Addressing homework problems is critical, since they are major reasons children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) fail in school. Almost every parent of a student with ADD has been on the front lines of homework battles. Keep in mind that homework doesn’t have to be exhaustive to be effective.
The National Education Association and the Parent Teacher Association recommend 10 minutes of homework per subject per day. In other words, a sixth-grader would spend roughly 60 minutes per evening on homework. If teachers seem to be piling it on, have a friendly discussion with them.
The following strategies can further shorten completion time and reduce stress at home.
Solutions: in the Classroom
- Post assignments on the board. Write the homework assignment in the same place on the board each day.
- Set aside time each day for students to copy homework assignments in their planners. If attention or language deficits make copying hard for a student, ask another student to write the assignment and discreetly give it to the child. Posting assignments to the school’s website is also helpful.
- Appoint “row captains.” At the beginning of class, these designated “leaders” should collect completed homework. At the end of class, they should check to see that homework assignments have been written down by each student in their row.
- Develop a plan which ensures that completed homework returns to school. Talk with the parents of those students who consistently forget to bring their homework to school, and help them develop a plan for getting it there. Suggest that they purchase color-coded folders for all completed work. They can check to make sure homework is completed, is put in the appropriate folder, and is packed in the bookbag for the next day.
- Assign the right amount of homework. Some students with ADD work slowly and become easily frustrated. Assigning only the odd-numbered math problems lets a child demonstrate what he has learned without pushing him too hard. By assigning homework that is neither too difficult nor too time-consuming, teachers increase the likelihood that it will be completed.
- Send parents a list of suggestions for productive homework sessions. Parents want to help their child but sometimes don’t know what to do. Two strategies you might mention: 1)establish a set homework time with input from the student; 2)find a quiet location that has good lighting and a clear work space with access to paper, pencils, and a computer.
Solutions: at Home
- Make a plan for tracking homework assignments. Encourage your child to write every assignment in his daily planner. As a backup, see whether assignments are also posted on a school website. Get a phone number for a student in each class who would know the assignments. One high school senior wrote his assignments on 3 x 5 cards, preprinted with the names of his courses, that he stored in his jeans pocket.
- Establish time for homework. Some children need a break after classes. Others work best while still in “school mode.” If after-school activities make a regular schedule impossible, post a weekly calendar that lists homework start and finish times.
- Ask the teacher about assignment routines. The math teacher may say, “I assign algebra homework four nights a week, and give a test at the end of each chapter — roughly every two weeks.” This tells you that something is amiss if your child says he doesn’t have any math homework two nights in a row.
- Schedule a five-minute break for every 20 minutes of work. Short, frequent breaks help children with ADD recharge.
- Respect your child’s “saturation point.” If he’s too tired or frustrated to finish his homework, let him stop. Write a note to the teacher explaining that he did as much as he could. If he has problems focusing, writes slowly, or needs extra time to understand concepts, assignments will consistently take longer than they should.
- Talk with the teacher. If homework sessions are often emotionally exhausting, localk:/adhd/article/744.html:"work with the teacher" to determine whether assignments are too long or are too difficult for your child.
- Consider medication for homework time. Talk with your doctor about a short-acting medication, like Ritalin, which lasts three to four hours. Taking the medication between 3 and 5 p.m. shouldn’t interfere with sleep. Most medications given earlier in the day have worn off by late afternoon. When medications are working, students stay focused, complete homework quicker, and are more likely to remember the material they studied.
- Monitor your child’s progress with a daily or weekly report. Daily and weekly reports from a teacher warn parents when their child is in danger of failing and in need of more supervision at home. The reports help you and your child identify missing homework assignments, so you can find them and get them to the teacher. Younger children need more frequent feedback, so a daily report may be best for them. In some cases, weekly reports may be sufficient for students in high school.
- Request an extra textbook to use at home. Students with ADD often leave their books at school. Having access to a textbook every night is essential. Once a student with ADD falls behind, it is difficult to catch up. Since many schools have only one set of books for each student, you may have to purchase extra copies.
This article comes from the Fall 2008 issue of ADDitude.
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