7 Ways To Motivate A Kid With ADHD To Do Homework And Chores

Start by meeting your kid where they are — and really listen to what they’re telling you.

how to help child with adhd do homework

All parents fight with their kids to do their chores or homework, but with kids who have ADHD, it’s a whole other battle. Children with ADHD are neurologically wired to have difficulty starting and finishing tasks . They often struggle with executive functioning , a family of mental skills that includes the ability to plan, conceptualize, and execute goals. All of this means that completing everyday tasks such as homework and chores — or even getting up for school — can become major points of difficulty for some kids, and major points of conflict between them and their parents.

That doesn’t mean that the only option is to push your way through. For children (and adults) with ADHD, staying on task can sometimes be as easy as reframing the process using management and motivation styles that better fit their needs and are more suited to the way they think. While the same strategies won’t work for everyone, these seven tips are a great place to start figuring out the right setup to keep your kid with ADHD on task.

1. A Little Understanding Goes a Long Way

Start by meeting your kid where they are — and really listen to what they’re saying. When a child appears disinterested or unable to start a task or an assignment, try to identify anything that might be getting in their way. ADHD and anxiety often go hand in hand , and tasks can feel overwhelming if they’re long and complex, or they may bring up some underlying discomfort (like assignments from that one terrifying teacher). Once you know what obstacles your child is facing, you’ll be better poised to find ways to overcome them. And yes, being bored definitely counts as one of these obstacles.

2. Break Down Larger Goals

Maintaining focus and motivation over a long period of time is difficult for kids with ADHD — it’s like trying to remember your place in a book with pages that won’t stop flipping around. Plenty of projects can be broken down into discrete parts, and writing them down on a piece of paper or a whiteboard can help free up brain space and encourage your child to focus on one step at a time, says Carey Heller, Psy.D. , a Maryland-based psychologist who specializes in childhood and adolescent ADHD. Try finding a way to help your child unwind in between each step.

3. Encourage Routine

“Creating structure is really important,” Heller says. Small routines, like a pre-homework snack after school followed by a set reminder to do homework , can help create a familiar flow of activities that eliminates the need to spend mental energy on planning when to tackle heftier tasks.

Knowing when a change in activity is coming is also a huge boon for the ADHD brain, which can easily become fixated and difficult to redirect . “For example, if a child is reading for fun, or playing a game of some kind, suddenly being surprised by parents saying ‘It's time to do homework ’ may make them yell or react a little more strongly because of the difficulty shifting attention, rather than it being that they truly don't want to do it,” Heller says. If it’s a routine that game time stops at 5 p.m. everyday, switching away from that activity will likely be less of a fight.

4. Set Reminders

When it comes to ADHD , organization is key. Luckily, there’s no shortage of tools to help parents and children achieve it. For older kids with smartphones, using the reminder and calendar apps to break up tasks into to-dos and deadlines is just a matter of building the habit. For parents of younger children, or those who may not want their kids relying on screens to manage their planning, smart home devices can act as hands-free virtual assistants for even the tiniest of tots. Heller says he uses his own Amazon Echo to set reminders so often that his son was listing off his own tasks to the device at the age of 4. For a tech-free option, paper planners can be a huge help to older kids — some are even made specifically for those with ADHD . The best reminder system for your kid, Heller says, is whichever one they’ll use.

5. Add Rewards

It’s what we all want for a job well done — something to look forward to. There’s good evidence that the dopamine reward pathway — the portion of the brain that makes you feel good when you accomplish something — is disrupted in people with ADHD, leading to a deficit in the ability to motivate from within . Thankfully, there’s also evidence that for children under 12 , having an extrinsic reward, or something tangible to look forward to, can improve performance on a task.

For bigger projects, Heller suggests sprinkling rewards along the way. Which rewards work best is going to vary a ton from child to child, but options such as a favorite meal or quality time with a parent tend to be a hit in his office.

6. Embrace Fidgeting

Sure, your kid has to sit still at school. But at home, there’s no need to be so rigid. Heller swears by the strategy of “ harnessing fidgeting to improve focus .” Turn your kid’s desk into the most fun home office in the house with items like an under-desk elliptical, a balance board, or even a simple standing desk setup — find what clicks for them. Even something as simple as pacing the room while reading can help some kids with ADHD stay engaged.

7. Remember: You’re There to Guide

Helping your child manage their ADHD is all about “parenting for independence ,” Heller says. He encourages parents to develop strategies that their children and teens can take into adulthood and use themselves, rather than ones that require constant parental involvement. For younger kids, modeling certain routines and behaviors can be a huge push in the right direction.

This article was originally published on Aug. 16, 2022

how to help child with adhd do homework

Schoolwork at Home with ADHD

At a glance.

Without classroom structure, kids with ADHD often find it hard to get on track and stay on track • Whether managing virtual schooling or homework, these simple strategies can help your child be more productive while doing assignments at home

how to help child with adhd do homework

Create a Designated Workspace

A neurotypical brain is capable of filtering out multiple inputs, but the ADHD brain struggles to tune out noise and distractions in the workplace, making it exceptionally hard to focus.

To give the ADHD brain a hand, create a specific workplace for your child that is as distraction-free as possible. Ideally, this is a space that is only used for working, so the brain learns to associate it with quiet concentration. To the degree possible, this space should be separate from main living areas where other family members might be moving around or making noise. If your child is particularly sensitive to noise, he may also benefit from noise-cancelling headphones and listening to white noise.

Chunk Assignments

One feature of ADHD is difficulty with planning, organizing, and initiating tasks . To make homework less overwhelming and help your child develop planning skills, help to break down assignments into clearly defined  chunks,  or steps. For example, instead of “Write book report,” help develop a specific list of what has to be accomplished, such as, “1. Read book. 2. Come up with a thesis statement. 3. Write outline…” etc.

Have your child focus on completing one chunk at a time, and monitor his progress as he works. It helps to give feedback (with as much  positive   feedback as possible!) on their working style as they go.

Use the Pomodoro Technique

Teenagers and young adults often benefit from a time management method called the  Pomodoro Technique , which structures work time around frequent short breaks. The Pomodoro Technique works as follows:

  • Select the task to work on
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes
  • After the 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break
  • After four “pomodoros” (or 25-minute chunks), take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.

There are several apps that help keep track of pomodoros, such as “PomoDone,” “Focus Keeper,” or “Marinara Timer.”

For younger children, or teenagers with severe ADHD, this technique should be adjusted down to shorter intervals. Many young kids with ADHD can’t focus for more than 5-10 minutes. Find the amount of time that works—long enough for them to make progress but not so long that they get overly antsy, frustrated, or tired—and use frequent breaks to help them stay regulated.

Encourage Movement

Many children and teens with ADHD move around like Energizer Bunnies. While this may seem distracting, it’s actually the body’s way of compensating for  understimulation  in the brain. So to help your child focus, find ways to integrate movement into their work. This could mean having them stand up while doing work, or even doing work while walking or wiggling around, if the assignment allows. For work that has to be completed in one set place, allowing them to use a fidget toy can make a big difference in their ability to focus.

Outside of actual work time, it helps to take frequent “brain breaks” where movement is encouraged. Have you ever noticed that you tend to be more clear-headed after exercising or going for a walk? This is even more the case for those with ADHD. Whether it’s taking a 5-minute dance break, doing some jumping jacks or burpees, or taking a walk around the block, getting the body moving will help to stimulate their brains and give them an extra jolt of “focus” for the next round of working.

Most importantly, do your best to be patient with the process. Because ADHD has many different presentations, some strategies will work better for your child than others. Do a little trial and error, and check in often about what helps the most. Whenever you find something that works, take the opportunity to celebrate! Your child is working hard to overcome his struggles, and so are you. Keep up the great work!

This article is adapted with permission from the Sasco River Center in CT . Caroline Segal, a psychotherapist at the Sasco River Center, specializes in the treatment of child and adolescent anxiety, depression, trauma, and behavioral issues.

Related Smart Kids Topics

  • ADHD: An Overview
  • Exercise: Good Medicine for ADHD
  • Improving Executive Skills

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School success kit for kids with adhd.

Tools and strategies to help manage time, stay focused, and handle homework

Writer: Rae Jacobson

What You'll Learn

  • What are some ways to help kids with ADHD get organized?
  • How can parents help kids plan ahead?

For kids with ADHD, the right approach to school can mean the difference between good grades (and the confidence that comes with them) and  “I lost my homework… again.” Here are a few suggestions for tools and strategies to help kids with ADHD get set for success.  

First, get the materials you’ll need. Find, and test, a good planner or calendar so your child can get comfortable using it. There are lots of other tools that can help kids stay on time and on task. Get back-ups of items that often get lost. For example, if disappearing socks (or keys, or gloves or hats) are slowing you down, getting more can help you get out the door on time.  

Talk with your child about how to tackle challenges. For example, if paying attention is hard, they could agree to sit at the front of the classroom. If homework is a big issue, setting up a structured, regular homework routine will help. You can also pick a quiet, organized space where kids can work with fewer distractions.  

 If kids take medication, make sure they’re doing so regularly. Go over potential problems with teachers and work together to come up with a plan for what to do if they come up.  

For a lot of kids with ADHD, past difficulties can make it hard to feel good about school. Let your child know that the past is something you can both learn from, and agree to start from a clean slate. Talk about any anxieties they have, and work together to make a plan to support them emotionally throughout the year.  

For kids with ADHD , the right approach to school can mean the difference between good grades, and the confidence that comes with them, and another round of, “I lost my homework … again.” Here are a few suggestions for tools and strategies to help kids with ADHD get set for success.

