Helping Your ADHD Child Fight Distractions While Studying

k-12

Helping your child stay focused and distraction-free can be an arduous task. Pick up some tips for helping your child avoid distractions and remain focused on their studies.

Studying with ADHD

Staying focused while studying is always a daunting task, especially for students with ADHD. It's tedious, taxing, frustrating, and boring, and children in the 21st century have access to a seemingly endless supply of potential distractions (the internet, video games, TV, and on and on).

The solution lies in adjusting study methods to better suit your child's needs. Rather than simply have your child study longer in an attempt to remain focused, it's better to implement methods that are compatible with your child's learning style. 'Work smarter, not harder,' as the saying goes.

If you notice your child struggling to remain focused, try out some of the tips mentioned below to keep them on track and focused as they study.

Identify Distractions

Perhaps the most effective way to minimize problems and avoid distractions is to take preemptive action. Imagine your child's attention span as a long, winding road, and potential distractions as curves and potholes; the route may seem treacherous, but with a detailed map, it's much easier to maneuver around issues.

Child studying

Determine the factors that are most likely to pose a threat to your child's focus, and then get to work on a plan to prevent them from having a negative impact. You alone have the most intimate knowledge of your child's strengths and weaknesses, and you can use this knowledge to predict potential distractions and enact countermeasures to prevent them from causing issues when your child needs to stay focused.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

This approach may seem counterintuitive, as smartphones are notorious distractions. Between engaging games and endless internet browsing, you might be worried about the myriad ways that a smartphone can disrupt your child's attention and study patterns. But what you might not know is that they can also serve as an invaluable learning tool.

Smartphones are a veritable treasure chest of organization tools and applications. Default functions include calendars, alarms, timers, and notepads, all of which can be used to create an organized schedule that is easy to follow. Not only that, but it's hard to ignore; most children have their phones on their person around the clock, so the chances of missing an alarm are extremely slim.

In addition to standard tools, there are also countless apps designed to increase productivity. You can check some out in this list here, but a few functions of organization apps include:

  • Sending text messages to remind you of important deadlines and projects
  • Synchronizing all of your calendars into one easy document
  • Uploading handwritten notes, and much, much more

Best of all, many of these apps can be downloaded free of charge, or at a low-cost.

Break Things Up

As the old saying goes, 'the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.' When dealing with ADHD, it's important to keep this philosophy in mind. Lengthy essays or complicated math problems can cause your child to lose focus, but breaking these tasks into smaller pieces makes it much easier to stay on track.

Complex equation

Taking frequent breaks provide multiple other benefits, including reduced stress, better moods, and even increased creativity. Allowing your child's mind to relax and recharge may just lead them to discover new ideas or find a solution to a particularly vexing equation.

Incentivize

Whether it's a child with ADHD or a middle-aged white-collar worker in a corporate office, incentives are a clever way to generate enthusiasm for tasks that might otherwise be tedious or undesirable.

If your child is struggling to stay focused, try offering a few rewards to keep him or her on track. The benefit of this approach is that it can be highly personalized. Every child is different and will respond to unique prompts and incentives, and you can tailor rewards based on your child's likes and interests. These prizes can range from the small (such as allowing a child to write in their favorite color instead of a normal pencil) to the big (buying an ice cream cone or another treat when a project is finished).

Get Some Exercise

Another potential use for break time is to get outside and exercise. Studies show that regular physical exercise benefit the mind as well as the body. Aerobic exercise improves focus and causes the brain to release chemicals that improve memory and overall mental sharpness.

Kids exercising

Your child won't even need to maintain a rigorous physical regimen; even as little as 30 minutes a day, four or five times per week, can help improve your child's mental health. Have your child walk the dog or take a quick jog around the block, and their concentration and retention skills will begin to improve.

Children with ADHD may also benefit from physical activities that engage the mind as well, such as ballet, tai chi, and yoga.

Study Before Bed

According to research from the University of Notre Dame, studying immediately before falling asleep improves memory retention. In essence, if you fall asleep immediately after studying, your subconscious mind remains focused on new information even though you're fast asleep.

If you notice your child struggling to remain focused and retain information, try adjusting their study schedule so that they complete homework and other assignments closer to bedtime.

Treat Yourself

Remember that ice cream cone that was mentioned as a potential reward? You might be surprised to learn that it might also help your child stay focused! Sugary drinks, such as soda or apple juice, contain glucose, a chemical that helps with attention and memory. Dips in glucose can lead to cloudy thinking and attention problems, so letting your child sip on something sugary can actually help them avoid distraction.

Soft drinks

Of course, be wary of your child's sugar intake. Glucose may be brain fuel, but too much sugar can quickly negate any positive effects and may make it far harder to concentrate. Make sure your child gets the right amount of glucose, but keep an eye on how much sugar they consume as well.

Go Back to Basics

While students with ADHD may need special modifications or accommodations to help them stay focused, it's important to remember that many traditional study strategies may be just as effective. Here are a few common focus techniques that you may find helpful as you and your child fight distractions:

  • Avoid Cram Sessions: Most children, with or without learning disabilities, have a short attention span, and their focus will begin to suffer if forced to endure lengthy study time. Studying in large blocks, or 'cramming,' may seem like an effective way to learn a lot of information in a short amount of time, but usually it has the opposite effect: children become distracted and fail to retain information.
  • Try out Some Breathing Techniques: Keeping relaxed keeps you focused, and it also helps you feel better! Every few minutes or so, have your child take a few deep breaths to clear the air, literally and figuratively. These breaths provide a respite from the grind of studying and encourage the body to settle down, both of which will help your child.
  • Prioritize: No matter how busy your child may be, it's important to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed. Keep an eye on their school schedule and determine the projects that require the most attention. Try to limit your child to two or three items per day for the simplest schedule.
  • Avoid Procrastination: Putting things off is always dangerous, especially for a child that has ADHD. As soon as your child receives new assignments or projects at school, get to work on them immediately. Putting off tasks may initially buy a temporary respite, but eventually the weight of all these ignored projects will prove to be an enormous problem.
  • Stay Organized: The theme of the last few items drives home the importance of proper organization. Everything mentioned above (working at a reasonable pace, relaxing, etc.) is impossible to accomplish if your child is behind in his or her studies. Work with your child and school officials to ensure that your study plan is both effective and sufficiently paced to handle the workload. Falling behind almost always results in stress and poor academic performance - but getting and staying organized will keep your child on track.
  • Give in to Your Distractions (to an Extent): If your child is being distracted by something that can be quickly handled, it's okay to allow them to take a break and address the matter. Trivial things like finishing chores may seem less important than studying, but if they're preventing your child from focusing, go ahead and let them take a few minutes to handle whatever task may be nagging them.

Seek Assistance

As you are almost certainly aware, your child's school is an excellent resource full of trained professionals. Though they may not have the same insights into your child, the combined years of experience and training make teachers, counselors, and administrators a valuable source of support. By consulting with these experts, you can acquire new strategies and receive feedback on your own methods.

Child studying with books

Studying with ADHD can be difficult, but proper planning and attention to detail can help your child stay focused and ensure academic success.

By Bill Sands
January 2020
k-12 learning with adhd

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