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Strategies for school and homework to help children with ADHD

Riding a roller-coaster is the best way to describe life with a child who has ADHD. Try these strategies suggested by the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

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.

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.

Homework

  • 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.

This information was provided by the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. For the latest version of this information, go to www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo.

See also 7 Ways To Help Children With ADHD at home 

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