Helping ADHD Children Master Time

Children with attention deficit disorder often struggle to understand sequence, tell time, and prioritize — with their education paying the price. Find out how to help your ADHD student comprehend clocks, calendars, and other time management skills, here.

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Organization and time management are not innate skills. Any child — with or without ADHD — must create and maintain organizational systems that make sense to him. For children with ADHD, whose ability to organize, prioritize, and manage time is affected by neurological deficiencies, setting up and maintaining organization routines can be quite difficult.

That's where you come in. Understanding and managing time is a huge part of being organized, so think of yourself as your child's time management consultant. Work with her to not only master time concepts, but learn to take control of time. Make sure your child is involved when setting up routines so that she will be invested in finding what works best for her. Help your child practice her skills on a regular basis, and follow through with the systems you create together.

Continue for tips on how to help your ADHD child master time concepts and start on the path to better organization and time management.

Understanding Sequence

Children first learn about time by being exposed to sequence and routine: First you have a bath, then you have a story, then you go to sleep. Eventually, sequences include the concept of before and after: Before dinner you will take a bath. In kindergarten and first grade, teachers often put up a daily schedule and use words and pictures to review the sequence of the day. Reinforce these concepts at home by making sequence clear to your child by giving specific verbal cues — first, next, then, before, after — as you develop your own routines.

Ask questions as you go about your routine: What comes next? Do you remember what you did first? Reinforce sequence comprehension by giving a series of directions using verbal cues, and make it fun ("First do ten jumping jacks, then write your name backwards") and have your child give you directions as well. Tell him that you are doing this to help him learn how to listen carefully and pick up on important words that tell us what order to do things in. Ask him to point out words that are related to time. A child who masters the concept of sequence will be better able to organize and prioritize tasks down the road.

Concepts of before and after eventually develop into yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and develop further into past, present, and future. Again, as your child learns these concepts, support them at home. Talk about future vacation plans or reminisce about his last birthday party.


By the end of first grade, your child should know the names and sequence of the days of the week. He should also know what days come before and after any day you name. As your child grows, the calendar will help him develop other skills, like accountability. He can see when you will or will not be available to help with a project, and can plan accordingly and assume responsibility for himself.

Introduce the calendar concept to your child with weekly calendars. The weekly format works best for ADHD children as they tend to live in the present and they will more easily be able to learn the concepts of yesterday, tomorrow, and so on.

Fill in the dates on the calendar at the beginning of each week. At the top write the month in name and its number (October = 10th month). Next to each day, write the numerical month and day (Monday, 10/24). This will help your child make associations quickly and not have to count 10 months from January on his fingers.

Calendars offers a multisensory learning opportunity: It is a visual record of activities that works kinesthetically as you write down and cross off activities, and it prompts auditory reinforcement as you talk about the day's events. Write out everyone's schedule each week including appointments, dinners, sports practice and so on. At the end of each day, have your child cross off completed activities. Discuss the next day's activities as you emphasize, "This is what we'll do tomorrow, Friday."

To share strategies for helping your ADHD child understand time, visit the Parents of ADHD Children support group on ADDConnect.

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TAGS: ADHD Time Management, Organization Tips for ADHD Kids, Back to School

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