Make the Most of Study Time

Parent-tested strategies to help your ADHD child sit still… and learn through all her senses.

Fidgeting in School Chairs

Fidgeting, forgetting, losing track of time. It’s hard to study effectively with all that going on.

And if your child also has learning disabilities – as more than half of all kids with attention deficit disorder do – it’s clear that you need to be inventive to help her make the most of study time.

Calling All Senses

Many children with ADHD are easily bored. You’re more likely to keep your child’s attention if you use multi-sensory strategies that combine visual, tactile, auditory, and kinesthetic (movement) stimuli – not to mention fun.

These tricks are also helpful for children with reading disabilities, who often learn best through more than one sensory pathway.

  • Write vocabulary or spelling words in glue on pieces of cardboard. Sprinkle on glitter, colored sand, or sequins to create a textured, three-dimensional word. Having your child trace the words with her fingers makes a sensory imprint on the brain that increases retention. For variety: Finger-print words in shaving cream spread on a tabletop or in a thin layer of pudding on paper plates. Work out math problems in a rimmed cookie sheet spread with sugar.
  • Call on gross motor skills by writing words in the air or using a paintbrush and water to write on a chalkboard. Pair these movements with sound by spelling the words out loud. Or clap, stomp, bounce a ball, or throw a yo-yo to each letter.
  • Let older kids cut letters from magazines or newspapers and glue them down to form spelling words. Younger kids will enjoy forming words with alphabet cereal or letter tiles.
  • Have a child who’s a computer hound type each word or fact in different fonts, sizes, and colors.
  • Write a “rainbow”: Trace over each word at least three different times with colored pencils, crayons, chalk, or markers.

Ask a child who learns best by listening to read his notes into a cassette recorder and listen to them with headphones on. Also, multiplication tables or other facts set to a strong beat – rock, rap, or country music – can be a great mnemonic device.

Harness the energy

Does your child squirm in her seat and fiddle with her pencil? Squeezing a stress ball can be calming. So is the rhythm of a rocking chair. For serious wigglers, try Disc’O’Sit, an inflatable cushion that allows seated activity (12″ Junior, $20;

Since short bursts of work time are best for children with ADHD, schedule a five-minute break for every 20 minutes of study time. During the break, serve a healthy snack or let your child run around. Both stimulate brain chemicals that help with focus and attention.