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Strategies to Help Your ADHD Child Focus on Classwork

k-12

Focusing on a task for an extended period of time can be difficult for anyone, but for a child with ADHD, it can be extremely challenging, especially when that task is school-related. Children with ADHD might not always be able to keep their focus without getting a little help from both their parents and their teachers.

Parents and Teachers of ADHD Children Must Work Together

Parents and teachers alike want their kids to succeed. In order for that to happen, though, parents and teachers need to work together to ensure that their kids are successful. By taking a team approach and getting on the same page, parents and teachers can implement a plan, discuss the child's progress, and make adjustments accordingly. That's why, as the parent of a child with ADHD, it is essential that you communicate with your child's teachers.

Teachers should already be aware that your child has ADHD and should be using his or her Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in the classroom if you have one. In addition to the IEP, you also have pertinent and valuable information that you can communicate directly to your child's teacher. What are your child's strengths and weaknesses? What interests your child? What can easily distract your child? Is your child dealing with any other personal, physical, or educational issues? Any knowledge that you can provide to a teacher will only help them in working with your son or daughter.

Once this communication has been established, you can reach out to the teacher or the teacher can reach out to you if an issue arises. Then, together, you can deal with it and present a united front both at home and at school.

What Parents Can Do

There are a number of things parents can do that will help their child with ADHD focus on classwork at school and homework at home. Here are some strategies you can start using today:

Adjust your child's medication. If your child is on medication for his or her ADHD, it's important to make sure your child is getting the right medication and the right dosage. Whether you use medication for ADHD is completely up to your family, but if you are going to use medication, you need to be aware that what works for one kid might not work for yours. Medication or other treatment options should be prescribed based on your child's specific needs.

Also, it's important to remember that ADHD medication is used to treat ADHD symptoms, such as getting easily distracted, in order to help the child function better in everyday situations. Medication is simply a tool to help your child focus and concentrate, it's not a cure-all.

child sleeping

Make sure your child gets enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is essential for kids and adults to focus and be ready for whatever tomorrow may bring. Do you remember the last time you didn't get enough sleep? How useful were you at work the next day? Imagine if you're a student who has school the next day. Now imagine you're a student with ADHD who has school the next day.

In a sleep study, researchers concluded that children who had more sleep were more focused in the classroom and less irritable, impulsive, and reactive with teachers and other students. For this reason, it's imperative that kids get enough sleep on school nights.

How can you make sure your child gets enough sleep? Have a set bedtime every night, no exceptions. By establishing a consistent schedule, you're setting your child up for success in the classroom.

Tell your child to play outside. Did you know that being outside can make you healthier? Did you also know that being outside can reduce ADHD symptoms? It's true! According to a 2004 study, parents noticed a reduction in ADHD symptoms after their children with ADHD had spent time outdoors after school and on weekends as opposed to children who did similar activities indoors.

What does this mean for you? Well, if you can pull your child away from video games, TV, and the computer and get them playing outside, there's a good chance their focus will increase both in school and at home.

child doing yoga

Exercise! Not only is simply being outside beneficial to kids with ADHD, but regular exercise is also extremely beneficial. According to ADDitudeMag, a magazine that provides strategies and support for ADHD, if your child can get at least 30 minutes of exercise four to five times a week, their focus and cognitive skills can sharpen and improve, which also reduces symptoms of ADHD.

In fact, exercise can increase someone's focus almost immediately after for up to three hours. So a child with ADHD might be able to focus more in school if he or she gets some physical activity before school or before attempting schoolwork. Knowing this, you might want to find out when your child has PE or recess to see how you might be able to maximize their schedule to their benefit.

Also, while any type of exercise will work, physical activity that requires your child to concentrate on both their mind and body are often the most helpful. Exercises such as yoga, tai chi, martial arts, ballet, and other similar exercises all involve mind and body focus. The focus, then, that your child uses during the exercise will be able to transfer to other aspects of their life.

student doing classwork

Teach your child to break down assignments into smaller chunks. Some class assignments might seem really long or difficult for students with ADHD. These assignments require a lot of attention and concentration, which might be difficult if you have ADHD. So what can your child do?

Instead of looking at classwork as one single assignment, teach your child how to break down an assignment into smaller, more manageable tasks. This will help in keeping your child focused instead of getting distracted or overwhelmed. List-making might be really helpful here to organize all of the tasks that need to be completed and prioritize them accordingly.

Help your child recognize what distracts them. We can all get distracted, but if we're able to recognize what distracts us, then we can avoid those distractions. If your child is easily distracted by the television when he or she is doing homework, then have a rule that the TV can't be on during homework time.

What about at school, though? This is where communicating with your child's teacher can be helpful. Perhaps your child can focus better when he or she listens to music. In this case, maybe the teacher will play music in the classroom or allow your child to use headphones, as long as they are working and staying on task. If your child focuses better in silence, the teacher might let your child work on an assignment in the library if your child shows they are responsible enough to work in the library on their own.

By knowing what distracts them, your child can then take control of their school performance and make sure they're in the best learning environment.

mom and daughter talking

Discover what works best for your child. These are great suggestions to get you started on helping your child focus more on classwork, but one of the best things you can possibly do is talk to your child to see specifically what works and what doesn't for them.

Keeping a planner can help a student stay organized, but a handwritten planner might not be for everyone. Perhaps your child would rather use their cellphone or a tablet to keep track of their assignments.

Reading for an extended period of time might make a child restless, but breaking up a reading assignment by listening to an audiobook might be really useful, especially if your child is more of an auditory learner. See if your child's teacher will allow them to use both in the classroom.

Puzzles, games, timers, movement, memory tricks, note-taking and study skills, and many other strategies might be able to help your child with ADHD. Certain strategies might be better suited to your kid while others might not work at all. Sometimes it's just a matter of trial and error to find what works so you can stick with it.

Regardless of which strategies you opt to try, make your child part of the process. Ask questions and get their feedback. No one knows better than they do if something is helping or not. Plus, by getting their input, you're setting them up to recognize what works best for them and helping them develop habits which they will continue to use to be successful in the future.

By Melissa Kreindel
December 2017
k-12 learning with adhd

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