Helping Your ADHD Student Tackle the School Year

As a former special education teacher, I understand that every student starts the new school year with expectations, hopes, and anxieties.

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The right organization system can make school less difficult for an ADHD child.

But for students with ADHD, parents can help to alleviate some of their child’s jitters by preparing them for a great start to the school year.

Here are three easy ways parents can help:

1. A binder. Parents invest good money in backpacks, pencil cases, calculators and notebooks.

Please add to that a good binder system. Papers will overwhelm a student’s backpack by the end of the first week of school.

Make sure the binder includes sturdy, non-destructible plastic folders for each class. Add in an extra folder for those miscellaneous homeroom papers, too. If the binder is large enough, get a three-hole punched pencil pocket. Pencil cases are easy to lose when they’re not anchored down.

IMPORTANT: Teach your child how to use their binder. Review and tweak the system the first couple of weeks with your student. Ask what’s working, what’s not. This system should be designed for them specifically.

WHY IT WORKS: Lost papers and permission forms cause embarrassment and frustration, not to mention lower grades on late assignments. Having a place for everything will help them avoid this.

2. A homework log. Some school systems hand out agenda books to students at the beginning of the year. I’ve seen quite a few of these, but most students don’t keep them going past November.

I preferred a one-sheet-a-day homework log for my students. You can easily make these at home. Create a two-column table – one for class subjects and one for assignments. The sheet slides into the clear plastic front of the binder for storage. Tie rewards to the program to give your child more incentive to use their log diligently. I would give points to spend at an in-school store to students who properly filled out their sheets each day. Make rewards daily – not weekly. Small wins count.

IMPORTANT: Ask your child’s teacher to double-check this sheet at the end of the school day. This doesn’t have to be for the whole year – perhaps just the first quarter until your student has a comfortable routine. Then review the sheet with your child and check off their homework each night.

WHY IT WORKS: Compared to an agenda, students only have to hold onto a daily homework log for 24 hours – a fairly doable task. Building in layers of accountability – student, teacher, parent – and rewards give it pretty high adherence rates.

3. Find a homework buddy. Most children with ADHD struggle with their academics. It could be the reading that they’re not quite proficient with yet or keeping up with note taking in class or just concentrating on how to do a math formula. While my class offered “office hours” for study sessions and homework help, hiring someone from outside their regular academic circle can reinforce skills and boost results.

IMPORTANT: Share the contact information of your child’s tutor with his or her teacher. Encourage them to collaborate so that the time your child spends with the tutor has a direct impact in the classroom.

WHY IT WORKS: Students who do well are often motivated to do better. A tutor or older student can be boost your child’s performance. Plus, an outsider is often a good neutral party to diffuse frustrations your child may have about schoolwork.

For more information on ADHD and what to expect at the doctor’s office, read the Vitals ADHD Patient Guide.