completing the assignment.
Keep track of due dates
Ask the teacher to set your child up with a “buddy” who is usually on top of assignments and due dates. This can be someone that you can call if you have any questions about the assignment. This can spare a lot of last-minute panic!
Schedule a time for home work or study
It helps to create a weekly schedule and get your child to choose when they will set aside some time to do their homework. Some children prefer to get their homework done straight away, others need a break after school. Stick to the plan as best as you can and have reminders, so that it becomes a non-negotiable part of their daily routine.
Help them get started with homework
Your child might need help while they get started with their homework. Read the instructions with them, and do a few items together. Then let them work independently, but monitor them and give them feedback. Praise them for being on task and taking responsibility, and for making progress.
Find ways to increase their motivation
You can use a timer to challenge your child to stay on task. A “beat the clock” system can provide motivation to help them complete the task before the timer goes off. Reward them for completing work with good accuracy.
Give them breaks
Breaks are very important for children with ADHD. Give them a break between tasks, such as a snack or to play or exercise.
Create a plan with the teacher
It can take children with ADHD much longer to complete their homework than their peers. If it is taking far too much time, get your child to stop and talk to the teacher about creating a realistic homework plan for your child.
Practice these strategies for a few months and build them into your usual routine. Over time they will become habits, and homework and study is guaranteed to be far less stressful and painful for you and your child!
Rief, Sandra F. The ADHD book of lists: A practical guide for helping children and teens with attention deficit disorders. John Wiley & Sons, 2015.