How can I help my child with ADHD get through homework?

Q: My child has ADHD. How can I help him get through his homework?

A: After a long day at school, most kids have trouble concentrating on their homework -- and for those with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), the task can be especially daunting. The best thing to do is to establish good study habits from the get-go (as soon as your child actually has homework) so that these rituals stick as your child grows and the work becomes more challenging. At the start of the school year, arrange a meeting with your child's teacher. Ask how long she expects most assignments to take. If she says half an hour, ask if your child can do his best for 30 minutes and turn in just that work (since it usually takes a child with ADHD much longer to complete schoolwork). It's also important to provide a distraction-free workspace (i.e., his room full of toys is not a good idea). To supervise him without hovering (you don't want to give him the idea that you don't think he can do his homework on his own), try reading quietly or paying bills in the same room. Try to set a standing study time after school, and plan it around when your kid is most able to concentrate. If your child has assignments in multiple subjects, separate them by giving each one a finite time limit, since it often helps motivate children to see an endpoint. Let him take a short break to stretch or get a drink between topics. Experts also suggest rewarding successful homework nights (which means sometimes acknowledging a good effort, even if the assignment wasn't completed). You can set up a point system, letting your child exchange points for things like pizza night or family trips to zoos or museums. --Emily Fromm

Copyright © 2002. Reprinted with permission from the March 2002 issue of Child magazine. Updated 2009

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