Most environments that are set up for studying are quiet and focused with distractions kept to a minimum. In other words, opposite of what stimulates a student with ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
For students with ADHD, school can present a challenge. Staying on task, listening to the teacher, reading the assigned chapter, focusing on a test, and turning in homework -- these may not come naturally to most students with ADHD, but there are strategies parents can use so that their child achieves success in the classroom.
"First of all, we recognize that some tasks are difficult, such as sitting still, concentrating and listening quietly,” said Albert Richert, Jr, MD, pediatrician with The Pediatric Center of Southwest Louisiana and medical staff member of West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital. "Most of the time the child wants to do well and it’s frustrating for them to get reprimanded over and over. It’s important for parents and teachers to understand that a neurological deficit, not unwillingness, is what hinders a student from learning in a traditional way.”
ADHD is a common disorder among children. Louisiana has one of the highest rates, as 14 percent of school-aged children are diagnosed with it; boys are more likely than girls to receive the diagnosis.
"Parents need to know that there are many strategies for success with an ADHD child. A structured environment with supportive parents along with a pediatrician who will address the symptoms with both lifestyle modifications as well as medication, when indicated, can produce a competent, well-adjusted child, who happens to have ADHD,” explained Dr. Richert.
Teachers often do their best to guide a classroom full of students, but parental support is crucial for success; especially with an ADHD student. A parent can dramatically improve a child’s odds for learning successfully.
Chaos can run rampant unless the parent reigns in the disorder. Buy brightly colored folders and label them clearly, "Homework”, "Signed Papers”, etc. Use these throughout the year for transporting paperwork to and from school. The child will become used to looking for the yellow homework folder, or the orange signed papers folder. "Establishing routines will help them be more structured,” said Dr. Richert.
Set up one place for homework each night. It can be the dining room table, a desk, or a chair, but have it be a quiet place with few distractions. Choose a place where a parent can easily check on progress. Keep the television off and conversations to a minimum.
Children with ADHD are spontaneous; go with it and let their imagination free. Let them act out stories, come up with alternative endings to familiar stories, or make up their own story. "Give them a break from having to fit into a structured environment. Allow them to express themselves, within reason, without hearing ‘It’s time to be quiet’ or ‘Settle down’. Everyone needs a little time each day to just be themselves,” explained Dr. Richert.
Praise is important to all children, but especially to those with ADHD. It is an excellent motivator to help students focus and pay attention. "If your child is competitive, work that to your advantage by offering small incentives for successfully finishing a task,” offered Dr. Richert.
A few weeks before school starts, begin to implement the schedule your child will use throughout school. Wake up at the appropriate time, eat breakfast and get ready just as they would during school; in the evening, have a quiet time as you would for getting homework done, then bath time and bedtime.
If you use the folder idea for their school papers, talk about it with them and show them the folders and how they’ll be used. "Get them comfortable with routines ahead of time so that they have a better idea of what is expected of them,” said Dr. Richert.
Work with teachers.
Staying in contact with the teacher is an important key for parents of a student with ADHD. Your child may forget to let you know of an assignment, or you may need to let the teacher know if medications get adjusted. Establishing an easy way of communicating, whether it’s a quick phone call or email, will be beneficial throughout the school year.
Meet with your child’s teacher at the beginning of the school year. Let them know you’re providing strong support for success at home. Attend school functions and special events as often as possible so that you can observe your child in the school setting.
Teach your child how good it feels to achieve a goal; let them feel successful. Look for ways to be an encouragement, even if it is celebrating small successes.
Plan for your child’s success this year by looking ahead to potential obstacles and finding ways to overcome them. There will always be challenges that arise, but handling many things ahead of time will keep anxiety to a minimum for both the parent and the student.