How can I help him focus in school?

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    • #61822

      My 9 year old son is in 3rd grade. We are in the second week of school and already he is forgetting homework at school or forgetting to hand it in. I just got an email from his teacher stating that “his ambition to get work done has gone down” and if the teacher isn’t checking in with him, he doesn’t do any work during class… How can I help him to stay focused? At home we try different alternatives (i.e. headphone w/ music, gum, walking around while reciting spelling), but he’s not exactly a self-starter. I’m wondering if anyone has any thoughts on what we could implement to get him to stay on task during the school day? I saw the Re-Vibe watch, I’m wondering if that might help? Any other thoughts? I appreciate any help!! His teacher seems willing to help, but I want to start teaching my son that he is responsible to keep himself on track and find ways that he can get himself back on track when needed.

    • #61827
      Penny Williams

      The first step to improving ADHD behavior (in this case, distractibility, being off task, no self-initiation), is treatment. That could be medication or alternative therapies, but the ADHD needs to be addressed.

      After that, it’s time to implement accommodations in the classroom. The teacher should remind him to pack homework and turn in homework. S/he should oversee that process to teach him lagging organization and planning skills. A daily report card is a common tool used for this.

      The Daily Report Card: Your Secret Weapon for Better Classroom Behavior

      Tools like the RE-vibe could be helpful too, as a reminder to check with himself and see if he’s on task. He may be a bit young to use that successfully right now, especially if he lacks motivation to get his work done or motivation to be on task. A periodic checkin from his teacher may be more effective right now.

      There are many, many more possible accommodations — you have to request those that your son might find useful based on the particular behaviors you’re trying to change/improve. This free toolkit download from ADDitude will provide sample accommodations, as well as processes and resources for securing accommodations in school for your child:

      The Ultimate ADHD Toolkit for Parents and Teachers

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #61828

      Thank you Penny! I will absolutely check into those links. I forgot to add in my original post that we have diagnosed him with ADHD and ODD and he is currently taking Guanfacine ER which has helped tremendously in him being more cooperative when you remind him and even more cooperative at homework time. We had some major defiance issues in the past, so after diagnosis we started with trying to tackle those first. (Can’t boil the ocean.) Anyway, we now feel like we have a good handle on those issues, and need to work on the next steps.

    • #62043

      As a school psychologist, I do start getting calls in the early part of the school year similar to the concerns you delineated. I agree with the “daily report card.” However, getting daily feedback from the teachers will not result in improvement unless there are very specific consequences at home. This includes even the look on the parent’s face. Getting annoyed or upset could accidentally strengthen your child’s avoidance behaviors since rather than your child taking consequences for his behavior, you are by manifesting an emotional reaction. In order to use the “daily report card” properly so you don’t accidentally make things worse, I would recommend you go on Amazon and buy a used copy of the book:

      Parent Survival Training by Dr. David Lustig and Dr. M Silverman.

      This book has the most comprehensive and easy to understand instructions regarding implementing a daily monitoring system. Although the book just went out of print, there are multiple offers for used copies at extremely low cost.

      • This reply was modified 4 years, 4 months ago by drmarvin.
    • #62045

      Maybe, getting him into a class that can keep his interest alive.
      Is there a way or, any possibility that you can take him out of the Government school?

      Letting him feel like he is directing his own focus and his individual interests may be the key you are looking for.

      My experience with government schools is that they force everybody into a square hole. Even the students feel pigeon-holed into doing or, learning stupid things.

      Once he finds his special gifts he will be on the right path. Perhaps, learning to ride a unicycle will change his life. There are so many benefits to being physically well balanced. Playing sports come to mind. Becoming part of a team is also a wonderful self improvement shot in the arm.

      Take good care,

      Andy Jennings
      Folsom, CA

    • #62067

      Don’t forget the power of positive reinforcement. For the things that seem small – acknowledgement, at least and rewards. He may be feeling overwhelmed already.
      To help remember to hand in assignments, around fourth grade we started with color-coordinated folders and notebooks (Staples has different colored composition books or he/you color in the white part). WE’d coordinate the color on his class schedule: foreign language was orange; math, blue; etc. (Have him chose colors – there will be a trigger). If there was homework in the folder due the next day, we’d put some kind of note on it (like an “H” that would then get crossed out) or just a post it so he’d learn to take out the folder at the beginning of class, he didn’t have to remember if there was homework in it. The note was already there from the night before. It actually helped, became habit and our son still uses color-coordinated folders (he’s in college now).

    • #62091

      Hi! Said a prayer. How about checking out: Marla and her team offer daily help, and I believe it’ll be a great help for you, too. I hope you’ll visit her website. Blessings and thank you, Christina Baker

    • #62121

      Let’s start with helping the teacher understand that it is not a question of ambition, but of an actual physical disability. Mad parent faces, disparaging teachers, and hopeful pretense are a waste of time. Been there, done that twice for myself and my son, and we both have T-Shirts that say “What was I supposed to do?”

