Homework & Studying

The ADHD Homework System We Swear By

Homework stress is real — and exhausting for parents and students alike. Spare your family the drama and fights by following this homework system designed for children with ADHD and learning disabilities.

A father working on homework with this ADHD son.
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ADHD + Executive Function Deficits = Stress

Homework requires children with ADHD to copy assignments correctly, bring home the right books, keep track of due dates and hand in finished work — all difficult for anyone with poor memory, focus, or attention to detail. While it may take a few months to become a habit, creating consistent routines at home and at school will result in better work skills, a sense of accomplishment, less homework stress — and lots of after-school smiles.

A teacher explains a concept in depth to a student in school helping to relieve homework stress at home.
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Step 1: Get the Teachers On Board

For many kids with ADHD, bringing home each day's assignments is as tough as the work itself. Teachers should post the day's assignments, read them aloud to reinforce, and distribute assignment sheets or make sure that there is time in class for each child to record homework homework assignments in a planner. Ask the teacher to review or sign your child's homework planner before class ends.

A student goes through her daily routine before leaving school, preventing lost assignments and homework stress.
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Step Two: Don't Leave School Without....

Emphasize the daily routine of checking the assignment sheet before leaving class to make sure all the necessary materials are in the backpack. Help your child establish a list of partner classmates or "study buddies" with whom he can check backpacks before leaving school, and call or text with questions about the assignments. Some teachers record daily assignments on their website, blog, or voicemail, as well.

A mother and daughter work on math problems together, relieving homework stress with teamwork.
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Step 3: Set Up the Home Routine

Set a specific time (in discussion with your child) that is homework time. To develop the homework habit, it's important to keep that schedule as consistent as possible each day. Studies show that beginning homework within an hour after arrival home from school/after-school activities helps kids succeed. So, if your family schedule permits, give your child a snack, some brief down time if needed, and then get started.

A student highlights important reading passages, a good strategy for relieving homework stress.
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Step 4: Designate a Homework Location

Create a dedicated and consistent homework location, in a quiet spot with good lighting, for homework to be done each day. Choose a location as free as possible from the kinds of visual distractions that cause ADHD minds to wander. Rule out television, screen time, or music with words during homework time. Experiment to determine whether your child concentrates best in silence or with white noise.

A parent and her daughter work on homework together, helping to relieve homework stress and frustration.
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Step 5: Be Your Child's Coach

Review the assignments that came home for the day with your child before she starts to work. Separate the tasks into discrete sections and decide upon a time allotment for each section. As your child completes each assignment, review it to be sure all parts are complete. On a note card or the homework journal or assignment sheet, help her check off each separate task as it is completed.

A father points out an important detail, improving his son's understanding of the assignment and lowering homework stress.
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Step 6: Help Him Get Started

Children with ADHD often have a hard time getting started on new tasks. Read the directions together for each segment, highlight key words in the directions, discuss how to tackle the first problem/item. Once your child knows what to do, leave him to complete homework independently. Let him know you are nearby to answer questions or, for easily distracted children, sit in the room doing another task.

A student times himself on his assignments to avoid daydreaming, procrastination, and homework stress.
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Step 7: Use a Timer

Timers are great tools for daydreamers. For elementary and middle-school children with ADHD, 5- to 20-minute increments work well. Once the first 10-minute block is up, kids often hit their stride and keep working. Expand the segment time if your child is concentrating well. Vary the time per subject to meet your child's needs.

Taking breaks for fun activities like jump roping can lower homework stress and improve focus.
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Step 8: Take Breaks, Refocus

When the timer indicates that 20 minutes have past, allow your child to move, walk-around, jump-rope for 2-3 minutes in between sections of work. Large motor movement enhances alertness. If your child becomes distracted during a segment of work, tap him on the shoulder, comments on well he is doing, and re-alert the brain to the task at hand.

Positive reinforcement is important in preventing homework stress and keeping a child motivated.
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Step 9: Praise Effort

Reinforce task completion with specific verbal praise. Let her know how impressed you are with how hard she has worked. Be as specific as you can. "I can see that it took a lot of time and effort to hold the paper with your left hand and write those sentences so neatly with your right hand."

A student completes her assignment while making sure to organize to avoid losing completed work and homework stress.
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Step 10: Create a Home for Completed Homework

Kids with ADHD are famous for misplacing homework between home and school. Create a “school staging center” at home that contains a homework folder for all completed homework. When the assignment is done, it goes straight into the folder, which in turn goes into a designated pocket of her backpack. Place a note on his backpack to remind him in the A.M. to check that all homework is there.

A doctor explains ADHD symptoms and solutions to avoiding homework stress to a family.
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Step 11: Diagnose Problems

When kids can't get homework done, address the underlying cause. Is the amount of homework overwhelming? Don't let your child spend an excessive amount of time on homework. Speak to the teacher. Perhaps a tutor is needed. Is inability to focus a serious constraint? Discuss an after-school medication dose with your child's doctor. Help your child's teacher understand how to help by using this useful printable checklist, created by Bonita Blazer, Ph.D.

A young student working intently on a long term project to avoid the homework stress of racing to meet deadlines.
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Step 12: Have a Plan for Long-Term Assignments

The toughest challenge for many kids with ADHD is the long-range assignment. Go over it with your child. Write the due date on a master calendar, and break the assignment into parts, each with its own deadline. If his assignment is to write a book report on a 200-page book, and it’s due in two weeks, he can plan to read 20 pages a night, and use the last four days to write and proofread the report.

A mother bonds with her son by spending time reading together which improves understanding and lowers homework stress.
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Step 13: Make Reading Homework Fun

For children who are given lots of reading assignments, reading aloud together can make homework relaxing instead of a chore. He can read the left-hand page and you can read the right-hand page. Help your child develop reading comprehension by asking questions like, “Why do you think the princess went to the castle?” or, “Do you think Buddy will win the big race?”

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