Improve Homework Time with Strategies that Work for ADHD

I recently presented a webinar for CHADD: Ask the Expert titled: Improve Homework Time with Strategies that Work for ADHD.

As a follow-up, they asked me to write an article answering some of the questions we did not have time to address during the presentation.  Here is the article from CHADD’s ADHD Weekly Newsletter: Q&A with Cindy Goldrich: Homework Questions Answered

How Do You Address Teachers Who Don’t Understand Your Child?

Ms. Goldrich: This question was asked in a variety of ways during our webinar. Some parents questioned the training teachers receive about ADHD and some asked what to do when teachers give what seems like inappropriate homework or projects without ample support to manage the process.
While there are many teachers who do truly have the skills and strategies to work effectively with complex children, unfortunately, unless schools provide teachers with updated professional development about how ADHD’s executive function challenges impact learning and behavior, many have the same knowledge as the general population, which is inadequate and outdated. Since ADHD affects about 11 percent of school age children and most of these students are in the mainstream classroom, I do believe it must be a part of each teacher’s education. I recommend to the parents whom I work with that they approach their child’s teachers with empathy and understanding – and then provide them with the science, research, and best practices for working with kids with ADHD. CHADD has many resources on its website. I wrote an article addressing how teachers can support other teachers in learning more, How Do You Address the Teachers Who Do Not Seem to Understand?
Question: What can you do if your child rushes through his homework or does not want to go back to review for corrections? 
Ms. Goldrich: Once a child finishes his homework, he’s usually off to the next event rather quickly. In his mind, done is done and there is no turning back. For some parents this creates tremendous anxiety and frustration. Has the work been satisfactorily completed? Is there more learning to be done? Will the work be turned in on time? What can, and should, a parent do with her concerns? There are many factors that may contribute to less than satisfactory homework completion. As I discussed in the webinar–Is the work reasonable for the child? Does the child understand how to successfully meet expectations? Does the student have the “emotional fuel” necessary to complete more work? The following are some suggestions that can help clarify what a parent can do to ease the stress around homework.
  • Be proactive in discussing what the expectation is regarding completion. Does it include review by an adult? Does it mean properly putting the work where it goes? Must there be “permission” to move on to another activity? With each of these questions, involve your child in the discussion. Whenever possible, consider his concerns and opinions and keep in mind that you want him learning more than the content of the homework. The process with which he approaches any expectation in life will shape how successful he is as an adult. Learning to manage his time, his materials, and his frustration with doing the undesirable are all skills he must develop over time. Frame managing homework time as an opportunity and responsibility to develop important life skills.

  • Involve the teacher in considering how much “help” you as the parent will provide. Parents often consider homework the time to ensure that learning has been achieved. However, this expectation may not always be in the child’s best interest. Learning is a process, and not every child will learn at the same rate and with the same approach. It is important to assess whether it is a pattern that the child is unable to complete the homework or if it is perhaps topic specific. When parents focus on ensuring homework is done each time correctly, the teacher does not get the feedback to know what the child is capable of in order to help his student appropriately. Collaborate with the teacher to see what his expectation is regarding performance on homework. He may prefer seeing the student’s effort and mistakes in order to help the child more properly learn the lesson.

  • For the student who rushes through his work, consider structuring the amount of time to be spent on homework. This can take away the incentive to rush through work. For example, if the teacher says that math should take 15 minutes to complete, then that is the amount of time your child will spend on math. If he finishes early, he can perhaps start another subject, but cannot leave to play. If all of the homework is completed before the expected/estimated time (as determined by the teacher) then the child can sit and review other materials, but it does not mean that work time is over. Also consider that some children rush through their work because they do not have an accurate sense of the passage of time. You can help by giving your child a visual representation of time such as a Time Timer. Also, discuss beforehand how long he anticipates something should take and help him evaluate his estimations afterward. Learning how to estimate how long something will take accurately is a developmental skill that all students (and adults) need to learn.
Question: What can you do to help a child who is resistant to using charts, schedules, and other strategies?
Ms. Goldrich: It is often very frustrating when your child does not want to use tools and strategies that would seem easy and helpful. I often recommend that parents take a broad view of working with their children. While it can seem very important in the moment that your child performs at her best, using the ideal tools and methods you offer her, there is also tremendous value in having your child figure out certain things for herself through trial and error. As adults, we know that there are many ways to accomplish a goal, and the important issue is having a plan, a strategy, a method to use. First, discuss what the expectation is regarding the outcome. Not the grade necessarily, but the productivity – did she know her assignments, complete the work, turn it in on time? Is she prepared for her exams? Expose your child to a variety of methods and help her think about what will best help her accomplish her goals. If she is resistant to trying any, then remind her that she is still accountable to a level of performance and then ask her how she intends to meet the expectations. Sometimes, as I discussed in the webinar, it’s not about the homework but other things that might make her compliance and performance challenging.
If you are battling over the homework to the point that it is creating constant stress and affecting your relationship with your child, I recommend that you seek support from outside help, be it a tutor, the teacher, or perhaps a parent coach, who can help you learn new strategies and shift how you interact with your child.
Please reach out if I can support you: [email protected]

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