Children with ADHD can become overstimulated and overwhelmed when bombarded with work they either do not want to do or have difficulties completing. That is why it is so crucial to learn how to focus on homework with ADHD. Of course that’s easier said than done. Especially considering research shows 46% of children with ADHD also have learning disabilities. Homework is often an extension of work in the classroom to further give the child practice on a new subject or on one that can be particularly difficult to master. Thus, homework may have a very overwhelming and overbearing effect on a child with ADHD.
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The task of helping a child with ADHD complete homework can be just as overwhelming for the parent, and spiral out of control quickly. To say the least, it requires a plethora of patience.
Luckily, there are plenty of great ways to reduce homework battles and make the task far more enjoyable for both you and your child. So without further ado, here are our 5 favorite homework tips to help parents of children with ADHD.
Customize visual schedules that teach kids independence. No more nagging, no more stress.
1. Keep Your Child With ADHD on a Homework Routine
Kids with ADHD crave structure and routine, it helps to calm anxiety and keeps them from becoming overwhelmed with the unknown. Just like getting your child with ADHD to clean their room, you should strive to create a set schedule.
This way planning a time each day to do homework is something expected. As the routine is firmly established, even if your child hates the material and homework itself, they know it is required of them.
Read more: ADHD and Homework: How to Get Kids to Focus
It’s essential to keep in mind that when it comes to homework, timing can make a big difference. Depending on the child, some may do better tackling their assignments right after school while the material is still fresh in their mind. However, some children may need a break from academics and do better coming back to their homework later in the evening, after dinner perhaps.
It’s important to keep in mind that every child is different and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to setting up a homework routine. Find what works best for your child and stick with it. So, whether your child prefers to tackle their homework right away or take a break before diving back in, just remember to be flexible and do what works best for them.
Read more: Apps for Homeschool
2. Design a Sensory-Friendly Homework Area
Children with ADHD may also have SPD — Sensory Processing Disorder. If that’s the case, it will likely be most prevalent during times of stress, such as when a child sits down to do homework. The bright lights, the feel of a certain pen or pencil in their hand, the itch of a sock — all can be a trigger and cause a student with ADHD to become overwhelmed.
If possible, do whatever is possible to make your child’s homework area “sensory-friendly.” This means removing items that are known to cause agitation.
Suggestions might include:
- Dim or brighten the lights
- Turn on or off (or change) the type of music playing in the background
- Remove distractions such as books, electronics, or toys
- Close the room’s door to prevent outside distractions
3. Use a Sensory Box
Within the designated homework area, it is beneficial to keep what is known as a “sensory box.” A sensory box includes items that might calm a frustrated child down, help them regain their composure and focus, or give them a break.
Items that may be of use in this box could be:
- Gum or hard candy – children with ADHD are often orally-fixated so having something to chew or suck on may help to slow down their brain and allow them to regain focus or control.
- Fidgets for their hands – children with ADHD often work well with gadgets or fidgets in their hands. The thought behind these objects is that children essentially put their minds to the task of playing with the gadget so their brain works at a slower pace, allowing them to also focus on another task, such as homework or listening to a classroom lecture. Items such as fidget spinners, stress balls or other similar objects may be helpful to have on hand.
- Weighted Lap Pad or Blanket – numerous studies suggest weighted lap pads and blankets help people with ADHD. They successfully allow a child with ADHD and SPD to feel surrounded and comforted by the weight of these items. Weighted blankets are known to aid in soothing overwhelmed or anxious minds, and allow children to regain control of their bodies and focus on the situation.
One can easily show how having sensory box nearby can benefit homework time. Best of all, you don’t need to spend a lot to create one. Here’s a helpful guide on how to create a homemade sensory kit for your budding student.
Read more: Body Doubling for ADHD
4. Address the Stressors of Homework
Developing a routine after school is much like tackling homework with a child who has ADHD. It can be a difficult to get them to focus, and they may become anxious when faced with a difficult task. But, if you take the time to discuss potential stressors beforehand, it can help to alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with the task at hand.
When working on homework, children with ADHD may activate their “fight or flight” instinct, causing them to give up or try to leave the table altogether. As a parent, you may need to redirect their focus multiple times and encourage them to keep working, even when the material is tough and you’re both feeling frustrated.
The following subjects, in particular, have been shown to be stressors for children with ADHD:
Emotions are especially complex for a special needs child. Talking out the emotions surrounding work on these subjects helps prepare their minds for the difficult challenges to come, and can prevent their “fight or flight’ instincts from occurring in the first place.
For further help with one of the most challenging of these subjects — for both students and parents — check out the best ways to make math more manageable for your child with ADHD.
5. Reward Positive Homework Behavior
Rewards are gold for homework. Children with ADHD are often very reward-motivated and thus, rewarding in small steps throughout the session may keep them on track and focused.
Rewards can come in the form of:
- TV or screen time.
- A small allowance, such as a dime or a quarter per subject of homework completed.
- An activity to be done later that day or the following day. Be careful with this type of reward. Sometimes children may give up on the assignment because the reward isn’t instantaneous. However, if this keeps your child on track and motivated to finish, go for it!
- Small treats. Handing out a Hershey’s Kiss, Lifesaver Gummy, or any other treat loved by your child per subject completed can be a great motivator! Be sure to keep these sugary-rewards small and sparse, though, as they can “wind up” the mind of a child with ADHD and take their focus away from completing their homework.
Doing homework with a child who has ADHD does not have to be overwhelming and stressful.
As with nearly anything, understanding the child and their unique needs is imperative to creating a successful endeavor. Once a parent, caregiver or educator understands what their child needs to be successful, doing tasks such as homework becomes far easier.
And a lot less of a battle.
FAQs About Homework ADHD
How can I help my child with ADHD focus on homework? Some strategies that can help your child focus include creating a designated study area, breaking tasks into smaller chunks, using visual aids, and providing positive reinforcement. Is it okay to give my child with ADHD breaks while doing homework? Yes, taking short breaks can actually be beneficial for children with ADHD. It can help them recharge and refocus their attention on the task at hand. Should I help my child with ADHD with homework or let them do it on their own? It's important to strike a balance between offering support and allowing your child to work independently. Encourage your child to ask for help when needed, but also give them the opportunity to problem-solve on their own. What are some common challenges that children with ADHD face when doing homework? Some challenges include difficulty with sustained attention, poor organization, forgetfulness, and impulsivity. Can technology be helpful for children with ADHD while doing homework? Yes, there are many apps and tools that can be beneficial for children with ADHD, such as timers, organizational apps, and educational games that promote learning in a fun way.
This post was originally published on 12/28/2020. It was updated on 03/24/2023.
Ashley Lavoie is a mom of 3 and manages both child and adult ADHD and Neonatal Diabetes. She is advocating for awareness and loves writing and connecting with other families like hers.
Editor’s note: This information is not meant to diagnose or treat. It should not take the place of personal consultation, as needed, with a qualified healthcare provider and/or BCBA.
This post was originally published on 03/23/2023. It was updated on 06/19/2023.