Any parent of a child with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) knows the struggle is real. Listening, sitting still, following rules, and concentrating on schoolwork are no easy tasks for a child with ADHD, making it difficult to succeed. The problem isn’t a lack of desire but a neurological imbalance in the child’s brain.
It takes the support of parents at home and teachers at school for a child with ADHD to thrive in a classroom environment. Here are steps you can take to come alongside your child’s teacher in a joint effort to help your child learn.
Step 1: Be an Advocate
In a classroom full of children, it’s easy for a child to be misunderstood or singled out. Before the start of each school year, talk with your child’s teacher about your child’s specific needs and weaknesses. Then be in contact with the teacher via phone calls, emails, or face-to-face visits on a regular basis regarding your child’s behavior and grades.
Share with the teacher what tactics you’ve found successful and which ones you’ve tried that don’t work. Listen to your teacher’s advice and updates with open ears and a positive attitude. After all, you both want the same thing—for your child to succeed.
Step 2: Create a Plan
Work with your child’s teacher to develop the best strategy for your child’s education. Because kids with ADHD are often easily distracted, suggest the teacher incorporate the following tactics.
For starters, ask that your child be assigned a desk that is a good distance from window views, doorways, busy bulletin boards, and classroom pets. Then suggest that lessons be designed in a way that allows kids to move around at regular intervals or have frequent breaks.
Children with ADHD struggle with interrupting, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. This puts them in the spotlight for misbehavior and classroom disruptions. Giving gentle reminders, praises for good behavior, immediate and appropriate discipline, and clear behavior guidelines can all help a child succeed in the classroom.
Step 3: Engage the Child
You may think your child’s math homework, science project, or reading assignment will never get done, but with the right strategies, you can help keep your child focused on the task at hand at home and at school.
One way to keep a child engaged is to make learning fun. Use silly songs to memorize facts, incorporate dance movements or body motions in a lesson, act out story lines, invent games to learn facts, or draw pictures of math word problems.
Remember that each child learns differently—whether he or she has ADHD or not, so if you can figure out what helps to engage your child’s mind, use that tactic whenever possible. Some kids are visual learners and learn through observation, others are auditory learners and prefer talking and listening, while others are tactile learners and prefer to touch things and move around.
Step 4: Encourage Organization
Time spent working on homework is the perfect opportunity to help your child develop study and organizational skills that can be used in the classroom. At the beginning of each year, come up with a system using binders, dividers, and folders to organize papers, homework, and study guides.
Designate a specific time and a distraction-free location for homework. This should be a quiet place in the home away from televisions, computers, other people, clutter, and pets. Also, keep a clock nearby. Every 15 to 20 minutes, allow your child to take a five-minute break. And make a checklist of homework responsibilities and mark off what’s been accomplished.