  • Calendar(s):  Whether it’s the New Year, the new school year, or any time a resolution is made to be better organized , calendars are key to kids with ADHD. Your child should have a  school calendar  with enough space to allow them to write down and organize (by color-coding!) assignments. We recommend a separate calendar for social engagements and after-school activities. Additionally, it helps to add everything to a  digital calendar  with a reminder function that can push notifications to their phone. Another feature of online calendars is the  sharing function.  This allows them to share their calendar with parents and teachers and helps everyone stay on the same page.
  • Backup Items:  Avoid morning (and afternoon, and evening) panic by having  multiples of items that are easily lost . Think about the things that tend to go missing: If disappearing socks are slowing you down, get more socks. If stealthy shoes (or keys, or gloves or hats or transit fares) are making them late, keeping backups on hand will help them get out the door on time.
  • Head of the Class : Literally. Sitting in the front of the room not only helps kids avoid the distractions (and temptations!) of back-row chatter and note-passing — it also  promotes accountability . The harder it is for kids with ADHD to slip through the cracks, the better. When kids sit up front, it’s easier for the teacher to notice if they’re having a hard time and give you both a chance address the issue  before  it becomes a problem.
  • Set Up a Homework Routine:  Having a structured, regular homework routine will help kids and parents get work done without squabbles when it’s time to hit the books. Designate a quiet, organized space where kids can work with minimal distractions. Schedule regular breaks for them to get up and move around — not screen breaks! — and don’t forget snacks to help keep blood sugar and focus going strong.
  • Prioritize:  Kids with ADHD often have trouble knowing which assignments should take priority. Here is where  color-coding  can really come in handy. Arm them with highlighters— and backup highlighters! Assign each color a priority level. For example pink would be “high,” blue, “medium,” and green, “low.” Having a pre-established system will help them build skills and get a sense of what to do when. You can also use apps like  Remember the Milk , which allows users to add due dates, priority levels, and estimates of how much time each task will take.
  • Time Management:  The eternal battle. Learning to effectively manage time is the grail for kids with ADHD. In addition to calendars,  task timers  like  Focus Booster  can help kids get better at judging how much time each task will take, and let them know when it’s time to move on to something new. Timers aren’t just helpful with homework and chores — they can also use one during longer tests to remind her him to switch sections and use their time efficiently.
  • Structured Play Dates:  If your son or daughter with ADHD has trouble making and keeping friends , play dates with structured activity, where you can tell them what’s expected of them, can ease their anxiety about fitting in socially.
  • Medication Check-in : Kids who have  stopped taking meds during summer  should begin taking them again before school starts so they have time to adjust. And when school starts it’s important to pay close attention to how it’s working over the full day (including mornings!) and adjust the schedule so kids aren’t crashing during the last few periods or having mid-math homework meltdowns after school.
  • Concentration Aids:  White noise generators help block distractions and boost productivity. Try apps like  Simply Noise  that offer a few “types” of noise (pink or brown noise, rainstorms, calming music, etc) so kids can choose what works best for them. You can also use a  white noise machine  or run a loud fan at home to help kids during homework.
  • Recording Apps:  No matter what accommodations kids have, paying attention to lectures and verbal instructions is a big part of doing well in school. Help kids stay on track by using recording apps with dictation functions. That way they can review any missed information later on.
  • Check the Policy:  Assistive technology can be great for kids with ADHD, but a lot of it relies on smartphones. If your child uses apps to help them during school make sure you  check his school’s cell phone policy.  If it’s strict, you’ll need to address it during IEP meetings.
  • Save and Share:  Sometimes it seems like ADHD and Murphy’s Law are one and the same. If homework can be lost, left behind or vanish, it’ll happen. If your child is working on an important paper or project encourage them to use programs like Google Docs that  are set to save frequently and backup to online servers . This way, he’ll have access to documents wherever he goes and won’t run the risk of losing his work if the computer encounters a problem.
  • Get Moving:  Studies show that  exercise has a positive impact on focus and attention in children with ADHD. When you’re thinking about school schedules and after-school activities, include things that get kids get moving. Make sure you’re signing kids up for things they’ll actually like, whether that’s basketball, gymnastics, hiking or real-world Quidditch. What they’re doing isn’t important as long as they’re getting exercise and forming positive associations with physical activity.
  • Give the Teacher a Heads Up:  If you’re not planning on having an IEP for your child, it’s still a good idea to let their teachers know they learn differently . A quick heads up gives teachers insight into potential behavioral issues how to support them throughout the semester.
  • Practice Advocating:  Parents shouldn’t be the only ones talking with teachers. The best thing your child can do to ensure a bright future is learn to become their own advocate. Whenever possible, put them in charge of talking to teachers or peers about their ADHD . Practicing advocacy skills now will help them gain the confidence they’ll need to succeed later in life.
  • A Clean Slate:  For a lot of kids with ADHD, past difficulties can make it hard to have a positive outlook on school. Fears of messing up socially, failing in school, and disappointing parents and teachers are very real for kids with ADHD. Let your child know that the past is something you can both learn from, but otherwise agree to work from a clean slate. Talk about any anxieties they may have around school, and work together to make a plan to support them emotionally throughout the year.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can help your child with ADHD focus in school by introducing more structure and organization into their daily life. For example, experts recommend color-coded calendars to help track and prioritize assignments. Seating the child at the front of the class will also help them stay on track by limiting distractions. Parents can also set up regular homework routines and some form of exercise after school.

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How to Help a Child with ADHD Do Homework

Last Updated: March 29, 2022

This article was co-authored by Laura Marusinec, MD . Dr. Marusinec is a board certified Pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, where she is on the Clinical Practice Council. She received her M.D. from the Medical College of Wisconsin School of Medicine in 1995 and completed her residency at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Pediatrics in 1998. She is a member of the American Medical Writers Association and the Society for Pediatric Urgent Care. This article has been viewed 12,838 times.

Getting a child with ADHD to focus on their school work can be a challenge, especially if there are assignments, readings, and due dates involved. You can help a child with ADHD complete their homework with flying colors by introducing methods for learning at school and at home. You should also focus on staying positive and supportive of the child with ADHD so you both feel a sense of accomplishment when the homework gets done.

Preparing for Homework at School

Step 1 Give the child ample time to write down the assignment.

  • You may ask the teacher to hand out a typed assignment sheet to take home, especially if the child has attention deficits that make it difficult for them to copy down the homework in their notebook.

Step 2 Make them a folder for assignments.

  • If the child tends to forget to hand back in their assignments, their teacher can include a sheet for a parent to sign once the homework has been completed and packed in the child’s bag. This will serve as a reminder to the child’s parent to check that the homework has been done and is packed in the child’s school bag.

Step 3 Get the child two sets of books.

  • The “study buddy” system can help the child make sure they bring home the books they need for the assignment. It can also ensure the child with ADHD stays organized.
  • Another option is to get the child to join a homework club, where they spend time with other students and a tutor after school to get their work done. This can be useful if the child’s medication is still working after school and you want to keep them motivated to do their schoolwork.

Step 5 Set up an Individualized Education Program for the child

  • You can then work with the child's teacher to modify the IEP so the child has less homework or a lightened workload. For example, as part of the child's IEP, maybe the teacher assigns only the odd-numbered math problems for the child or five homework questions instead of ten. This can help the child still learn and get their work done, without being overly stressed or frustrated.
  • You may also talk to the child’s teacher about spreading out the child’s assignments so they are not due all at once as part of the child's IEP. You may sit down with them and create a schedule of assignments that will fit the child’s abilities and time management skills. This can make the child feel less overwhelmed, but still get their work done.

Helping the Child at Home

Step 1 Get copies of the child’s assignments.

  • Having your own copy of the child’s assignments will also allow you to read them over beforehand. You can then help the child with the assignment and break it into manageable chunks for the child.

Step 2 Establish a set homework time.

  • You may set the homework time for right after school, especially if your child does well with staying in “school mode” at the end of the day. Or you may give the child a break after school and then prepare them for homework time ten to fifteen minutes ahead of time.
  • Some children do well with warnings a few minutes before homework time, such as reminders to “get their brain turned to homework” or “have their mind set to homework mode.”

Step 3 Create a homework spot.

  • Keep the child’s homework spot stocked with school supplies, an extra set of school books, and folders for their assignments. You may also make sure they have a reading lamp and lots of writing utensils in their spot.
  • Make sure the homework spot is free from distractions such as TV, phones, or frequent visitors. A room through which other family members are constantly passing, for instance, may not be the best spot.

Step 4 Set up a schedule for homework.

  • For example, you may block out the child’s homework in 20 minute chunks, followed by short breaks. You may schedule 20 minutes on math homework, followed by a five minute break. Then, the next 20 minutes may be on social studies homework, followed by another five minute break.
  • You may also set a timer for 20 minutes and place it in front of the child so they stay motivated. Once the timer goes off, you may then allow them to take a five minute break to do something else.

Staying Positive and Supportive

Step 1 Work with the child on their homework.

  • Try to encourage the child to come up with an answer on their own before you help them. You do not want to do their work for them or allow them to lean on you too much.
  • If you notice the child has reached their threshold, but they have not finished their work, do not try to force them to keep going. Speak to their teacher about assigning less work so the child can still get some work done.

Step 2 Set up a reward system.

  • You can also use verbal praise as a reward. A simple “Great job!” or “Excellent!” can encourage the child to stay positive and focused as they do their assignments.
  • You should offer the child a reward if they get good grades on their homework. You may take them on a fun outing or get them an item they really want as a reward for doing well.

Step 3 Keep the child organized for school.

  • You should also make sure they have put their completed homework in their bag so it is ready to turn into their teacher. This will ensure the homework ends up in the right hands and that the child gets graded by their teacher.

Expert Q&A

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CHADD

Kids with ADHD

It’s that time of day again: your 8-year-old steps off the school bus with a backpack full of homework that will soon be sprawled across your kitchen table.

After a warm hug and a kiss on the head, you take a deep breath and clench your jaw in anticipation of the struggle to come.

Sound familiar?

When you’re a parent of a child with ADHD, homework time can feel like a burden … or even a battle.

But chances are, you’re also determined to do whatever it takes to help your child succeed, grow, and gain independence. So, day after day, you sit down beside her, determined and committed to work through the wiggling and the daydreaming to help her get the work done.

