Pay Attention!, Part 2
6. Make a suitable work space.
Children with ADHD work better in an environment that is structured and free of distractions. Jeff's parents arrange a neat homework space for him, in a quiet area free of toys and other entertaining things. This technique works for everyday tasks, as well. For example, help your child focus on breakfast by turning off the TV and putting his homework away.
At school Jeff does best in small classes, where his classmates provide fewer distractions and he receives more individual attention. His teacher helps him stay focused by having him sit in the front of the classroom, and by giving him a silent cue (she might touch her forehead, for example) when he's off-task.
7. Make learning active.
Jeff discovered that the more active he is while listening or studying, the easier it is for him to stay attentive and focused. When reading, he underlines or highlights important facts. He asks questions about anything that's unclear or confusing, at home and in school. He participates in class discussions. When studying for a test, he reviews the information by talking to his parents.
8. Take frequent breaks.
The mortal enemies of attention and concentration are boredom and mental fatigue. Children with ADHD become bored easily and have to work harder on tasks that require sustained mental effort. To ease the pressure, set short breaks of five minutes or so on the half-hour, or as needed. Your child can get up and walk around, drink water, even go outside to the backyard for some fresh air. Avoid activities that he might get lost in, like watching TV or checking e-mail.
9. Use self-monitoring and positive self-talk.
With time and lots of practice, Jeff has become more aware of the things that might distract him. He recognizes what being distracted looks and feels like, and he knows when he's off-task. When Jeff begins a task, he tells himself, "I will pay attention to my work" and "I will stay focused until I'm finished." This positive self-talk is repeated as needed, particularly when he finds himself off-course. These statements remind him of his goals and encourage him to keep going.
10. Be clear about what you expect—and offer rewards.
Be clear about what you expect—and offer rewards. Jeff's parents and teacher came up with a list of focusing rules. The rules were written up as a contract and signed by Jeff and the three adults. The rules include basic goals such as: Wait until directions are completed before starting a task, stay on task, work quietly, and remain in your seat.
When he's working on academic assignments either at home or in school, Jeff's mom, dad, and teacher give him an estimated amount of time to complete each assignment. Jeff competes against the set times and earns rewards for good performance. In fact, incentives or rewards for completing tasks can be effective motivators for most children with ADHD.