Supporting Your Child’s Education Through ADHD

Crop child studying in garden
Crop child studying in garden

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a disorder commonly affecting children. Its symptoms include having difficulty focusing, struggling to sit still, and lacking impulse control. This disorder can make it very difficult for the children affected by it to be able to sit down and focus on their studies. If your child has ADHD and is struggling with their homework, try these steps to encourage them to be able to relax, focus, and be productive.

  1. Use hands-on activities

Those with ADHD generally need multiple forms of stimulation in order to fully pay attention. Simply listening to a lecture or watching a video cannot hold their interest for very long. To help your child with ADHD be able to focus well on their work, offer them a way to do it that engages multiple senses. Learning through hands-on activities is the best way to keep them fully engaged in their work and make sure they are absorbing the information learned.

There may be times when hands-on activities aren’t an option, such as when they bring homework home from school. If they’ve been given an assignment that is less stimulating, like a worksheet, find a way to make it more action-oriented. Even just offering them a fidget toy, like play slime or a fidget spinner, can help break up the monotony and help them focus. 

  1. Movement breaks

No one likes to have to sit still all day, but for those with ADHD, it’s torture. Having to resist the impulse to get up and move can take so much focus that there’s often none left for thinking about the learning they have to do. To break up the physical toll of sitting still, include plenty of chances to get up and move in your child’s learning day. 

These movement breaks can look many different ways. It may be as simple as letting them play in the backyard or taking them to a park for half an hour to run and play. You could include some movement-based learning activities into their day, such as doing a hands-on project. You could even just play some fun music and have a little dance party break! Including these small reprieves interspersed throughout their learning will make sure that when they come back to learning, they’ll be more focused and ready to learn. 

  1. Comfortable physical space

Sitting still in a stiff chair takes a lot of effort for those with ADHD. It can take so much effort, in fact, that there’s hardly any capacity left for focusing on the actual work! Creating a physical space that’s comfortable and inviting can make a huge difference in ensuring that your child with ADHD is able to actually focus on the work in front of them, rather than having to focus all their attention on sitting still.

Instead of having your child work at a desk or table, think of some more comfortable positions they might be able to work in. A floor pillow or beanbag chair offers lots more opportunity for movement and comfort than the stiffness of a standard chair. With a portable desk or laptop, just about any seating arrangement can be made into a learning space. 

  1. Practice time management skills

As adults, we often forget that productivity and time management techniques don’t come naturally to children, much less to children with ADHD. Learning to stay on top of work is a skill that has to be explicitly taught. Children want to be able to succeed and please their parents and educators but often aren’t sure of how. Talk about time management techniques together and what they can do to improve their academic performance. 

Practice time management techniques one at a time, the same way they would learn any other skill. Including some helpers, like visual timers or incentives, can be a great way to get a start on working on these management techniques without overwhelming or confusing children. 

  1. Spend time outside

Studies have shown that children with ADHD can significantly improve their academic focus and performance by simply spending some time outside each day. So get ready to get some fresh air! Even if the weather’s rainy or cold, it’s still very worth it to get outside when your child has ADHD. Giving them a chance to spend some time in the fresh air will help their mind relax and reset. 

You could even take the learning outside! By bringing a comfortable chair and a portable desk, it’s easy enough to have your child complete their academic work wherever you are. Try taking them to the park next time they have to complete an assignment and letting them work on it in the grass or sitting on a park bench.

  1. Work collaboratively

Part of the frustration of having ADHD is falling short of goals and feeling out of control. When children with ADHD are given a chance to have more of an active participant role in their own learning, they see huge improvements in their ability to meet their goals. Sit down with your child and talk about what it is that they need in order to perform at their best. Sometimes their level of insight can surprise you! 

While obviously there may be times when a child’s wishes simply can’t be met, make a sincere effort to accommodate them in whatever way they ask. This is also an opportunity for them to learn by trial about what does and doesn’t work for them to motivate them and help them focus. Let them experiment with what works best for their brain and encourage them when things are difficult. 

  1. Keep things interesting

For those with ADHD, it’s nearly impossible to force interest and focus on a task that feels boring and understimulating. To help them keep on top of their work, make it fun and interesting enough that they have a natural level of engagement. Rather than giving them repetitive or simple tasks, try to think of ways they can learn that are novel, exciting, or engages multiple senses at once.

Finding ways to make learning into a game or activity will be sure to capitalize on their attention span and get them paying attention to the learning material. Even simply using tools like educational videos games or movies can make a huge difference in their ability to retain the information they have learned. 

  1. Offer compelling incentives

When a child with ADHD is trying to learn, the frustration can sometimes be overwhelming and tempt them to give up on the endeavor entirely. Offering some compelling incentives can be a great way to encourage them to overcome that frustration and keep working hard. Incentives don’t have to be grand or elaborate, however. They can be as simple as having a little prize bucket full of small toys they can pick from once they’ve completed a task. You could also offer experiences, rather than objects, as prizes, such as getting to go out for dinner at their favorite restaurant.

Try to offer rewards as a celebration of their victory, rather than as a bribe or payment for their learning. They’ll be proud of their accomplishment and be further motivated to work as hard in the future.