The good news is that with a little planning and some smart homework strategies, you can help make homework time smoother, more focused, and more successful for your child with attention challenges.

9 Strategies to Help Your Child with ADHD Concentrate

You and your child CAN do this, and it doesn’t have to be a battle.

Here are 9 straightforward strategies that you can implement today to help your child concentrate at home and get his or her work done.

Prepare Your Mindset

Before homework time even begins – preferably before your child even steps off the bus – take time to prepare yourself.

Take a few deep breaths, inhaling slowly through your nose, counting to 3, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth. Adopt a flexible mindset and be ready to adjust your strategies as you watch how your child transitions to homework time and how her needs change over time.

The most important thing you can do for your child with ADHD – or for any child, really – is be present, empathic, and supportive.

Above all, remember that even when the work feels tough, you’re both on the same team.

Set Realistic Expectations

After preparing your mindset, make sure you set expectations that match your child’s developmental level. Take a moment to reflect. Do you ask your 8-year-old with ADHD to finish 3 worksheets in one sitting? Or do you provide breaks?

If you’re asking too much of your child during homework time, one or both of you may end up in tears. However, setting realistic expectations can prevent frustration, disappointment, and conflict – and ultimately help your child succeed and grow little by little.

Reduce Distractions

Now that you’ve worked on your own mindset and expectations, it’s time for more detailed homework strategies.

Environment affects concentration. So, choose a homework space for your child with minimal sensory distractions. What can your child see, hear, and touch in the area that may interfere with focus?

Watch your child in that space. What seems to distract him from the work at hand? Is the desk next to a window, with squirrels and birds outside grabbing his attention? Does a sibling have music going in an adjacent room, with the noise reaching the homework space? Is the room too hot or cold?

If your child needs to work in a high-traffic area of the home, if siblings are nearby, or if other noises are difficult to control, consider using noise-canceling headphones. (And see tip #8 for listening ideas.) Of course, this will work best for kids who are old enough to complete significant portions of work without you having to talk them through it.

Here are more quick tips on creating a helpful homework space .

Set A Routine

All kids thrive on routine – and even more so for kids with ADHD . Routines provide structure, security, and predictability . They also make the logistics of day-to-day life run more smoothly.

Following a consistent, simple routine for completing homework sets you and your child up for success. Once you establish a routine, you will both know what to expect, and as the routine forms habits, tasks will feel easier than they did before. Homework time will be less of a battle.

Inevitably, though, events and life changes will threaten to interrupt your routine. That means sometimes you’ll need that flexible mindset you adopted earlier to revamp your plan. Other times, you’ll need to stand strong: stick to your routine even when it would be easier to let it slide for a while.

When a routine must be interrupted or changed, try to give your child advance notice and talk about what she can expect in the future.

Break Work into Chunks

Large projects can be overwhelming for kids with ADHD. So, if your child brings home a hefty assignment, break it up into shorter, simpler parts. For younger children, you will need to do this planning yourself. But, if your child is old enough, this is a great opportunity for modeling and collaborating.

Is the assignment writing a paragraph? Perhaps start with developing a topic sentence, then take a short break before writing the supporting sentences. After those successes, your child may feel ready to write a concluding sentence without another break. But, if she needs a breather, no problem.

Each step or section completed is a success to celebrate. Plan for completing work in manageable segments – and consider using a fun visual to track progress – and homework won’t feel as daunting.

Take Breaks

This strategy goes hand-in-hand with the last one, and can be helpful for kids with either type of ADHD (hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive) .

Between activities or chunks of homework, offer your child plenty of short breaks. These prevent fatigue and give kids something to look forward to after each task.

How you use each break depends on your child: you might try five minutes of exercise, looking at a favorite book, going for a short walk, or LEGO building.

Use A Timer

Even when you’ve broken homework into more manageable chunks, you may not know exactly how long a task will take. After 15 minutes on a worksheet, you may realize it’s going to take too long for one sitting.

This is where a timer can help, especially one your child can see counting down. Set the timer before starting a task so your child knows no matter what his pace, he’ll get a breather. Then if the work is feeling tough, for example, you can say, “Look, only 3 more minutes until we take a break!”

You can also challenge your child to see if she can work for 10 (or 15 or 20) minutes without any distractions, or answer a certain number of questions before the timer goes off. As always, watch to make sure this is helpful and motivating rather than stressful – and be flexible to change if needed.

Incorporate Music

To enhance concentration, you can also plug in those noise-canceling headphones mentioned earlier and try playing music during homework time. Music actually helps develop parts of the brain that tend to be underdeveloped in people with ADHD.

For many kids, instrumental music is best, since lyrics could be distracting. Otherwise, the type of music you choose will depend on your child’s preferences and, more importantly, how he or she seems to react to a specific type. Take the time to notice what helps your child relax, get moving, or stay more focused.

In general, avoid music that seems chaotic or arrhythmic, and try to avoid using a music player that will include commercials, which may break your child’s concentration. Here’s more advice on choosing music , and even some suggested playlists.

Allow Movement

Kids with ADHD sometimes seem like they ‘can’t sit still.’ Thankfully, their energy and motion can actually help them concentrate and perform better on cognitive tasks .

So, embrace your child’s need to move as a way to increase focus while doing homework. Feel free to get creative and customize this to fit your child. Maybe it’s as simple as playing with a fidget toy while reading aloud, or maybe it’s playing hopscotch while reciting math facts.

As a side benefit, this can make homework time more fun, which in turn makes it less of a battle and easier to build good homework habits. Movement for the win!

Bottom Line: Use What Works

As you reflect on these strategies, keep in mind that you don’t have to implement them all at once. Choose one or two to try first, then integrate the others as you need or want. Since every child is different, above all, watch to see which strategies are most helpful. Keep what helps and don’t worry about the rest.

Helping your child with ADHD concentrate to do their homework can be a daily struggle – but with these simple strategies, the time can be structured, successful, and perhaps even fun for both of you.

Finding Support

As you continue this beautiful, challenging journey of caring for someone with ADHD, Advenium offers support for both you and your child, with activity-based groups that focus on holistic healing. From fitness-assisted therapy to play therapy and parenting workshops, we have something for adults, adolescents, and children. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment or click here to learn more.

  • https://impactparents.com/blog/adhd/a-huge-aha-for-the-adhd-parent-set-realistic-expectations/
  • https://www.additudemag.com/how-to-make-study-space-homework-help/
  • https://www.verywellmind.com/why-is-structure-important-for-kids-with-adhd-20747
  • https://impactparents.com/blog/adhd/strategies-to-make-homework-easier-for-kids-and-parents/
  • https://chadd.org/for-educators/classroom-accommodations/
  • https://psychcentral.com/adhd/adhd-music#potential-benefits
  • https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150611082116.htm

The Drake Institute now offers remote treatment for ADHD, autism, and other brain-based disorders. With the help of our trained clinicians, you can get the help you need from the comfort of your home.

How to Get a Child with ADD to do Homework

Homework can be tricky for children with ADHD, especially after they’ve spent all day at school.

When children come home from school, they want to play, spend time with their friends and family, or watch TV. Homework is simply not something most children are excited about, but most kids are willing to do it because they have accepted that it is a requirement and there will be negative consequences if it is not completed.  

Unfortunately, it is often difficult for children with ADHD to sustain their focus long enough to do their homework, making them resigned to the negative consequences of not completing their work.

This is because the ADHD child’s brain is “stuck” in a certain pattern of dysregulation that doesn’t allow them to sustain concentration on non-stimulating tasks or perform certain executive functioning tasks, such as planning, organizing, and prioritizing their assignments. In a way, ADHD children are physically incapable of self-regulating and performing certain tasks because their brain won’t allow them to engage with the task.

However, with the right homework plan, it is possible to help motivate ADHD children to complete their assignments on time, study for tests, and become responsible, successful students. While completing schoolwork will likely always be more difficult due to their struggles with focus, there are strategies that can help mitigate this weakness and maximize their available resources to increase their productivity.

In this article, we will cover some effective ADD homework strategies for children that can improve their study habits. This article will also discuss the Drake Institute’s non-drug treatment protocols used to help children reduce or resolve ADHD symptoms by achieving a healthier state of brain functioning, resulting in long-term symptom relief.

Diet for ADD

Learning how to study with ADD can be difficult, especially if your mind and body are not receiving the necessary resources for the brain to function optimally. That’s why providing children with a healthy and nutritious diet should be a top priority for every household, as diet is the foundation of productive thinking and behavior.

Without a healthy diet, children suffering from ADHD will find it even more difficult to concentrate on their schoolwork, and this is especially true if their diet consists of sugary soft drinks, candy, and processed fast foods. Indeed, if your child is not eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, they are more prone to misbehaving and performing poorly on their assigned tasks.

For parents with ADHD children, avoiding processed foods loaded with artificial colorings and high sugar content should be a top priority, as both of these ingredients can have detrimental effects on behavior and health.

As a general guideline, ADHD diets should consist of essential trace minerals such as Zinc, Iron, and Magnesium. Foods that are heavy in these minerals include:

  • Beef & Lamb
  • Nuts such as cashews, pecans, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and hazelnuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Beans & Lentils
  • Low-Fat Dairy
  • Dried fruits such as figs, prunes, apricots, dates, and raisins

Parents should also take great care to ensure that their children are eating enough healthy fats, as every cell in the human body (including our brain) is made up of fats, and some reports have shown that in some children, Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation is 40% as effective for ADHD as Ritalin, minus the side-effects. Healthy sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Coldwater fish (e.g., mackerel, tuna, salmon, and sardines)
  • Cod liver oil
  • Flaxseed and chia seeds
  • Soybeans & Tofu

Even if your child doesn’t have ADD, providing them with a healthy diet is one of the best ways to ensure that they will grow up to be healthy and productive.

And when it comes to mitigating the effects of ADD and ADHD, we feel that the optimal method is to combine ADHD diets with clinical ADHD treatments, like brain map-guided neurofeedback, as nutritious diets can reinforce and maximize the improvements in brain functioning brought on by our non-drug treatment protocols. 

