Ask the Experts

Dear Organizing Coach: My Son Rushes Through His Work and His Grades Are Suffering

Children with ADHD find it difficult to slow down and pay close attention. When they’re asked to spend time on something boring — like homework — they may rush through, even when their work quality starts to suffer. Here’s what our organizing coach has to say about this common ADD challenge.

Q: “My son, Jake, was diagnosed at the beginning of 2017. At the time, he was failing 4th grade. We tried several medications. When we got him on Adderall, everything got better, besides his appetite — he lost 20 lbs. He was off of medication during the summer to gain weight and then he started the new school year taking Focalin. Jake has the same teacher, thank goodness. She’s been a great help. Ms. Lind says she doesn’t have to redirect or call out to him during the school day, but he does rush through work. I’ve asked him why he does this and he says Ms. Lind doesn’t give him enough time. I’ve explained to Jake that everyone gets the same amount of time and it’s long enough to complete his work accurately. We are trying positive reward systems to help him work on accuracy over speed, but not much has changed.” —Jake’sMom06

Hi Jake’s Mom06:

I actually am a big proponent of positive reward systems in school as long as they are handled discreetly and within context. I would be curious to know what the reward is. Meaning, what is the school trying to accomplish and what is the system his teacher has in place to do so? I would also hope there is no expectation that you will carry it over to enforce at home. With that being said, here are two “tips” I want to share with you from my work with schools over the years.

1. Set Time Limits

What does that mean? I work with parents who tell me their child rushes through tests and is the first to hand them in. There are many reasons for that. Perhaps your son is worried that, if he doesn’t rush, he will run out of time? Or maybe he doesn’t really know how much time he actually has?

[Free Resource: 10 Teaching Strategies that Help Students with ADHD]

Ask the teacher if your son can use a visual timer. Set the timer for how much time the test takes, BUT here is the kicker: Your son cannot hand in the exam, quiz, or assignment until the maximum allotted time has finished. I have had great success in using this system to slow down students and also give them a sense of how much time they really have. If a student tries to hand in his work, his teacher simply sends him back to his desk until the timer goes off.

2. Use Music Magic

Perhaps your child has a little bit of anxiety when it comes to “timed” work? Would music help? I’ve also had great success in relaxing students and slowing them down when they are allowed to listen to music while working on classroom assignments and exams. As long as it is not disturbing the rest of the students (headphones are key), I would see if this is another way to help.

Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions here!