School can be a challenging environment for students with ADHD, affecting not just their academic performance but also their emotional well-being. Whether you’re a parent seeking to support your child or an educator looking for more effective strategies, this guide aims to help. Here, we address the struggles that students with ADHD often face in school, offering both classroom and homework strategies tailored to their unique needs. Additionally, this guide discusses the role of a growth mindset in overcoming challenges and provides actionable tips for teachers and parents alike. By understanding and implementing these techniques, you can help children with ADHD excel in their classwork and homework, setting the stage for long-term educational success.

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ADHD Struggles In School

Parents helping their children with ADHD Struggles In School

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD in education is difficult, it’s not easy being a student, especially one with ADHD. Many children who come to Effective Effort Consulting for Executive Function Coaching, report that they struggle with tests and quizzes, or getting homework in on time. When asked if they study for these quizzes, the answer is typically ‘yes’. However, their version of studying isn’t conducive to learning or retaining the information, due to their struggles with ADHD. Most students believe that the efforts they make to get ready for a quiz or test could be labeled as studying. Yet, upon deeper analysis of effective studying, there is a deep divide between their perception of studying with attention deficit disorder and the reality of what studying truly means.

Unlike homework assignments that can be completed quickly and doesn’t require as many executive function skills, studying is a far more abstract process that takes patience and time and will always require sustained mental effort. Studying is a cognitive-based process where a student engages with content.

The difference between studying and completing homework lies in the goal involved with each. The overarching goal of studying should be rooted in understanding and learning the materials in an effort to complete a short or long term objective. Homework is the nightly routine of completing assignments that meet the class expectations outside of school time. Studying is the active process that goes beyond just completing homework.

A student who is actively engaged in studying takes each homework assignment as an opportunity to learn and understand the content. This student comes to specific conclusions at the end of the studying process. The conclusions are a bi-product of a meta-cognitive process which requires a student to think about what he still does not understand and makes a plan to overcome that knowledge gap. Being an effective student is not easy and requires time and patience. However, students with EFD (executive functioning deficit) or attention deficit disorder struggle with being patient and taking their time to learn the information.

Many students, not just students with EFD, think that they are reading the required assignments. But when they take a test or quiz, the results convey a different story. When asked if they read, many will attest that they did. However, when asked why do we read, many do not see the direct connection between the act of reading and it’s purpose. The purpose of reading is to build understanding and meaning. Many students think they are reading, even though they do not understand what they have read.  Students tend to want a quick fix to the knowledge gap.  They will often avoid the necessary student-centered task of sitting still with their required English literature book, reading each chapter and taking notes in order to better understand the content of the book. Yet, this is what they need to do to effectively prepare for quizzes,  tests, and even college.

Setting up your child for school success

Grades, are not the endgame of education. It is the beliefs, values, and traits that foster the development of independence and self-determination that surpass whatever value grades can offer. As parents and educators, we have a major role in developing the right beliefs that define and shape one’s perspectives. It is these perspectives or mindsets about the world, about abilities, and about our own weaknesses, that shape the thoughts and actions regarding what we view as possible and impossible.

The child that struggles to gets B’s is the one that is developing the right mindset needed to overcome challenges and obstacles later in life. While the child that gets easy A’s is not developing in quite the same way. JESSICA LAHEY wrote a great blog on this point, One Works for B’s; One gets easy A’s.

Recent research has proven just how powerful the right mindset is in determining one’s success in overcoming challenges and accomplishing goals. Research by Carol Dweck has highlighted the important difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, and the importance of praising the process of learning the not the outcome.

Dweck recommends a simple shift in a parent or teachers response to a childs success. For example, one could replace the response “you must be smart” with “you must have really worked hard”. A fixed mindset child develops a belief that talent is innate and there is no room for growth, but a growth mindset child develops a belief that talent comes from work and is charged with limitless potential.