Create a Homework Schedule

When it comes to ADD and homework, creating a homework schedule is one of the best ways to improve a child’s productivity.

By creating a homework schedule, children will know exactly what they will be doing once they get home (so long as the schedule is enforced), so there’s no guesswork involved from either the parent or the child as to when the work will be completed. However, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be arguments about the schedule and whether it’s fair: children with ADD intrinsically struggle with non-preferred asks, and a homework schedule won’t make these issues magically disappear.

That being said, a homework schedule can help students be more disciplined and productive because, without it, most children would rather turn on the TV, play a video game, or browse social media instead of completing their homework. In children with ADD, these issues are exacerbated, as their ability to plan and organize their day (executive functioning) is already hindered due to their attention deficit disorder.  

When creating a homework schedule, remember to include breaks, as most children will need a few minutes to relax so that they can better focus on their work. Many researchers have pointed out that the average attention span of children and adults is only around 20 minutes. Beyond this point, it becomes increasingly difficult to pay attention to the task at hand. So, by giving children a brief, 5-10 minute break, they will be better able to focus on their assignments without becoming too tired or fatigued.

Knowing when to schedule these homework breaks will require a bit of trial and error, as every child is different. However, including a break as part of the schedule somewhere around the 20 or 30-minute mark is generally a good place to start. During these scheduled breaks, it would be a good idea to have healthy snacks readily available to ensure that your child has enough energy to power through their assignments. Parents should encourage children to stand up and walk around during these breaks, but to avoid activities that are too stimulating or too far away from the task at hand.

Finally, there are two other important aspects to creating a homework schedule that parents should keep in mind: place and time.

In general, it’s a good idea to have a designated “homework space” for your child to work in that is free of distractions. As part of the schedule, the child should work in this space each day since this will help the child get into a “work mode” that allows them to concentrate on their tasks.

Time is the last aspect of creating a homework schedule, and this too will require a little bit of trial and error. In some cases, your child may need a break from schoolwork and might not be ready to jump into their homework as soon as they come home. Instead, they may need to go outside and play or go on a long walk before they can re-engage with their schoolwork. On the other hand, many children are more than willing to dive straight into their homework as soon as they get home so that they can watch TV later in the day or play video games with their friends.

In the end, it’s up to the parents to determine when “homework time” will begin, and once the time is set, everyone must abide.  

Monitor Distractions

From smartphones to televisions, there are a whole host of things fighting for your child’s attention.

As mentioned, part of the solution to this problem is to create a “homework space” that is free of distractions; however, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your child will be more productive.

Sometimes, your child might feel “alone” or “claustrophobic” in a workspace that is too sterile or boring, which can actually decrease their ability to concentrate. 

As many of us can attest, sometimes we need a “slight” distraction while working or performing schoolwork, like listening to the radio or having the TV on in the background, as these things can provide stimulation that helps some children to concentrate.

However, even background noise can be distracting for some students, especially if they have ADD. This is why parents need to monitor the effects of these distractions to see whether they improve or decrease productivity. Furthermore, while background noise may be beneficial for some people, individuals with ADHD will likely have a lower threshold for what is “too distracting.” For example, having the TV on is likely to be entirely too distracting for individuals with ADHD, and they will likely have better success if background noise consists of things such as music, ambient sounds, or even white noise.

If your child seems to work better while listening to music, then this “distraction” should be fully integrated into the homework schedule.

Be Present During Homework

Being there for your child when they’re working on their homework can be critically important to their success, especially when a difficult problem comes up.

By being present, children are less likely to become frustrated or to give up when they encounter a problem that they can’t solve because they know that they can turn to you for support.

Try setting a good example and sitting with your child reading a book, a magazine, or doing some other quiet, sedentary activity that is similar to studying and doing homework, proving to your child that it’s possible to sit still and focus for an extended period of time. Don’t forget to leave your smartphone behind!

If you can’t be there during “typical” (early afternoon) homework hours, you might want to consider trying to align your child’s homework schedule with your work schedule so that you can be there to help when they do need it. Being able to provide support to your child during a task that is challenging to them can be crucial to their success. Even if you are not actively providing guidance, simply knowing that someone is there to support them can be invaluable in maintaining their focus, motivation, and self-confidence.

Find a Study Buddy

When a child with ADD gets stuck on a homework problem, they’re likely to get frustrated, which in turn can cause them to misbehave.

In many cases, a parent can help their child work through a difficult homework problem, but sometimes having a “study buddy” will be even more effective, especially if the children are friendly and have academic strengths that complement each other.

However, it’s also important that parents ensure that their child is studying when with their study buddy, as sometimes this arrangement can cause children to goof around and not take their homework seriously. There also has to be some monitoring to make sure they are not simply being provided with answers by their partner. While this partnership may not be appropriate for everyone, for those who can work through these “temptations,” the benefits of such an arrangement can be significant.

This isn’t to say that parents should hover over their child when they’re with their study buddy, but monitoring the rate at which homework is being completed and its correctness will be important when determining the effectiveness of the study buddy.

That being said, if the homework is taking a little bit longer to be completed, but it’s being done correctly, and your child is happy about doing it, then that’s a tradeoff that might be worth making.

Provide Positive Feedback

Something that often gets overlooked is positive feedback for turning in assignments on time, receiving high marks, and abiding by the homework schedule.

Positive feedback is also often the best answer to the question of “how to get kids to do their homework,” as both children and adults like attention and rewards, and will alter their behavior to earn more of them.

However, obtaining attention can be accomplished in a variety of ways—not all of which are healthy and productive.

This is especially true when it comes to completing schoolwork: if your child makes an effort to adhere to their homework schedule and to achieve good grades, but isn’t rewarded, they will have less incentive to continue behaving in this manner. While it is tempting for parents to view this behavior as simply “doing what they are supposed to be doing,” there needs to be an acknowledgement that for individuals with ADHD, as this is an accomplishment that likely took significant effort. That additional effort is an accomplishment for these children and should be acknowledged and rewarded.

Therefore, it would be wise to reward your child for good behavior, especially behavior that results in positive grades at school.

Many parents have found success using a star chart that keeps track of their child’s weekly progress, where these stars can be “cashed in” for a reward of some kind, like extra time for playing video games or perhaps a snack of their choosing. How these stars are rewarded is up to the child’s parents, but it’s probably best to be a little lenient to incentivize homework and positive behavior.

For example, completing a homework assignment might be worth 1 star, but completing the homework correctly might be worth 2 or 3 stars. Extra stars can also be rewarded for other, non-homework related tasks, like taking adequate notes in class, remembering to bring the correct books home from school, and keeping their study materials (notebooks, binders, etc.) tidy. 

Talk to the Teacher

Finally, if your child is still struggling to complete their homework despite adhering to a homework schedule and everything else mentioned above, it might be time to talk to their teacher.

Some teachers will be more than willing to adjust the amount of homework your child is receiving on a day-to-day basis, so long as the problem is presented clearly, calmly, and without placing any blame on the teacher.

In addition to not placing blame, it’s probably best to discuss your child’s struggles in a face-to-face conversation, as too many things can get lost in translation over the phone, through emails or text messages.

When discussing your child’s struggles with homework, it’s important to mention how your child is trying as hard as they can to complete their assignments, but despite these efforts, the homework is taking an inordinate amount of time. Make sure to discuss all of the structure and accommodations being provided at home and be open to the teacher’s suggestions of things that may provide additional benefit for the child.

When this occurs, some teachers will allow parents to sign off on homework once the child has worked on it for a certain amount of time. Other teachers might substitute the current homework for something else that might be more suitable for your child’s needs. Accommodations can also be formally provided by requesting an IEP or 504 plan that addresses these concerns.

In short, conversations with your child’s teacher should be solution-oriented, face-to-face, friendly, and focused on improving your child’s academic performance, while still requiring them to perform at the best of their abilities.

ADD Treatment Options

When it comes to treating ADD, there are a few options available to parents, including stimulant ADD medications , and non-drug treatment options like the ones found at the Drake Institute.

Treatment of ADD or ADHD with medication is a widely used treatment option, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best in terms of safety and long-term improvement. Many stimulant ADD medications carry a significant number of negative side effects, including:

  • Nervousness
  • Change in personality
  • Loss of appetite
  • Suppressing growth rate
  • Weight loss
  • Upset stomach
  • Psychotic reactions
  • increase in blood pressure and palpitations
  • Risk of substance abuse

In addition, many people develop a tolerance for these medications over time, which results in the individual needing a higher dosage to obtain the same level of symptom reduction. Unfortunately, when the dosage of these medications increases, so does the likelihood that they will experience one or more of the negative side effects associated with the medication. It should also be noted, that treating attentional deficits with medications is not necessarily correcting the cause of the problem, meaning that if an individual were to discontinue these medications, their symptoms are likely to return.

Popular ADD medications include Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, and Dexedrine, and while these drugs can work for some people, parents must understand all of the associated risks.

Non-Drug ADD Treatment at the Drake Institute

Learning how to study when you have ADD doesn’t require taking medications.

At the Drake Institute, we fully believe that children can experience symptom reduction without the use of ADHD medications, which is important since many of these medications carry a significant number of negative side effects.

Through the use of advanced treatment technologies such as qEEG Brain Mapping, Neurofeedback, and Neuromodulation, children can actually improve their brain functioning and sustained focus, resulting in better performance at school and work.

Brain Mapping

At the core of everything we do at the Drake Institute is Brain Mapping , as it provides us a window into how the patient’s brain is functioning and where the dysregulation is occurring.

In the case of ADD, brain mapping can help identify which parts of the brain are under or over-activated and contributing to the child’s struggles with school. During treatment, we’ll target these regions to improve brain functioning, which can help minimize the effects of the child’s attention disorder.

Once brain mapping is complete, the findings are compared to the FDA-registered normative database to identify which regions are deviating from “normal” activity patterns.

