Homework can be challenging for parents and kids when ADHD is in the picture. In order to prevent hassles, the first place to start is at your child’s school.
Try to meet with your child’s teachers and learn what the homework expectations will be for the coming school year. (If the homework assignments seem to be excessive, remember that under 504 plans or an IEP, it is possible for the amount of homework to be modified to accommodate the abilities of the child with ADHD.) At this time, it’s also a good idea to set up regular quarterly meetings or determine a system for communication between parent and teacher to make sure that everybody’s on the same page.
The next step is to set the stage at home. Just prior to the start of school, it’s probably a good idea to have a time to talk about upcoming changes that the start of school will bring. Homework can be presented in the context of “It’s part of the work of a child to do some work at home, just like it is for adults.” If you or your spouse bring work home from time to time, use that as an example.
Kids with ADHD often have trouble separating tasks and following through on them. To help them focus, try presenting this concept to your child: Tell them that every person’s time is divided into at least three different ways. For everyone, there is a time for play, a time for work, and a time for rest. It’s important to get the most out of each activity, and one way to do this is by keeping them separate. You could say, “After all, you wouldn’t want to bring homework to a party, so the same is true about doing schoolwork at home—we don’t bring the TV or video games on to homework time”.
In order to keep homework separate from other activities, there are at least two steps that you can take. The first is to establish a specific time or times for homework. These times should be agreed upon in advance and put in writing. The second is to establish a place for homework to be done. This area should be as free from distraction as possible and should have adequate workspace and all the necessary supplies readily available.
Taking these basic steps can set the stage for a school year without major hassles regarding homework. My next post will be on additional basic tips on helping kids cope successfully with homework.
Fact: For the child with ADHD, the difficult teen years are doubly hard. That’s because all the adolescent problems—peer pressure, the fear of failure both in school and with peers, low self-esteem—are harder for the ADHD child to handle. The desire to be independent, to try new and forbidden things—alcohol, drugs, and sexual activity—are ways that many teens with ADHD self-medicate. And you may wake up one morning to realize that the household rules that were working for years have been thrown out the window.
Know that now, more than ever, rules should be straightforward and easy to understand. Clear communication between you and your teen with ADHD is vital. Make sure they understand the reasons for each rule. In other words, when a rule is set, it should be clear why the rule is set. Sometimes it helps to have a chart posted in the kitchen that lists all household rules and all rules for outside the home (including social behavior and school).
When rules are broken—and they will be—respond to this inappropriate behavior as calmly and matter-of-factly as possible. Use punishment sparingly, but let your teen face the consequences of his or her actions. Even with adolescents, a time-out can work, though you might want to call it something different. Impulsivity and hot temper often accompany ADHD; a short time alone can help.
Know that as your teenager spends more time away from home, there will be demands for a later curfew and the use of the car. Listen to your child’s requests, give reasons for your opinion and listen to his or her opinion and negotiate. Communication, negotiation, and compromise will prove helpful.
I believe parents can help their teen with ADHD function successfully by coaching them in the following:
One last word of advice: although your child most probably has been periodically evaluated through the years, adolescence, with its raging hormones and physical changes, is a good time to have your child’s doctor do a complete re-evaluation of their health.
When it comes to your ADHD/ADD child and school, remember: you are your child’s best advocate. I think to be a good advocate for your child, it’s important to learn as much as you can about ADHD and how it affects your child at home, in school, and in social situations.
Many children with ADHD also have specific learning disabilities which need to be identified so they can be addressed along with the ADHD. You can use the Learning Disabilities Check List as an indicator of whether your child may have learning disabilities. (You may want to share this information with your child’s school and doctors.)
If you feel that your child has ADHD and isn’t learning in school as he or she should, you should find out just whom in the school system you should contact. Your child’s teacher should be able to help you with this information. Then you can request—in writing—that the school system evaluate your child. The letter should include the date, your and your child’s names, and the reason for requesting an evaluation. Keep a copy of the letter in your own files.
Until the last few years, many school systems were reluctant to evaluate a child with ADHD. But recent laws have made clear the school’s obligation to the child suspected of having ADHD. This is because it often may be adversely affecting his or her performance in school. If the school persists in refusing to evaluate your child, you can either get a private evaluation or enlist some help in negotiating with the school. Help is often as close as a local parent group. Each state has a Parent Training and Information (PTI) center as well as a Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agency.
Once your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and qualifies for special education services, the school, working with you, must assess the child’s strengths and weaknesses and design an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). You should be able periodically to review and approve your child’s IEP.
Never forget the cardinal rule—you are your child’s best advocate.