Steps to develop a growth mindset in both you and your children

Carol Dwek is one of many people who believe a growth mindset is essential to academic success and lifelong growth. Others who believe this to be true encourage students and parents to actively consider adopting the following habits;

  • Praise risk-taking and setbacks
  • Focus on effort, struggle, persistence
  • Look for difficult tasks – and set your mind on the reward of failure
  • Focus on Strategies to overcome challenges
  • Reflect and adapt to what’s working and remove what is not
  • Focus on the process NOT the outcome. Be passionate about the Learning and the act of improving
  • Seek challenges that redefine who you are – “I am an early riser”
  •  Choose to work hard 

This is particularly important for those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as it can present unique challenges for students, affecting their ability to focus, stay organized, and manage time effectively. However, with the right strategies and encouragement, this growth mindset can help students with ADHD to believe in themselves, see their strengths and academically. In addition to this mindset shift, homework and classroom adjustments can also be made to encourage academic success.

Classroom Treatment Strategies for children with ADHD

A teacher teaching a student about the strategies for children with ADHD

Working as a team to create the optimal learning environment for kids with ADHD is essential and can include some of the following adaptations.

Work Closely With the Child’s Teacher:

Open communication between parents, teachers, and students is crucial. Educate teachers about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and its effects, go though the diagnostic and statistical manual or the national resource center to explore accommodations for your child’s educational needs, classroom accommodations, share relevant information about the child’s strengths and weaknesses, and work collaboratively on effective strategies.

Use Tools and Flexible Rules:

Incorporate tools like timers, visual aids, and organizational systems to help ADHD students stay on track. and improve impulse control Additionally, offer flexibility with rules when necessary to accommodate the child’s needs and encourage good behavior.

Tips for Managing ADHD Symptoms at School:

Encourage frequent breaks, provide seating options, and allow the use of fidget tools to help students with ADHD channel their energy, control their impulsive behavior and stay focused.

Commonly Used Medications for ADHD:

Discuss medication options with a qualified healthcare professional, and consider their potential benefits in managing ADHD symptoms. Medication is just one part of a comprehensive ADHD treatment plan.

Homework Strategies for children with ADHD symptoms

Creating a predictable homework routine is essential to a child’s success, particularly when ADHD is involved. The following suggestions can help parents know how to create such a routine.

  1. Limit Distractions: Create a designated homework space that is free from distractions like noise, electronic devices, and other stimulants.
  2. Develop a Plan That Fits the Child: Tailor the homework approach to the individual needs of the child, Most will need an individualized education program. Some students may benefit from breaking tasks into smaller chunks, while other children may prefer to tackle assignments all at once. Focus on finding what strategy and learning environment can best help your child succeed.
  3. Develop Routines around Homework and Chores: Consistent routines can provide a sense of stability and predictability for children with ADHD. Establish regular homework and chore times to instill a sense of responsibility.
  4. Give Clear, Effective Directions or Commands: When giving instructions, break down tasks into simple, concise steps. Repetition and visual cues can also aid in reinforcing the information. Although it may seem small having your child constantly misunderstanding directions can negativly impact their self esteem

How Can Teachers Help Children With ADHD?

  1. Managing Fidgeting and Hyperactivity: Allow students to use discreet fidget tools like stress balls or silent chewable objects to help manage restlessness while not disrupting the class.
  2. Encourage Support: Foster a positive and supportive classroom environment where students feel comfortable asking for help and seeking clarification when ,doing so can boost their self esteem.
  3. Other Causes for Behaviors That Look Like ADHD: Recognize that certain behaviors might be caused by factors other than ADHD, such as anxiety or learning difficulties. Addressing the root cause with behavioral interventions is essential for effective support.
  4. Helping Children with ADHD Enjoy Reading: Implement reading strategies that cater to individual interests and learning styles, and consider audiobooks as an alternative for students who struggle with reading comprehension.

Other Homework Tips

  1. Other Ways to Help Your Child with Homework: Offer praise and rewards for completing tasks, set realistic expectations, and provide assistance when necessary, while promoting independence.
  2. Tips for Making Learning Fun: Incorporate interactive and hands-on learning activities to engage children with ADHD. Gamification and creative approaches can make learning enjoyable.
  3. Helping a Child with ADHD Get Homework Done on Time: Teach time management skills, set time limits for tasks, and utilize visual reminders or timers to help students pace themselves during homework sessions.
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Supporting students with ADHD in classwork and homework requires a multifaceted approach that involves collaboration between parents, teachers, and the students themselves. By implementing classroom treatment strategies, optimizing homework routines, and providing personalized support, students with ADHD can achieve academic success and develop essential skills to thrive both inside and outside the classroom. With patience, understanding, and a commitment to addressing individual needs, we can empower these students to reach their full potential.