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Saved by the Dr. Bell

ADHD - Guide for Home

adhdDr. Bell's Guide for Homework Success for Children with ADHD:

I see many children who take ADHD stimulants to help with attention and school performance. Pills, however, are not the only answer. Once at home, a common problem for these children is the ease of distraction, flitting and flying from one stimulation to the next. Children with ADHD are often easily distracted, losing direction with homework, and lacking guidance for their evening hours.

Here are some rules of the road for children with ADHD that parents/guardians should enforce at home regarding homework and behavior.

1. Meals:

Start every morning with a good breakfast. Do not skip lunch.

2. Sugar Highs and Lows:

Give your child fruits, vegetables, and low sugar foods. Children become "hyper" on sugar. When they eat high sugar and/or processed foods, they get a sugar "high" for an hour, and then "crash" and become lethargic, tired, and/or cranky thereafter. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and provide a more even release of energy throughout the day. Provide them with lunches and snacks that contain complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, breads, crackers, granola bars, etc.

3. Bed Time:

Your child should go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends, getting 10 hours of sleep for grade schoolers, and at least 8 hours of sleep at night for teens. Have a "cool down" routine 1/2 hour to 1 hour before bed. Shower, brush teeth, read a book in bed. NO TV or video games during this time. Many kids are addicted to TV or video games "to help them sleep.” This is a poor choice. Break this routine; it only keeps the mind going and over-stimulated before sleep. If necessary, have a noise machine, fan, or soft music. ("But that's boring!" That’s exactly the point.)

4. No TV in the Bedroom:

This is related to #3, but this is bigger than just sleep. The TV distracts the child, takes away your control of the child's viewing habits, and further detaches the child from the family. This also increases the risk for overweight, out of shape children. Already have a TV in the bedroom? Have a discussion with your child about why it will be removed. This is not a punishment, only a change of habit.

5. Homework After School:

Do homework right after school when possible. Take a 1/2 hour break, but then get to it. Much longer that that, and any ADHD medicine your child is on will wear off, making it more difficult to accomplish homework.

6. Distraction-free Homework Space:

Have a quiet spot to do homework without distractions -- no TV, no iPhone, iPad, Youtube or video games. This does not help a child concentrate despite what they say. It only distracts and causes careless errors. If they feel they need “something,” try a white-noise machine. Homework can be done in their bedroom if they have a desk or table, but the child can often be distracted by toys and other things in their room. Many children need to do their homework at the kitchen or dining room table to avoid distractions, but only if there are no other distractions.

7. Distraction-free Home:

When your child is doing homework, keep the rest of the house as quiet and free from distractions as possible. It feels unfair to the child to have to do homework at the kitchen table when a parent is in the next room watching TV.

8. Take Breaks:

Have the child take frequent breaks from homework (perhaps every 20 minutes for about 5 minutes). This does not mean video/screen breaks. Have them exercise, do jumping jacks, read a comic book or magazine, draw, play with a pet or sibling, or walk around, and then come back to the work. Use a timer and clock to keep track of time.

9. Check Assignments:

Parents should check homework assignments every night once homework is completed.

10. Organize:

Have your child put finished homework immediately into his/her backpack.

11. Limit Screen Time:

Limit video/screen media during the school week to one hour a day (or none at all). Save screen time for the weekends. This includes DS, tablets, smart phones and computers.

12. Discipline:

Discipline using the “1-2-3 Magic” rules for younger children: be consistent and persistent when enforcing rules.

  • Choose your rules appropriately and stick to them.
  • Give warnings to the child with each infraction of a rule and count it: "No back talk. That's one."
  • Use no emotion or lengthy explanation regarding rules and infractions; they know the rules.
  • When at 3, take them to a time out place, using 1minute/year of the child, set a timer. No talking.
  • When the time out is done, you do not need to explain yourself to child, or remind them of it. It’s over.
  • Repeat as necessary.

13. Plan Physical Activity:

For the "hyper" child, plan some physical activity in the afternoon. It could be sports, or even running around the house outside, jumping jacks, dancing to music, jumping rope. Make this mandatory even if it seems silly.

14. Parents/guardians need to contact the teachers:

Teachers want their students to succeed. They are available to parents/guardians by phone, email, or face to face. As parents/guardians, it is your responsibility to contact teachers about your struggling child. Find out what is going on in the class. Your child's education is your responsibility as well.