Homework and the child with an attention deficit disorder

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Organisational ability, time management and study habits rely on the areas of the brain that are negatively influenced by an attention deficit disorder. Forgetfulness, poor sustained attention and wakefulness and poor long-term planning are areas of weakness in these children. In order to successfully complete a homework assignment, several steps have to done in sequence.
1. The nature of the assignment must be understood.
2. It should be written down.
3. The right sources and material must be brought home.
4. The task must be completed.
5. It must be placed inside the schoolbag.
6. It must be handed in.
Children with ADD can easily be distracted during the process or they may give up. Because long-term consequences are of less importance to them, only one part of the process may be completed in the end.
We should therefore help them and train them in this regard.
1. Practical measures that may help:
1.1 A brightly coloured plastic file or bag in which the homework book can be kept. If possible, a colour coding system should be used, e.g. all mathematics books are covered in green paper or are marked with green dots; all spelling lists go in the yellow plastic bag, all newsletters go in the blue bag, etc.
1.2 Take care that the child’s workspace is separate from the television and other unnecessary distractions. Some children, however, work better with soft music playing in the background. A container for homework supplies should be on hand to avoid wasting time looking for supplies. It may contain paper for writing, pens for marking, pencils with a pencil sharpener, glue, a dictionary, a thesaurus, calculator, staplers, etc. Try to keep the area organised into three parts, e.g. “Do it!”, “Busy”, and “Done!”.
1.3 Get one or two homework friends who can be phoned to confirm information about homework.
1.4 The most difficult time to do homework with a child with ADD is during the late afternoon and early morning. It is better to get someone to help them with their homework at an earlier time if both parents are working. However, if the child has too many other activities and has to work during the late afternoon and at night (which often happens in the case of teenagers), medication with a longer duration could be an option.
1.5 Help a child to plan their works schedule on a whiteboard. Start by only noting what actually happened, e.g. how much time he/she spent eating, sleeping, relaxing, travelling and on homework.
After a few days, try working out a schedule that determines time spent on homework and try to stick to it as much as possible.
1.6 Help your child to plan bigger or long term projects. Divide the assignment into smaller tasks that are easier to handle. Mark steps on the whiteboard calendar (library, materials, etc.)
Help your child to prioritise and tick off tasks as they are completed.
1.7 At the end of the day, it is useful to have a laminated list of tasks to which your child can refer, e.g.
– Get clothes ready for tomorrow
– Shower/bathe/brush teeth
– Look at calendar
– Pack in homework
1.8 In general, homework for children with an ADD should not involve mere repetition, but should be meaningful, purposeful and varied.