When dysregulation is discovered, a treatment protocol using Neurofeedback and Neuromodulation is designed specifically for the patient’s unique situation. This customized process allows us to provide better results compared to treatment protocols that use a “one size fits all” approach. It should also be noted that by addressing their underlying cause of the child’s difficulties, the subsequent improvements obtained through neurotherapy are typically long-lasting and do not require continued maintenance, like medications do.

Biofeedback & Neurofeedback

Biofeedback and Neurofeedback treatment is a non-invasive, non-drug treatment protocol that helps the patient retrain the brain to more optimal functioning, thus increasing their ability to complete homework or other assigned tasks.

During Neurofeedback treatment, the brain is not artificially stimulated and drugs are not administered; in fact, nothing invasive is performed at all.

Instead, Neurofeedback involves placing sensors on the patient’s head that records and displays the patient’s current brain functioning patterns, providing real-time feedback into how their brain is operating. When patients can witness firsthand how their brain is functioning, they are better able to self-regulate and improve brain functioning for concentration, which in turns, helps reduce the manifestation of negative symptoms.

One example of Neurofeedback treatment is one where the patient’s brainwave patterns are converted into a computer game where a car is driving down the highway. When the patient’s brain shifts into a healthier functioning frequency, the car moves and stays in the proper lane and an auditory tone is triggered. This tone is then repeated every half second that the patient sustains this healthier mode of thinking, which helps improve and stabilize this brave wave pattern.

With continued treatment, Neurofeedback treatments like the one described above will help the patient learn how to improve sustained focus on even nonpreferred tasks. Furthermore, with practice and repetition, the underlying dysregulation that caused the child’s difficulties can actually be improved, resulting in a “stronger” brain and long-lasting benefit.

Neuromodulation

Finally, the Drake Institute utilizes Neuromodulation therapy to support, enhance, and accelerate therapeutic improvements gained through Neurofeedback. This approach has been so successful that we’ve fully integrated it into our existing treatment protocols in 2019.

What is Neuromodulation?

In short, Neuromodulation provides therapeutic neurostimulation of dysregulated brain functioning by stimulating brainwave patterns that the patient is deficient in. Once established, the brain can then mimic or emulate this pattern to form healthier brain wave activity. This treatment protocol can also increase blood flow in damaged areas and reduce inflammation.

This treatment technology is so safe and effective that it is now used worldwide in renowned medical centers such as Harvard University School of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, UCLA School of Medicine, and many others.

Contact the Drake Institute

If your child is struggling with their schoolwork due to ADD or ADHD, please don’t hesitate to call us for a free consultation. Our non-drug treatment protocols have provided many students with long-term symptom relief, helping them to achieve and go farther in school than they ever have before.

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"They started biofeedback right away to produce more alpha brain waves. I went daily for 4 weeks I believe? It was relaxing. My brain learned what to do. It CURED me."

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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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how to help child with adhd do homework

ADHD and Homework

how to help child with adhd do homework

Our eleven-year-old daughter, who has been diagnosed with inattentive-type ADHD, has been doing better since she began treatment with stimulant medication. However, we still have trouble getting her organized around homework. We have tried setting up an office in her room, taking away all the distractions, keeping the area quiet, and not allowing the television to go on until all her homework is done. We don’t seem to be making much progress and, in fact, we are all getting even more frustrated because nothing seems to work. Her teachers still complain that work is not getting turned in, and her grades are still suffering in spite of her teacher always telling us how bright she is.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the ideal homework setting. Some children with ADHD work inefficiently in an isolated, quiet setting like their room, and do better in the midst of some action, like at the kitchen table with a radio playing. You might need to try a few different settings until you find the most efficient one.

In addition, you might need to figure out if any other factors are making homework difficult. Think about all the steps involved. Does your child know what all the assignments are? Does she bring the materials home that are necessary for doing the work? Does she have a nightly work plan that fits with her learning style? (She might need to schedule breaks between math and English, or between outlining the report and writing the first 3 paragraphs.) Does she have a system to check on whether all the nightly work is done? Is there a system for checking that her completed work gets turned in on the due date? How does she or you know that work is late? Have you or her teacher set up rewards for progress or consequences for late work? Is there a system for her teacher to communicate with you about late work?

Once you have gone through this type of systematic list of questions, you can begin to solve the problem in an organized way—and you might discover some simple and obvious solutions. If she is taking stimulant medication and she does her homework primarily at a time after it has worn off, you could consider a short-acting extended dose of medication for the early evening.

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ADHD – ways to help children at school and home

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can affect children's learning and social skills, and the way a family functions. Ways to help your child with ADHD include behaviour modification, home and classroom strategies, and sometimes counselling.

Strategies for school and homework

Verbal instructions.

  • Keep instructions brief and clear.
  • Say the child's name or tap them on the shoulder to make and keep eye contact when giving important information.
  • Ask the child to repeat the instruction to make sure they understand it.
  • The child may need prompting, monitoring and encouragement to keep them focused on tasks.

Written work

  • Highlight important points in written information using asterisks (*), capital letters or bold text.
  • Limit the amount of information that needs to be copied from the board. Instead, give handouts with this information.

Physical environment

  • Keep the work area as uncluttered as possible.
  • Sit the child near the front of the classroom.
  • Plan seating and furniture carefully to minimise distractions, e.g. sit the child near classmates who will be good role models.

Other learning strategies

  • Provide one-to-one instruction as often as possible.
  • A class buddy, who gets along well with the child, can be helpful to reinforce instructions and directions.
  • Make sure activities have plenty of hands-on involvement.
  • Schedule the most important learning to take place during the child's best concentration time(s). This is usually in the morning.
  • Give the child a checklist for what they need to do.
  • Keep choices to a minimum.

Reducing over-activity and fatigue

  • Build rest breaks into activities, e.g. a five-minute break for each 30 minutes of activity.
  • Alternate academic tasks with brief physical exercise, e.g. the child could do structured tasks or errands such as delivering notes.
  • Prepare a number of low-pressure, fun activities for when the child needs to spend a few minutes away from a task.
  • Allow use of a non-disruptive fidget toy which can be kept at the child’s desk.

Keeping structure

Children with ADHD can struggle with changes to routine and need to know what to expect. The following strategies can help:

  • Have a fixed routine and keep classroom activities well organised and predictable.
  • Give the child advance warning when activities are changing, e.g. 'In five minutes you will have to put your work away', and remind them more than once.
  • Display the daily schedule and classroom rules, e.g. attach a flowchart to the inside of the child's desk or book.
  • Tell the child in advance of a change in the schedule whenever possible.

Self-esteem

  • Set achievable goals and encourage the child to take part in activities where they will experience success.
  • Acknowledge the child's achievements by congratulating them verbally and in written ways, such as notes or certificates.
  • Focus their attention on the good parts of their written work, e.g. use a highlighter pen on the best sections of the child's work.
  • Help them feel important in the classroom, e.g. acknowledging their effort to do a task even if they don't succeed.
  • Near the end of the day, review with the child their accomplishments for that day.
  • Attend to learning difficulties as soon as possible to restore self-confidence.

Social skills

  • Involve the child in smaller groups of no more than two other children, instead of larger groups, whenever possible.
  • Reward appropriate behaviour such as sharing and cooperating.
  • Teach the child appropriate responses when they feel provoked. For example, teach them to walk away or talk to the teacher.
  • Encourage the child to join activities where 'supervised socialisation' is available, such as Scouts or sporting groups.
  • Talk with the child about the consequences of their actions upon themselves and upon others.
  • Use visual prompts to remind the child to think before they act, e.g. 'STOP, THINK, DO'.

Communication between home and school

  • Use a school–home daily communication book. Communicate both positive and inappropriate behaviours.
  • Teachers, be sensitive to parents' feelings. Find positive things to share with them about their child on a regular basis. This can be done in front of the child.
  • Make the work environment attractive, but it should be a quiet place without clutter so it is not too distracting.
  • Have a regular scheduled time for homework.

Strategies for home

It’s often easy to focus on the negative aspects of a child’s behaviour, and you may feel that at times your child's behaviour is out of control. Their behaviour at home is likely to improve through a combination of rewards and reinforcement for positive 'good' behaviours, and consequences for negative behaviours.

  • Consider implementing a positive behaviour system in your home. A reward chart for younger children or token economy for older children can add incentive for your child to increase desirable behaviours. Change the rewards frequently so that your child doesn’t get bored. This strategy can help switch your focus to times when your child is behaving well. 
  • Have a set of family rules that are written down. Be explicit about what happens when these rules are followed (e.g. rewards) and what happens when they are not (e.g. consequences) and try to be consistent with this approach.
  • Try to ‘catch’ your child being helpful, friendly or respectful and give them positive attention and praise for this behaviour. Make sure you are specific about what behaviours you really like and want to encourage. It is important for different caregivers to use the same set of rules.
  • Ignore common minor attention-seeking behaviours. Turn away from your child or walk away, and respond only when they speak appropriately. Constantly attending to negative behaviours can teach a child that this is the best way to get your full attention.
  • Use logical consequences for poor behaviours, e.g. homework should be completed before television, and if they take too long to complete the homework, they may miss out on watching their favourite show.
  • Try to keep any consequences immediate, and ensure that they are consequences you can follow through with. For younger children, consequences should be linked to something happening that day, not on the weekend. If consequences are removal of privileges, ensure it is short-lived and the child is aware when it will be returned to them.
  • Set aside small, regular sessions of one-on-one time with your child doing an activity your child wants to do. This helps to send the message that you love them and enjoy spending time with them.

Key points to remember

  • Acknowledge and reward achievements and positive behaviour often.
  • Attend to learning difficulties as soon as possible.
  • A quiet place without clutter is important for homework.
  • Talk with the child about the consequences of their actions.
  • A positive behaviour system at home can help increase desirable behaviours.
  • Ignore smaller negative behaviours, and use logical, immediate consequences for poor behaviours.

