How can you help your ADHD child learn and get his homework done? Is there any way that you can complement and liaise better with his school teachers so that everyone is on the same track? Here are seven ways you can help with an ADHD concentration problem or a lack of motivation. I will not deal with Section 504 or IEP issues as that will be a separate post. Let us assume that you have made those special arrangements (if they apply to your situation).
1. Choose the right environment for your child
Each child with ADHD is different so no size fits all. Many ADHD kids need to fidget or do some secondary activity which actually helps them concentrate. If you read Mark Rapport’s article in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, you will discover that telling them sit still may be the worst advice of all. They will need to fidget because it really helps the brain transmitters to kick into action.
Getting a wiggle seat or stability ball may be a godsend although as I said one size does not fit all. Dr John Ratey (author of Spark) also noted that the physical activity can actually get the brain transmitters such as norepinephrine going which helps the brain to focus which can really help with an ADHD concentration problem.
2. Be there but not necessarily all the time.
While a certain amount of activity is fine and some kids respond well to background noise such as music, there still has to be a quiet area for homework. The first piece of advice is that you have to be there at the beginning especially so that you can break down assignments and get them going on the tasks but you do not have to be there all the time. Getting a student helper is also a great idea if you are working or cannot be there.
3. How much homework is your child getting?
If it is too much, then check that out with the teacher. According to The National Education Association and the Parent Teacher Association, a sixth grader should not be spending more than one hour on homework although those figures might have to be lengthened for ADHD kids. However, it is no harm to check if you feel that your child is getting too much homework.
4. WHO is doing the homework?
While helping to break down tasks and so on can be a great help, never end up doing the homework for the child. Helping does not mean doing it! Actually, this suggestion is valid for all aspects of a ADHD child’s life because if they get the impression that having a slight mental disorder means that their parents will always help them out, then this is very unwise. It means that the child will become far too reliant on their parents. Similar episodes occur when the parents hover like helicopters offering to help out at every little obstacle!
5. Setting time limits and breaks
Establishing a set time limit for each task/subject seems to work with most ADHD kids. Build in breaks and encourage multi tasking because jumping from one task to another actually helps some ADHD kids. I know one parent who sets up homework stations around the table and the child seems to thrive moving from one to another until all the tasks are completed. You have to find out what works best for your child.
6. Can diet actually help an ADHD kid to concentrate?
Numerous experiments show that healthy eating does reduce distraction and impulsivity. Teachers noted that when school lunches were changed, kids were better behaved and more focused in the afternoon. If you look at the school lunch menu online at Appleton High School (WI) there is a definite policy of introducing more vegetables and reducing starchy vegs like potatoes which can help to stabilise blood sugar. What we eat does affect how our brains work! This is also borne out by the work of Dr. Lily Pessler at the ADHD Research Centre in Holland who is convinced that the main cause of ADHD is hypersensitivity to certain foods. She published an article in The Lancet recently.
7. Build in rewards
Chalk up achievements and high grades. Keep a chart in a prominent place. This is so important because you will also be emphasising your child’s achievements and strengths. As we know ADHD can lead to low self esteem and cause numerous other problems in adulthood. But if we are focused on giving our children the best help we can, we are already putting them at the front of the line.
As I always say, no one size fits all so some of these suggestions may not work for your child. You need to experiment with some of these. As Prof. Kapalka’s research at the Monmouth University in West Long Beach, NJ shows, having a structured approach with proper records, set times and rewards after homework is done, really does lead to an improvement .
Robert Locke is an award winning author and has written extensively on ADHD and related child health problems. You can visit this page on ADHD natural treatment to find out more.