To help ease the strains of ADHD and the school setting, try these back-to-school tips to encourage a successful school year.
Communicate Early and Often with the Teacher: Teachers need to know early of any issues that might create an education obstacle and ADHD most certainly falls into that category. Ideally, parents should meet with the child's teacher early in the school year to develop an early line of communication, head off potential problems and allow a proactive approach with the child's education. In addition to communicating information to the teacher, seasoned teachers can often provide information that will help parents.
The time-constricted parent/teacher conferences, typically held after the first grading period, may not provide enough time to discuss the particular strengths and weaknesses of child. Additionally, your child might already be marked as a troublemaker or a slacker by that time. Undoing that label may not be as easy after one fourth of the school year already gone.
Understand Today's Classroom: In any given classroom, teachers likely have a couple ADHD students, a few more with unique emotional obstacles or educational special needs and then about 20 other "average" students. As parents, we know the extra dose of patience and understanding needed in working with the ADHD child. We also know (all too well, I am afraid), that our patience can be pushed to the absolute limit. Teachers face the same issues, and then some.
Patience is a Two-Way Street: Just as parents ask for patience and understanding with their ADHD child, teachers should also receive patience and understanding. A relationship built on the single goal of teaching the ADHD child benefits the child more than teachers and parents finger-pointing at each other over the educational process.
Be Goal-Oriented: If you do have a conflict with the teacher, try to approach the problem in a positive light. The teacher might tell you that your child will not stay in his seat, pokes at other students or is heading straight for a detention. Instead of focusing on the immediate problem at hand, focus on action plans to modify the behavior.
Homework Tips for Parents: Try these homework tips to ease the strain at home.
- Establish a Set Homework Routine: Because the ADHD child functions best in a consistent environment, homework should be done in the same place, at the same time and for a set amount of time every day.
- Clear the Clutter at Home: The child's work area should be free of distractions, such as televisions, video games, music and other people.
- Mandatory Homework Time: Establishing a set amount of time to work on homework provides consistency while discouraging the child from rushing through homework. In general, elementary school children should spend about 30 minutes each night on homework. Middle school and high school students should spend about one hour on homework. If the child does not have homework that evening or they finish before the allotted time, the child can read until their mandatory homework time is over.
- "Chunk" Tasks and Schedule Breaks: Long-range tasks are often difficult for the ADHD child. "Chunking" homework helps break the homework into smaller, more manageable pieces. A 20-problem math assignment, for instance, can be broken into four chunks of five problems each, with a small break given between chunks.
- Rewards/Consequences: The ADHD child needs all the rewards they can get, along with firm and consistent consequences. Modest rewards like a treat, special priveledge, earning Gameboy play time or the right to choose a favorite dinner can motivate the child to work toward the goal of completing his homework. Remember to offer intangible rewards like smiles and praise when your child puts the effort into completing his homework. A "way to go" goes a long way in positive reinforcement for Attention Deficit Disorder children. Effective consequences for not completing homework are losing phone, computer, stereo and television privileges for the evening.
- Remain Calm: Once you start yelling, the child has won the homeowrk power struggle. Remain calm and firm yet consistent with consequences. It may take a couple "consequence" days before the child to realize completing homework is better than not doing homework.
- Focus on Effort Instead of Grades: Don't get hung up on the traditional grading scale. Your ADHD child may not be able to receive "A"s on every homework and school assignment. Do make sure to give your ADHD child an "A" for effort. The goal is to develop a solid homework habit. With a homework habit established, better grades will follow.
- Keep Track of Assignments: Using an assignment book helps parents keep track of the child's daily and weekly homework. If the teacher does not use an assignment book, try to develop a system that keeps you informed of your child's homework assignments.
Classroom Tips for Teachers: These tips, though specifically targeted for teaching children with Attention Deficit Disorder, can help all students in school.
- Reduce the Classroom Clutter: Keep classroom ornamentation to a minimum, clear your desk of piles and reduce anything that will take the student's attention away from the work at hand.
- Reduce Worksheet Clutter: Keep classroom and homework page formats simple. Reducing the clutter on worksheets will work wonders.
- Choose seating arrangements wisely: Back row or middle of the room seating gives ADHD children too many distractions. You should also try to seat ADHDchildren far away from students (friends and enemies alike) that can add to distractions and closer to well-focused students.
- Highlight Succes:Children ADHD are no strangers to scoldings and trouble. Continuing the scoldings and reprimands rarely brings positive results. Instead, highlight the student's successes. Give the student a smile. Make an effort to show you find value in them. If you put the extra effort into the ADHD child, they will try to return the favor.
- Choose Your Battles: Try not to confront the ADHD child for every little classroom infraction. Separating out the big things from the little will save your voice and patience while saving the ADHD child from constant reprimand.
- Understand the need for movement: If your ADHD student seems exceptionally fidgety, select him to run an errand. Allow this student an extra bathroom break. Suggest that he get up and take a drink of water. Anything that will allow the ADHD student a moment to get the wiggles out and refocus will benefit not only him, but you and the classroom as a whole. Enjoy the peace and quiet while he is away.