For more information

  • Kids Health Info fact sheet: ADHD
  • The Incredible Years: Parents, teachers and children training series
  • ParentWorks
  • Triple P: Positive Parenting Program

Common questions our doctors are asked

My child's teacher has said that my child frequently disrupts the class. How can we manage this?

Make an appointment with your child's teacher and run through the strategies given in this fact sheet. It is important that your child is rewarded and encouraged when they behave well (e.g. they work on a task without distracting their classmates). If your child's behaviour is causing significant problems at home and school, and the strategies in this fact sheet have not helped, you may want to discuss this with your doctor. See our fact sheet ADHD .

My child has problems getting along with other children in the playground. What can we do to help?

Children with ADHD sometimes have problems following playground rules, and other children may not understand the way they behave. This may lead to social isolation or conflict in the playground. Talk to your child's teacher about what can be done to help. 

Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Centre for Community Child Health. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

Reviewed August 2020.

Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au .

Disclaimer  

This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.

Amanda Logan CNP

Amanda Logan, APRN, C.N.P.

Family medicine, primary care, recent posts.

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5 tips to manage ADHD in children

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Does your child have difficulty focusing on an activity or seem impulsive in behavior? When symptoms are severe enough and cause ongoing problems in more than one area of your child's life, it could be a sign of a neurobehavioral disorder, such as ADHD.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often continues into adulthood. ADHD includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

Children with ADHD also may struggle with low self-esteem, school anxiety, troubled relationships and poor performance in school. Symptoms sometimes lessen with age. However, some people never completely outgrow their ADHD symptoms. However, they can learn strategies to be successful.

ADHD subtypes

  • Inattentive ADHD Formerly referred to as ADD, people with inattentive ADHD display symptoms of inattention, but do not possess symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity.
  • Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD This subset of ADHD display symptoms of impulsivity or hyperactivity, but do not display symptoms of inattention.
  • Combined People with combined ADHD display symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The is the most common subset of ADHD.

Learn more about the three different types of ADHD.

Gender differences with ADHD

ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in boys than girls, but research into ADHD in adulthood suggests an almost equal balance between men and women. A lower diagnosis rate among females in childhood can result because girls with ADHD are more likely than boys to have the inattentive form of ADHD and less likely to show obvious problems.

More than half of children who experience ADHD in childhood continue to have symptoms as adults. Some women only recognize their ADHD after a child has been diagnosed and the woman begins to see similar behavior in herself. Other women seek treatment because their lives spin out of control, financially, at work or at home.

ADHD treatment

While treatment won't cure ADHD, it can help a great deal with symptoms. Treatment typically involves medications and behavioral interventions. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in outcome.

It's also important to work with a therapist who specializes in ADHD to learn coping mechanisms that are nonpharmacological to help with ADHD symptoms and behaviors. A therapist can enhance the effectiveness of the medication and give tools to empower those with ADHD using treatments that may involve behavioral, psychological, social, educational and lifestyle interventions.

Behavioral strategies

Here are five behavioral strategies to help manage your child's adhd:, 1. give praise and rewards when rules are followed..

Children with ADHD often receive and expect criticism more so than other children. This can really impact self-esteem. Some days, you might have to really look for the good behavior, but you should praise good behavior at least five times more often than you criticize bad behavior.

2. Give clear, effective directions or commands.

Make eye contact or gently touch on arm or shoulder to get his or her attention. Give brief, simple steps and short commands that get to the point rather than multiple directions or wordy statements and questions.

3. Establish healthy habits.

If your child is on a medication, it should be taken as prescribed. Contact your child's health care provider if problems arise. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet consisting of three meals, a snack and adequate fluids daily, and has an outlet for some form of daily exercise. These healthy habits will help your child to feel his or her best and help minimize ADHD symptoms.

4. Develop routines around homework and chores.

Work together to make a checklist of what needs to be done surrounding daily chores, getting ready for bed and school for your child to refer to when he or she gets off task. Encourage your child to use a daily planner so he or she is aware of all homework assignments. Have an established time and location for homework, and use a timer to remind your child to show you how the homework is going two to four times per hour. Factor in brain breaks if your child needs them and movement between tasks or use of an appropriate fidget.

5. Help your child build relationships, strong social skills and maintain friendships.

Be a good role model of behavior you want your child to use. Factor in some special time three to five days a week with your child that is conflict-free and does not involve a screen to help maintain a strong parent-child relationship. Help your child develop at least one close friendship. With younger children, parents may need to take the lead to arrange and host play dates or get kids involved in activities where there are kids the same age. Get tips for helping your child develop social skills .

Amanda Logan is a nurse practitioner in Family Medicine  in Waseca , Minnesota.

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Focusing Care – ADHD Expert Shares Current Treatments and Latest Research at Seattle Children’s

11.21.2023 | Empress Rivera-Ruiz

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Common ADHD symptoms include trouble focusing and completing tasks, hyperactivity and impulsivity that affect school, family and social relationships. Many individuals with ADHD have poor organizational and time-management skills, as well as difficulty regulating emotions.

Context is important. While everyone may experience these symptoms to some extent, ADHD is considered when they are more frequent and severe than same age-peers in similar environments, and not due to another disorder or condition.

Dr. Mark Stein , director of  Seattle Children’s Program to Enhance Attention, Regulation and Learning (PEARL)  and a researcher with  Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development (CCHBD) , has dedicated his career to improving treatments and outcomes for children diagnosed with ADHD. His team studies how ADHD runs in families and tailors therapies through individualized evaluations and evidence-based treatment plans.

On the Pulse  sat down with Dr. Stein to learn more about his research and how families struggle with this often overlooked, but common, condition.

How is ADHD typically diagnosed in children?

There is no specific test for ADHD. Typically, children are diagnosed by a health care provider who gathers information about current functioning; their developmental, medical and family history; and also assesses for other problems or conditions. ADHD is considered when someone has persistent and developmentally inappropriate symptoms of attention, hyperactivity or impulsivity that are causing problems either at school or at home.

Other factors, such as big life changes like switching schools, the child’s age or other challenges like a hearing impairment, can cause similar behavioral symptoms to ADHD. If parents are concerned, we  recommend families seek guidance from their pediatrician who knows their child and can help rule out medical contributors, screen for ADHD and other disorders, and refer if a subspecialist is warranted.

What are some challenges in diagnosing children with ADHD?

It’s more difficult to diagnose in children under 6, when ADHD symptoms are often unstable, and in teenagers who often have other challenges that may overlap with general ADHD symptoms.  School aged children between these two groups often respond the best to treatment, and hopefully later problems can be prevented or reduced by proactive recognition and treatment.

We started Seattle Children’s  PEARL  for ADHD as a resource for pediatricians to refer complex cases. We partner with pediatricians to provide evaluations to inform individualized treatment plans. ADHD is very common and varies widely in how it presents, but a good evaluation targets treatment that may include recommendations for the child, their parent and for the teacher or school.  Through a collaborative care model, we hope that more youth can receive evidence-based and individualized treatments to address the strengths and challenges each child faces.

What are some common methods used to treat pediatric patients with ADHD?

ADHD is one of the most thoroughly researched disorders with safe and effective treatments.  For many children with ADHD, stimulant or non-stimulant medications are recommended in combination with behavioral interventions such as:  parent  and teacher training, accommodations or individualized educational programs, and keeping up good nutrition and sleep hygiene.

For young children and those with relatively mild symptoms, behavioral interventions that are reward-based are recommended first. Behavioral programs utilize rewarding behaviors to increase skills, improve communication and reduce family conflicts.

Improving sleep and physical activity are helpful first steps for all children to help improve mood, alertness and attention.  However, research shows healthy habits alone aren’t enough to manage ADHD symptoms.

ADHD is not a disorder that requires lifelong medication like epilepsy or diabetes. ADHD is more like asthma, where medication sometimes plays a role but for many, symptoms improve with age. Nonetheless, untreated ADHD is not a harmless condition. ADHD can increase later risk for a range of psychiatric and medical disorders, such as depression, suicide, substance abuse and obesity.

It is important to note that ADHD is treatable, treatment changes over time and proper management can help prevent or lessen the risks of unmanaged ADHD.

How do you think modern-day factors like screen time affect children with ADHD?

It used to be the most common behavioral problems at home were not doing homework and not listening. While still concerns, by far the most common complaint I hear now is, “I’m having trouble getting my child to come off their screens!”

Too much screen time can really interfere with learning and reinforce many bad habits. It can be challenging for parents to moderate screen time themselves; many could benefit from learning what their child also needs to learn about media use. While I don’t think technology use causes ADHD, many families struggle with it and could benefit from interventions such as a tailored  media plan  for both the parent and the child.

How can parents get involved with supporting their child with ADHD?

Parents should be in close communication with their child’s teachers and the parents of their child’s friends. Structure and communication are helpful to youth with ADHD. Regularly going over rules as a family, such as the prescribed media plan, chores and planned recreational and athletic activities are often helpful.

Additionally, whenever possible, emphasize your child’s strengths. When designing a treatment program, we look for what they are good at and how the program can really increase that strength. Rewarding successful behaviors leaves lasting impacts on self-esteem and can empower them to not only manage their symptoms in a healthy way but also to make good choices.

Parenting a child with ADHD can be difficult and at times exhausting.  Finding support and practicing self-care is recommended for all parents, but especially parents of a child with ADHD.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your research?

We have a few studies going on at the  Stein Lab . One of our biggest projects is the TPAC study, which is for parents who may have ADHD themselves and may not be aware or currently treated. ADHD often runs in families. We found about 30% of parents of children with ADHD show similar symptoms. We are looking at how to best treat ADHD in these families. For example, we are exploring if we should treat parents first through parent training coupled with or without ADHD medication instead of medicating the child initially.

We are also researching the effects of a new treatment for ADHD, trigeminal nerve stimulation (TNS). This treatment occurs at night, does not involve medication and is non-invasive. The team is working to better understand for whom this therapy would be most effective.

a closeup headshot of Dr. Stein

To learn more about Dr. Stein’s work, visit  the Stein Lab .  If you are interested in learning about or joining ADHD research studies, email  [email protected].

