Homework & Studying

Turning It In Should Be the Easy Part of Homework, Right?

Even when they complete their homework, students with ADHD don’t always remember to turn in assignments on time — or at all. Help your kid get credit for all her hard work by setting up these fool-proof organization systems at school and home.

A checklist with different school subjects, written on a chalkboard, that would help a kid who was not turning in homework
Mini chalkboard with homework check list on it belonging to student with ADHD on tabletop

The problem: The student with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) consistently neglects turning in homework or long-term projects, even though she claims to have completed the work.

The reason: Children with ADHD have difficulty keeping track of bits of information and paperwork. This problem is likely related to underactive frontal lobes — the area of the brain that controls memory and processing. It’s because of this difference in brain activity that children with ADHD have a hard time focusing on more than one thing at a time.

The obstacles: Children with ADHD often want to complete their work and turn it in on time, but often lack the organizational skills or the memory capacity of other youngsters their age. These students may forget something that just happened as their focus shifts from one task to another or from one class to another. When completing an assignment, for example, students have to work their way through many tasks — including listening to and recording what needs to be done, doing the assignment, and turning it in. It’s very easy for children with ADHD to get interrupted along the way and forget where they are in the process.

Parents and teachers will often find this ADHD behavior puzzling because we assume that, if someone can do something one day, they should have the skill to do it the next day. But mental disorganization causes these children to be inconsistent, leading adults to believe the lapse is intentional. When teachers respond by giving zeroes or bad grades, it only discourages the child and doesn’t solve the problem.

Solutions in the Classroom

Children with ADHD need a high degree of supervision and structure in the classroom. A monitoring system that provides students with cues and reminders can help.

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  • Provide copies of assignments. Give students written copies of homework assignments whenever possible. This will ensure they have the complete assignment.
  • Have parents sign off. Create a homework assignment sheet that must be initialed by both the parent and teacher for oversight and support.
  • Break up big assignments. For long-term assignments, plan to track the child’s progress at different points in the process rather than only at the end.
  • Create a homework folder. Designate a folder that your child keeps in his binder to help him remember to bring finished homework back to school. Use it as a receptacle for all assignments once they are finished.
  • Give feedback. Correct and return the child’s homework as soon as possible. Corrections should be positive and instructive.
  • Discuss accommodations. Talk to the child and parent about the accommodations and supports they think might help. No one plan is effective for all students.

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Solutions at Home

Children with ADHD need parents to help them set up a system to get from the beginning of a project to the end.

  • Organize tasks. Help your child create a checklist of required tasks to help her keep track of where she is in the assignment process. Make copies of the checklist to keep in her binder and post in her room.
  • Establish routines. Set up a routine specifically for getting assignments back to the teacher (for example, as soon as it’s finished, it goes into a folder next to the front door).
  • Don’t let your child procrastinate. He will likely need your help to get started on a task and see it through.

Some children desire more independence. Tell yours that she can earn the right to monitor her own work after demonstrating success for a few weeks.

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