Tips for Home and School for Children with ADHD

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This series of tips may help your child succeed both at home and at school.

Writing/Language Problems:

ADHD students often have difficulty writing, including poor handwriting, grammar, and spelling errors. The sequence of listening, taking in information, processing it, and then writing it down is very challenging for them. They may also have trouble understanding what they are told or expressing their thoughts effectively.

Classroom:

More than anything, children with ADHD may need extra time. Teachers should develop abbreviated assignments or provide extended time for children with ADHD. Taking points off for poor handwriting or grammar will require your child to expend enormous effort and it may be best to let some things slide. Providing a few extra moments for verbal questions can also be very helpful.

Home:

Parents should provide extra support to their children with ADHD. This can include writing down answers the child provides orally, using a word processor and providing positive reinforcement to emphasize your child’s strengths. Create an encouraging language-rich environment in your home and never shame your child for slow processing or misuse of words. Early intervention is critical.

Missing Assignments:

Children with ADHD have difficulty keeping track of information and time and often fall into patterns of handing homework in late. They usually want to be compliant, but lack the organizational skills.

Classroom:

Children with ADHD need a high degree of supervision and structure. Systems that provide cues and reminders can help. Always make sure your child writes down the assignment and has a homework folder. For longer-term projects, it may be useful to track the child’s progress periodically. Homework corrections should also be positive and instructive.

Home:

Help your child develop a system that will provide support from the beginning to the end of a project. Some ideas include checklists and labeling or color-coding books, binders and folders by subject. Establishing a routine is important. Don’t let your child procrastinate. Allow him or her more independence as a reward.

Distractibility:

ADHD is not just an inability to pay attention, but an inability to control what one pays attention to. Children with the disorder are unable to inhibit their response to distractions, such as noise or movement from outside, or their own inner thoughts.

Classroom:

Encourage your child to sit close to the teacher and away from doors or windows. Privacy dividers may help limit distractions during study sessions. Teachers should use a variety of visual, auditory and kinesthetic lessons to keep your child involved. Short lesson periods with a variety of pacing will help keep your child engaged. Teachers should use nonverbal cues to refocus attention, rather than reprimanding (e.g., patting child on the shoulder).

Home:

Establish a daily homework routine, which can include a break between school and homework, or even multiple breaks during homework time. Help your child set up a distraction-free environment and sit with them if necessary to help them stay focused. Alert the teacher when your child does not have the skills to complete an assignment or if it takes an inordinately long time.

Immature Social Behavior:

Children with ADHD often have a hard time reading verbal and physical social cues, misinterpret remarks and miss the point of a joke or game. They sometimes act-out inappropriately in an effort for positive attention.

Classroom:

Talk with your child’s teacher about his or her level of social maturity. Teachers should use positive reinforcement, especially in front of peers. This will limit their urge to employ attention-getting antics. One-on-one time, followed by smaller group sessions can help children with ADHD learn and then practice appropriate behavior.

Home:

Identify your child’s strengths by involving him or her in music, sports or other hobbies. This can contribute to a greater sense of self. Coach your child by role playing everyday situations and if necessary, locate a social skills remediation group in your area so your child can practice in a “safe environment.” Children with ADHD are often great playmates to younger children and can learn to foster positive caring traits while not feeling threatened by peers.

Following Instructions:

Difficulty following instructions is a hallmark feature of children with ADHD. Multi-step directions are particularly difficult, as the child may only hear bits and pieces.

Classroom:

Teachers should use specific, brief, and personal instructions whenever possible. Written instructions can help children so they can review the instructions again later. Some children find recording classes to be helpful. Having students repeat instructions back is also effective.

Home:

Parents need to break down large jobs with multiple tasks into smaller, single steps. Creating check lists can be useful, as well as using a reward system. Try to redirect rather than punish your child if they get sidetracked by something else.

Impulsivity:

Children with ADHD are often labeled unruly or aggressive because of their impulsive physical and social interactions. Even though children with ADHD can be caring and sensitive, they have a hard time controlling impulses.

Classroom:

Teachers should post rules in the classroom to let the child know what’s expected throughout the day. It also serves as a visual reminder for children to think before they act. Some children may need targeted behavior cards taped to their desks (e.g., “Raise hand before speaking”). Transitions can be another stress point. Providing five and two minute warnings can help avoid meltdowns. Work with your child’s teacher to coordinate the best behavior modifying techniques. Anticipating explosive situations is always vital.

Home:

Natural consequences are an important part of disciplining children with ADHD. Provide immediate, positive feedback and attention when children with ADHD are behaving well. Specific, proactive and directive discipline tends to be most successful. Tell your child exactly what you need him or her to do, rather than vaguely suggesting they “behave” or “be good.” Allow minor misbehaviors to slide and try to stay positive.

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