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5 Things Parents Of Kids With ADHD Should Do During Back-To-School Season

T he classroom can be a challenging environment for a child with ADHD to navigate, and you’ll likely be anticipating the difficulties your child will face before you send them in for that first day of school. 

“Most schools just aren’t developed with the ADHD brain in mind,” Lori Long, a child psychologist with The Childhood Collective , told HuffPost. 

Yet with the right support, school can be a positive experience for your child. We asked experts what parents can do to help ensure a smooth transition when their child goes back to school. 

Initiate communication with your child’s teacher.

Long suggests writing a letter or email to the teacher before school begins. You can introduce your child and talk about their strengths as well as the areas where they struggle. Share your child’s diagnosis, or where you are in the process of getting a diagnosis for your child. Mention strategies that have — and haven’t — worked in the past. 

Leading with your child’s interests and strengths is helpful because it “gives your child’s teacher something to connect with them about and possibly tailor challenging tasks to those interests and strengths,” explained Long.

Tracee Perryman, a social worker and the author of “ Elevating Futures: A Model for Empowering Black Elementary Student Success ” told HuffPost, “It’s important for both the parent and the teacher to see the relationship as a partnership. That means that both the parent and the teacher should respect the knowledge that each brings.”

Share the best way to communicate with you (such as text or email), but understand that the teacher may not be able to respond to you right away each time you reach out with a concern. The bulk of a teacher’s day is spent working with students, and the time they have available to communicate with parents is limited.

“Teachers are very busy and have a lot on their plate, so be respectful of their time and patient in waiting for responses. We recommend keeping communication positive and trying to collaborate in a respectful way to ensure a good year for your child,” Long said.

Perryman suggests that parents “set up a mutually agreed upon communication schedule, and find out from the teacher up front under which conditions the parent should be contacted and the parent should intervene.” For example, you might set up a weekly or monthly check in, and clarify that you wish to be contacted if your child is sent out of the room for disciplinary reasons.

If the teacher does something you don’t like, assume that they have your child’s best interests at heart and approach them in a way that isn’t accusatory or antagonistic. When the teacher is the one to contact you, don’t forget to thank them for reaching out, even when the news isn’t positive. 

Emphasize the positive with your child.

Your child may have struggled at school in the past, but you don’t want them to begin the school year with the assumption that difficulties will arise. Avoid phrases such as, “Don’t do this” and “Remember not to...” 

“It is important to lead with the child’s strengths and help the child process through how they can apply those strengths to the new school year,” Perryman said. 

Focusing on what your child does well also helps them develop a positive sense of self. 

Perryman also recommends that parents “walk children through scenarios that their child might encounter and help them come up with strategies for managing those encounters successfully.”  

You might mention what someone else does as a model for certain situations, but be wary of comparing your child to others, as this can harm their self-image, Perryman said. 

When talking about your child’s ADHD, be mindful of how you frame it. “We explain that what we call ADHD or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is just a word used to describe the way their brain works. It’s not ‘bad’ or ‘wrong,’ but different,” Long said.

Communicate to your child that knowing about their ADHD is helpful. It can explain “why some things come easily for them and why other things may be more challenging,” Long said.

“We find that kids understand it best with concrete examples of how ADHD looks for them. For example, ‘For some kids, like you, focusing on boring or hard tasks is really hard. But you may find it easy to focus on video games or things you love.’” 

She continued, “bringing it back to concrete examples that are relatable for them can help them understand their brain.”

Set up routines.

Routines are helpful to all children, and particularly those who have ADHD.

“Many kids with ADHD are distracted easily and struggle to sustain attention,” Long said. “We can support our children by having predictable and consistent routines.”

Parents might use a tool like a visual schedule, which shows the child in pictures and/or words the steps they need to take in the order they should do them. For example, a visual schedule for getting ready in the morning might include: get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, put on socks and shoes, grab backpack. Perryman suggests having kids participate in making these schedules, such as helping decide the order of the steps. When a visual schedule is posted on the wall, a parent can refer to it (“What do you need to do next?”) instead of nagging. 

“Establishing routines contributes to fostering self-regulation,” Perryman said. “Routines are the framework that embed clear, specific signals and expectations for behavior at the appropriate times.”

One area in which many children struggle is homework, making it particularly important to set up a routine for completing assignments at home. You will need to do more than establishing a time and place for your child to get their homework done — although that’s an important starting point. 

“Observe your child to determine an appropriate time span for focus, then set up the homework schedule based upon the amount of time your child can focus and be productive,” advised Perryman. This might involve the use of timers and movement breaks.

Long suggested “setting up a space that is organized and free from distractions. Try to have all the materials they need in a caddy next to them and turn off the television/limit noises. Many kids find headphones helpful during homework time.”

When your child is struggling with an assignment, “break the tasks into smaller parts or make them less challenging. For instance, only show them one math problem at a time, find a book to read that isn’t as challenging, or have them write one sentence instead of a paragraph,” Long said.

If your child is in a public or charter school and has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan, you can request accommodations such as “limits on the time your child spends on homework, the number of problems they need to compete, or how they complete homework (e.g., you write while they tell you their answers),” Long said.

“Homework takes much longer for kids with ADHD, and they often benefit from accommodations,” she added.

Make sure that your child knows you notice their successes . “Be sure to celebrate and affirm when the child completes homework tasks independently,” Perryman said. 

Support executive functioning skills. 

Many children with ADHD struggle with executive functioning skills, “which include things like self-regulation, time management, organization, and task initiation,” explained Long.

“Parents should understand that executive function skills don’t always correspond to their child’s age! In fact, children with ADHD are often 30% behind their peers in executive functioning. In other words, a 10-year-old with ADHD may have executive functioning skills closer to a 7-year-old,” she said.

Perryman concurs: “The first strategy I suggest is remembering to meet the child where he or she is, rather than where you want them to be. Again, build upon the strengths the child has and take baby steps if needed.”

Tools like visual schedules, timers and alarm clocks can help your child complete tasks. 

When giving instructions, Perryman suggests that you make eye contact to ensure you have your child’s attention, and that you give the instructions one at a time.

“As your child remembers one instruction, or completes that task, celebrate and issue the next instruction/task as a challenge. If your child struggles with the next instruction or task, be sure to express your appreciation for the effort, but also let your child know that it is a goal that you will work together to achieve at a later time,” she said. 

Advocate for the support and accommodations your child needs.

If your child has an ADHD diagnosis and is attending a public or charter school, they are entitled to an IEP or 504 plan.

“These plans hold teachers and schools accountable to providing the services and accommodations that many children with ADHD need to be successful at school,” Long said. “The best way to advocate for services is to make a written request to meet with your child’s school team (usually teachers, principal, counselors and the school psychologist) to discuss your child’s strengths and needs, as well as the best plan of support for them.”

If your child has an IEP or 504 plan, and you are communicating and collaborating with their teacher but still feel that your child’s needs are not being met, you can also request a meeting with the child’s team to discuss next steps and alternatives. 

  • How To Tell Your Child That They Have ADHD
  • 6 Things Parents Of Kids With ADHD Need To Understand
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What ADHD Masking Looks Like

Are you camouflaging your symptoms?

Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of The Anxiety Workbook and founder of the website About Social Anxiety. She has a Master's degree in clinical psychology.

how to help child with adhd do homework

Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.

how to help child with adhd do homework

Verywell / Laura Porter

ADHD masking is when someone with ADHD presents in a way that makes them seem like they are not living with the disorder. It's also called "impression management." The term was coined by psychologist Russell Barkley, who said it occurs in about one-third of all people with ADHD.

ADHD masking may also be called "camouflaging." This is when someone with ADHD tries to cover up their symptoms by copying the behaviors of people who don't have it. ADHD masking may be a way for some people with ADHD to fit in socially, avoid being stigmatized, or feel more accepted.

Types of ADHD masking include hiding hyperactivity with calmness, sitting quietly at a desk without squirming in one's seat, or responding as you are expected to do during class discussions even though your mind may feel chaotic. Masking may also include over-focusing on a teacher, task, or activity to avoid distractions and impulsivity.

History and Prevalence of ADHD Masking

In 2015, Barkley wrote about the ADHD masking phenomenon in his book, "Taking Charge of Adult ADHD. " He said that some people with ADHD try and show others they have it under control by controlling their symptoms.

Research on ADHD masking is still limited, and it has not been studied extensively. Barkley said that this is due to the fact that ADHD masking is a very difficult concept for people without ADHD to understand, so they may find it hard to believe.

What's more, people with ADHD may be ashamed to admit they are "faking" it, and doctors don't always ask patients about the possibility. In other words, it may be that ADHD masking is more common than we know.

Examples of ADHD Masking

ADHD masking is a way of hiding symptoms through learned behaviors that can be healthy or unhealthy. Many people with ADHD break social rules through their behaviors and may face shame and ridicule. As a result, they develop coping strategies to hide parts of themselves.

ADHD masking can be used as a coping mechanism and sometimes may help people get by when they are young and trying to make sense of the world around them. But eventually, this behavior becomes difficult to manage on its own.

Below are some examples of ADHD masking.