      Daily report cards are just one more way for the system to provide negative feedback. Try positive structure. For example:

      1. If your son has a friend, ask him to help your son remember his homework. If that’s not appropriate, call the teacher and ask her for the assignment as soon as you get home, or as soon as he gets home and you realize he forgot it. If the teacher doesn’t like it, too bad. That’s what they make Principals for, and School Boards, too. Remember this behavior is not being lazy, forgetful, or stupid. You have to be the advocate FOR your son so the school system doesn’t chew him up and spit him out.

      2. No homework in rooms where distractions are everywhere! That includes bedrooms and TV rooms. Also plan on sitting with your son while he does his homework so you can chat every so often and take a break. Short spurts of close attention are good habits to form, with a break to relax the brain. Even getting up, having a snack or juice. That’s how I continue to work today!

      4. Make a special place to put the homework in his backpack. Put it there every single day. EVERY SINGLE DAY. Another good habit to form. When he’s a busy executive with his own company, he’ll have a to-do list that he puts in the same place in his desk – every single day. Or like me, he’ll have a To-Do App.

      3. It’s okay for the teacher to ask him for his homework. Being able to pass in homework should not be a test. If he needs a reminder, that’s fine, too. If he turns it in a day late because it was in that one place in his backpack, that’s okay. Or, the teacher can just check the homework place in his backpack.

      Your son is 9 years old. He doesn’t need tests of character or memory. He needs patience and support. It doesn’t matter if he’s ambitious, and frankly, I’d be worried if he were.

      You have some awesome recommendations about exercise and color coding (which works for me to this day!). Make it a game to find things that work, and let him experience his creativity and insight. One of the great things about people with ADD is our empathy, creativity, and ability to think outside all of the boxes. Unlike, apparently, his teacher. Those are benefits, not burdens. The other stuff is just minor inconvenience that good organization fixes.

      Love him first, fix him later. Or never.

      Cindy Weinmann – #1 of 3 generations of awesome people with ADD

      • #62131

        CW — YES! Well written with great advice from one who definitely knows. Thank you for sharing!

    • #62126

      Lots of good feedback here! My daughter is 8, going to be 9 in a month, and is in 3rd grade. She has also struggled in similar ways. Last year we made a choice to try medication, and it has worked very well. Additionally, we do the “color coding” and she has a day planner (a simple one we got at Dollar Tree, but it has a page for every week, and lots of space to write reminders). We have used the day planner for teacher to give out stickers on the day she was meeting expectations.

      Another thing we did just this past week, was teacher and I had a meeting and we invited my daughter in. We both shared that we see her struggling to remember and stay on task, and how can we help her? We let her process that for a day, then we re-met and my daughter herself came up with some good things! 1) Can she have blue play-dough AFTER she finishes her task. (Teacher said YES) 2) Sometimes she gets off task because her table-mates are distracting. (Teacher and she came up with a “clue” that my daughter can employ to ask in secret to be moved to a quiet space.) 3) Some assignments would benefit if she could work in partners (this was something Teacher was very impressed to hear, and said that she would open that up to the entire class, not just my daughter, for partner-work or partner-checked-work).

      It impressed me that my daughter was able to problem solve and come up with her own ideas for helping her stay on task. I think this increased her ‘buy-in’ to the problem, and we are one week in and doing great. Much improved. Is it perfect? No, probably won’t ever be, but I think the meeting format showed my daughter that parent + teacher want her to be successful, and we value her input.

      GOOD LUCK!

      • #62132

        Of course, medication is an individual decision (we chose not to), but your advice is well taken on the “buy-in” part especially. It makes all the difference when the student is involved in the solutions and workarounds.

    • #62233

      We also have ADHD kids who struggle in school. It’s hard for kids to be motivated when they’re overwhelmed. I recommend checking his med level. He may need a bump up if he’s had a recent growth spurt. What also helps is positive reinforcement. My son earns his media time (max 1/2 hour on school days). He gets checks worth 5 minutes for following instructions (putting away lunch bag, doing chores, homework, etc) you could do something similar for school. Kids with ADHD seem to need more of the ‘external’ motivation. Also, you might check with an occupational therapist to see if your child has any sensory processing problems. Be sure to find someone who specializes in that area. Untreated sensory problems will contribute to ODD and ADD symptoms. Hang in there. It gets better!! God bless.

    • #62443

      Give him a smartphone with the app Alarmed. Set the alarms to auto reset. Put a chime 3 minutes before the end of each class for him to note down his homework and put any worksheets in the To Do sections. Set another for 2 minutes into the beginning of class telling him to turn in his work. If he can’t turn it in yet he needs to get it out and put it on his desk.

      This phone can be set so he can’t download any apps from the store. It is an assistive device.

      It’s likely that he’s really and truly forgetting. :). This will help.

      Please tell me he’s on meds! A low dose makes school so much less maddening. I’m an ADHD adult. I suffered greatly in school every single day–even though I didn’t get in trouble and I made great grades. If only I had been diagnosed then, I could have been spared years of torture.

      If medicating him so he can function in an institutional environment is something you’re not willing to do, it’s your responsibility to make alternative arrangements for his education.

      • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by gentlygenli.
      • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by gentlygenli.
      • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by gentlygenli.
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