Dear ADDitude

Dear ADDitude: Can We Lessen the Homework Load?

“My 12-year-old works for hours every night on homework. We try to break up assignments to avoid exhaustion, but it still takes forever. How can we persuade her private school to scale back the quantity of work?”

ADDitude Answers

First, do a little research. Are other parents complaining about the amount of homework? Is it a standard, school-wide policy to give a lot of homework? Is it just this teacher’s workload, or is your child having difficulty because of ADHD? Having this information before talking to the teacher or the administrator will help you know what you are looking to accomplish.

Some public school accommodations for homework include completing every other problem in math, completing homework in a set amount of time, supervised by parents, or reducing the amount of homework. If your daughter is on medication for ADHD, talk to your doctor about changing her medication schedule, to be effective during homework time.

Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance writer, author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and autism

ADDitude Answers

Executive function deficits that exist in a lot of children with ADHD may cause difficulties 1) getting started & maintaining attention, 2) slower processing speed (slower reading & writing = homework takes longer), 3) finishing work. The National PTA and NEA recommend that when homework is assigned, it should last no more than 10 minutes total per grade level. That means a fifth grader would have no more than 50 minutes of homework total for all subjects. The total work time may last from 10 minutes for up to two hours, depending upon the student’s age and grade. Breaking this time up into shorter sessions is recommended.

[Free Download: Middle School Success Strategies]

In middle and high school, homework does not have to be long to be beneficial — 20 minutes can be enough. Shortened assignments may be needed for students who read and write more slowly.

If you think your child is being assigned too much homework, follow these steps:

1. Maintain regular communication with the teacher if the student is struggling.
2. Please notify the teacher if the work takes longer than X minutes. As explained earlier, significantly longer than 10 minutes per grade level should be discussed with the teacher.
3. If your child is not completing assignments, ask the teacher to call or email an update on any overdue assignments at the end of the week.
4. If the student is in danger of failing, ask for a weekly or daily report. Closer to the end of the grading period, check with the teacher and ask if any assignments are missing.

Posted by Chris Dendy, M.S.
Former educator, school psychologist, and mental health professional with 40 years of experience

[The High School Study Guide for Teens with ADHD]

A Reader Answers

My son used to have the same burden very often. It is not just the teacher assigning too much work. Believe it or not, even if our ADHD children get distracted and sidetracked, they often wish they wouldn’t, and they need more supervision than other children. That can also feel like a burden because the one supervising the homework feels stuck and the one being supervised feels annoyed, so it’s a tricky game.

What I wished when my son used to go to school was to learn about his assignments and his challenges way ahead of time so that I had an idea of how much homework he had and offer a hand if he needed.

Considering that being a slow writer is one of my son’s challenges, I offered to type his final draft as long as he either recorded it, dictated it, or gave me a handwritten draft to type. I questioned him for ideas or I got him actually talking about his homework, and as my son has this habit of doing things or showing them to explain them, that would get him started.

Of course, there were lots of times when we just couldn’t get to it no matter how hard we tried, so in those cases, instead of persisting to the point of getting mad or annoyed of having my son shut down, we just agreed to give ourselves a timeout from homework and try again later.

I hope you find some of my experience helpful to you.

Posted by najn

[The ADHD Homework System We Swear By]

A Reader Answers

Under no circumstances should any 12-year-old be expected to do 3-4 hours of homework in one day. It sounds like your daughter takes longer to complete tasks and forcing her to do 3-4 hours of homework a night is essentially punishing her for having a disability if her peers are not doing the same length of time.

If her peers are doing an hour, then that’s what your daughter should do, even if she doesn’t complete the assignments. Have a meeting with the teacher and find out her TIME expectation of homework each day for her students and come to an agreement that your daughter will complete a smaller volume of work if necessary to stay within the intended time frame for homework. If the teacher doesn’t agree, I’d make that modification anyway and then take the issue to the principal.

Posted by adhdmomma

A Reader Answers

Talk to the teachers about reducing or eliminating homework. My daughter’s teacher in fourth grade agreed to reduce to only 20 minutes an evening (even if that meant that only got one problem done). The goal was to do it until she got it but we didn’t always get that far. Wish I had known about this option earlier as we were taking 3+ hours in the afternoon/evenings!

In subsequent years I just told the teachers that was what we were going to do. They were okay with it. One told me she was glad. She only gave homework because she was required to but she didn’t think there should be any or very, very little.

Posted by Lilies&Orchids