  • Staying too quiet and being overly careful about what you say to avoid talking too much or interrupting people
  • Obsessively checking your belongings to make sure that you don't lose things
  • Reacting as you are expected to during class instead of how you feel inside
  • Seeming "fine" and not showing any signs that there is a problem when in reality, you are struggling to keep up or maintain relationships
  • Being overly conscientious about how clean the house looks even though you may be overwhelmed by all the work it takes to keep it tidy
  • Hiding hyperactivity through calmness, so people think everything is fine, but in reality, you have trouble focusing because your mind jumps from one thing to another too quickly to process what anyone around you is saying at the moment
  • Being unable to relax leading up to appointments and arriving much too early, as a way to ensure that you are not late due to time blindness
  • Listening carefully and focusing too hard when someone is talking to not miss anything they say
  • Excessively writing everything down so you don't forget it later because of memory issues with ADHD
  • Obsessively organizing paperwork and creating systems to make sure you can find what you need
  • Bottling up intense emotions until you feel sick inside without knowing why (this can sometimes also lead to depression )
  • Calling in sick to avoid being placed in stressful or anxiety-inducing situations
  • Being irritable when you force yourself to concentrate on something that doesn't interest you for an extended period of time
  • Taking on too much responsibility to make up for what you perceive as your faults
  • Attempting to cope with the world by developing perfectionistic tendencies (e.g., expecting that you will never do anything wrong)
  • Overdoing something until exhaustion sets in so that others see how capable and reliable you are even though deep down you are struggling
  • Hiding that you may feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities leads to feelings of shame and guilt .
  • A need to always appear in control to avoid feeling ashamed about whether others see your struggles
  • Suppressing stimming behaviors like leg bouncing so you don't disturb others even though you feel uncomfortable sitting still
  • Mimicking or copying other people in social situations so that you will be accepted

Impact of ADHD Masking

Below are some of the potential negative impacts of engaging in ADHD masking.

  • ADHD masking can hide symptoms, which may lead to a delay in diagnosis .
  • People who engage in ADHD masking might be unaware that they have undiagnosed ADHD, which can lead them to develop depression and anxiety .
  • If you are very good at masking your ADHD symptoms, people may not believe you when you tell them that something is wrong or that you are struggling.
  • People who engage in ADHD masking might also be at higher risk for developing substance abuse problems to cope with how they feel inside, which can lead to even more health issues down the line.
  • ADHD masking replaces outward stress with internal stress. People who engage in ADHD masking can continue to go undiagnosed for years because they are able to hide their struggles well.
  • ADHD masking can make it hard for you to know what is real and what is an act. You may feel as if you are not able to be yourself and instead turn into someone else so that others will like you.

Coping With ADHD Masking

When you can identify that ADHD masking is taking place, you can start learning ways to cope without turning into someone else. You might be surprised at how much more enjoyable life becomes when you learn new skills for managing instead of hiding your struggles.

Below are some ideas to get started:

  • Identify which form of ADHD masking behaviors are healthy and which are hurting you. For example, learning to keep a reasonably tidy home might be helpful, whereas needing everything to be perfect would be harmful.
  • Learn how to deal with your emotions instead of avoiding them. Seek out a therapist or coach who understands what you are going through.
  • Understand that you are not alone in how you experience life. Connect with other people going through the same struggles so that you can feel less alone. For example, join a support group for people living with ADHD . Find an online community where it will be safe to express yourself without judgment.

Final Thoughts

ADHD masking is a way of coping that feels easier in the moment but does nothing to help you deal with what truly needs attention inside yourself. By understanding how you cope, recognizing when your behavior becomes too much, and learning new tools for dealing with stress, it is possible for you to finally start living life more fully.

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Barkley RA.  Taking Charge of Adult ADHD . Guilford Press; 2010.

Kosaka H, Fujioka T, Jung M. Symptoms in individuals with adult-onset ADHD are masked during childhood .  Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci . 2019;269(6):753-755. doi:10.1007/s00406-018-0893-3

By Arlin Cuncic, MA Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of The Anxiety Workbook and founder of the website About Social Anxiety. She has a Master's degree in clinical psychology.

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How to Succeed in High School with ADHD: A Teen’s Guide

These academic and organizational tips are designed to help high school students with adhd finish homework, execute long-term projects, manage their time, earn high grades, and avoid feeling overwhelmed..

how to help child with adhd do homework

With the simpler demands of middle school behind you, you’ll need better study skills, time-management tools, and organization strategies than ever. This is also the time to become your own advocate. With your parents’ support, you can be an active participant in getting the help you need. Start by meeting with each of your teachers to explain how you learn best and how they can help you stay focused and organized. When you’re ready, take an active role in your special-ed team meetings to get the accommodations that will allow you to succeed. By the time you leave high school, you should be able to determine when and where you need help, and how to get it. Here’s how to succeed in high school with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ( ADHD or ADD ).

Academics: What You Can Do

Bring order (and color!) to your notes. Take class notes in outline fashion, using graph paper and colored pens or highlighters to help the main points jump off the page. Use the same technique for reading assignments, so you won’t have to read material twice.

Review early and often. Immediately after a difficult class, review your notes. Then read them again in the evening. Reviewing notes on the day you take them can double the amount of information you retain.

Multitask — quietly. Do your homework or read in class, if it helps you to focus. (Consider sitting in the front, to avoid distractions.)

Break down complex assignments. Complicated, long-term projects can be your undoing unless you break them into manageable chunks.

[ Free Download: Transform Your Teen’s Apathy Into Engagement ]

  • In the research stage, use color-coded sticky notes in books and articles to designate each subtopic; cut and paste online materials into a word-processing document.
  • Decide on a deadline for each section, and set alarms in your electronic timer or cell phone to remind you when it’s due. Some students promise to show sections to their teachers along the way, to keep themselves accountable.

Follow your interests. Look for ways to weave your passions into papers and projects — you’ll be much more likely to focus. If you’re a runner and you have to write about ancient Greece, for example, research the history of the marathon.

Master test-taking. Check with your teacher about what material will be covered and the format of the test — you’ll study differently for an essay test than for a multiple choice. Break the material down and review it over several days. Tutor other students, or have a study buddy quiz you. Find a memorization strategy that works for you. You might create new lyrics to a popular song, or use flashcards or mnemonics. Students who learn visually may benefit from drawing or building a physical model of concepts.

When in doubt, seek help. If you don’t understand something, get answers from a classmate who is on top of the course. If you’re struggling with a paper, show your teacher what you’ve done so far.

What Parents Can Do

Keep a lower profile. During these pivotal four years of high school , consider yourself less of a coach and more of a partner, working with your child to achieve school success. Each year, pull back a bit more. By senior year, your child should be taking the reins — figuring out what they need, setting priorities, and arranging for the right kind of help.

Start each year with a plan. Sit down with your child to discuss the upcoming school year. What challenges are in store, and what kinds of support might they need? Together, determine who will talk to teachers and school officials, and how and when to approach them. Make sure you both attend meetings to revisit IEP or 504 accommodations.

Quiz your student. They should know their learning style — visual, auditory, or kinesthetic — and have suitable study techniques to prepare for tests. They should also have a feel for which courses play to their strengths and which ones will be a problem.

Get outside help. If your child is confused by calculus or daunted by English composition, bring in a tutor. If they struggle to keep track of assignments or deadlines, consider hiring a coach. At this age, they’re more likely to accept help from others than from you.

Provide a challenge. Teens with ADHD sometimes fail because they’re not sufficiently engaged. Consider moving your child to an accelerated class, or enroll them in a summer course at a local college.

Offer rewards. Rewards are a great motivator, even at this age. Try verbal encouragement, extending privileges, increasing allowance, or a special trip. Frequent rewards, on a daily or weekly basis, work best.

[ Read: The High School Study Guide for Teens with ADHD ]

In the classroom:

Use webs, cluster maps, and semantic maps to categorize or identify related information. A central concept is placed in the center of related subtopics, and further details extend from each of the subtopic areas.

Offer alternatives to a written book report. Give students choices — writing a letter to the main character, creating a book jacket or a board game based on the book.

Use different-colored highlighters to emphasize different types of information: one color for dates, another for names, and a third for definitions.

Try tech for quicker reads. A scanning pen scans text as it’s dragged along the page. The pen displays the words on an easy-to-read screen, speaks them aloud, and provides definitions.

Use math computer programs for drill and practice. Many students with ADHD have illegible handwriting, or lose track when doing multiple-step problems.

Encourage students to keep a card file of specific math skills, concepts, rules, and algorithms, along with specific examples of each on the card for reference.

Practice, practice. Answer the sample questions in your textbook. Ask your teacher for more practice problems. Try to teach the problems to another student.

Solving problems. Label each step of your process, and leave plenty of white space between steps, so you can easily see where you went astray.

Writing Tips

Use a graphic organizer. This tool asks basic questions about the topic and organizes material visually to help with memory recall. Distribute pre-printed blank forms for students to fill in, so they can reserve their effort for writing the essay.

Use mind maps — a graphic way of representing ideas and their relationships. Draw circles, write ideas within each of them, then connect and prioritize thoughts.

Allow time for incubation. Set aside your writing and come back to it the next day. You will see potential improvements that can be made.

Organization: What You Can Do

Carve out a workspace. Use the “suitcase rule” to de-clutter your room. What would you pack if you were going away for a week? Put everything else away in a closet or another room. Still can’t see your desktop? Stash anything you don’t use every day in a box near your desk.

Assign everything a place. Get file holders, trays, desk caddies, shelves — whatever you need to organize your work space. Label each container with colored index cards, stickers, or pens. Do the same with your car and school locker. To keep your locker organized, bring everything home at the end of each week and before every school break.

Be bag-specific. Keep a separate bag for books and schoolwork, sports equipment, band paraphernalia, after-school clothes. Assign pockets in each bag for specific items.

Hold on to notebooks. Write your name, phone number, e-mail address, and locker or mailbox number inside the cover or on the first page. If you lose it, the odds are good that it will be returned to you.

Keep a calendar at hand. Always carry an appointment book or electronic calendar — a planner or a smart phone works. Just as you assign a place for your physical possessions, you should designate a time for each of your commitments.

Post a calendar in the kitchen. Include all family events and obligations, so that your teen can add them to his personal schedule. If you both work from electronic calendars, set aside time each evening to update and synchronize.

Keep a to-do chart. Does your teen have responsibility for housekeeping chores ? Post a checklist as a nag-free reminder.

Establish a ready-to-go place. Reserve a shelf or cabinet by the front door, where your teen can park what she needs for school — books, keys, wallet, and meds.

High School: Read These Next

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  1. ADHD Homework Helper: 13 Easy Study Skills

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