Ask the Experts

Dear Organizing Coach: The “I Don’t Have Any Homework” Problem

Children with ADHD may say they have no homework — then suddenly, at 10 p.m., remember an assignment that’s due the next day. Here’s how communicating with teachers, studying with friends, and other techniques can help stop the “no homework” fib.

Q: “I give my son folders to bring home notes, or ask his teacher to print out and send home homework (instead of having it on the iPad, where he seems to miss half of it). Still, he consistently lies or downplays homework. When I ask him if he has done his homework, he says ‘yes’ until it becomes ‘no — it’s too late.’” —BeryInTheCity

Hi BeryInTheCity:

Before we dive in, I need to ask you a question: Are your son’s tasks achievable so he is set up to succeed? Or is he regularly trying to do 50 pages of hard reading in a single night? And write a 4-page essay? He may be inclined to lie if he feels he can’t keep up with his homework. Increase your communication with his teachers, if possible, and make sure the amount of homework is in sync with his capabilities. Then, once you know his assignments, try breaking them down into small manageable parts to allow him to complete them more easily.

Define his work first by breaking it into chunks and then assign a deadline for completing each chunk. My students tell me it helps to give their homework the same importance as going to class or keeping an appointment.

[10 Secrets to Studying Smarter with ADHD]

Also, have you tried having him study with friends? It’ll make him less able to lie about not having homework, and I’ve seen wonderful results among students who make appointments to meet friends for homework or study sessions. Has he tried working in an environment where others are working, too? Think a friend’s house, library, even the local coffee store. Sometimes that “body doubling” (being in an environment where others are doing what he’s doing) is enough to help him initiate and stay on task.

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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!