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Homework is one of the most concentration-intensive activities students encounter. This is due to its unstructured and unstimulating nature compared to an interactive lesson being given in a group academic setting. Students with ADHD may have difficulty remaining focused on homework as the concentration required may be difficult for them to maintain. Both teachers and parents can make contributions to assist in the homework completion process and make it easier for their students.

Teachers assign homework as an opportunity for students to learn. However, homework can be a source of frustration in students with ADHD, especially when it is presented as a long, laborious and unstructured assignment. As a teacher/instructor, here are some ways you can present homework to students to promote focus and improve performance.

1.  Assign smaller quantities of work at a time.

It’s easy for students with ADHD to get frustrated with homework, which can negatively impact both their concentration and their will to complete the assignment.1 To circumvent this issue, teachers can assign smaller amounts of homework to their students at a time, which will allow students to focus for shorter durations and allow them to spend more time on challenging problems without being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the work they have yet to complete.

2.  Give students time during school to complete homework.

Given that school is a place with relatively minimal distractions that students are expected to concentrate on schoolwork, students with ADHD may have an easier time completing homework while in school. Students already associate the school environment with completing work and staying focused, so some students are significantly more productive at school than they are at home. During this time, they will be able to ask teachers questions if they’re confused about any assignment, and they’ll be surrounded by others completing the same assignment—both of which may keep them focused. During this given homework time, teachers should check in with the student to make sure they are supported and on task.

3.  Provide abundantly clear instructions for homework assignments. 

It can be difficult for students with ADHD to get started on homework assignments that have either abstract or confusing directions, as frustration can build when they don’t understand what the assignment is asking of them. Providing students with clear instructions, ideally both written and verbal, can help reduce this confusion around the homework assignment. The less confusion around the homework assignment, the easier it may be for the student to remain motivated to complete it.

While homework is occasionally done at school or in other environments, most of a student’s workload has to be completed once they return home for the day. As a parent or guardian, here are some techniques you can employ to create an environment that encourages  concentration and improves your student’s home study routine.

1.  Dedicate ample and consistent time every day to completing homework.

Most students with ADHD need routine and consistency in order to be productive and stay focused. It can be challenging for students to block off time every day specifically for t homework, especially if their schedule varies throughout the week. As such, providing students with consistent homework schedules, during which they are given ample time to complete all assignments, may make the transition to homework from other activities less distressing.2 They will reach a point where they can manage their time better on their own, but sometimes they need your guidance!

2.  Allow time for frequent breaks.

Another challenge that students with ADHD face is concentrating for extended periods of time.1 Students may be most focused when their work time is separated by short, frequent breaks.. These short breaks should be about 5-10 minutes in duration, as it gives them enough time to walk around, get a snack, and mentally separate from the work; luckily,  this is not long enough for the momentum of concentration to be lost completely. A popular study method, dubbed the “Pomodoro Method’,’ employs this technique. The Pomodoro Method divides work times into periods: students study for a set amount of  time and then take a short, timed break. (The most common example is 50 minutes of study time followed by a 10-minute break, though there are many other permutations of the method.)

3.  Manufacture a good space for the student to complete work.

While doing homework, it’s easy for students with ADHD to get distracted by all the other stimuli present in their study space (TV, video games, other electronic devices, food, friends, family, loud noises, favorite toys, etc.). Trying to minimize distractions and provide the best conditions for concentration (keeping the room at a comfortable temperature, ensuring there’s enough light in the room, limited auditory distractions) can help the student better focus on the homework in front of them. When optimizing your student’s space, it’s important to remember that everyone’s ideal study space is different. The most common example of this variation is that some students like to work with background noise, while others prefer silence.3 Allow your student to help you design their study space so that it’s best suited to their preferences.

4.  Develop a “study partner” routine.

Study environments in which others are also doing homework, studying, or reading can be the most effective tactic to help students with ADHD maintain their concentration.3 It can be a source of distraction for a student to know that while they’re studying, people in the next room are engaged in a more appealing activity. Alternatively, it can promote concentration if there are multiple people studying in the same place at the same time, as it can boost accountability for the work to be completed and prevent thoughts of missing out on preferred activity.

Recap:

The homework process can be challenging for students with ADHD, but there are several actionable steps both teachers and parents can take to prevent distraction and promote concentration and productivity in their students.

Teachers can try the following:

1.  Assign smaller quantities of work at a time.

2.  Give students time during school to complete homework.

3.  Provide abundantly clear instructions (both written and verbal) for homework assignments. 

Parents can try the following:

1.  Dedicate ample and consistent time every day to completing homework.

2.  Allow time for frequent breaks.

3.  Manufacture a good space for the student to complete work.

4.  Develop a “study partner” routine.

Resources:

  1. Doing Homework When You Have ADHD Is Painful (additudemag.com)
  2. How to Organize Your Child’s Homework Routine (additudemag.com)
  3. Anti-Distraction Plan for ADHD Students – Thrive With ADD

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    Hyperactivity, forgetfulness, distraction, abrupt or excessively frequent input into conversations, irritability, and difficulty waiting have been colloquially identified as rude behaviors in many settings. Although these behaviors indeed appear rude, ADHD affects executive function skills, self-stimulating behaviors and self-control, which occasionally manifest in similar behavioral patterns. It’s important to acknowledge that the portrayal of these behaviors is not an intentional choice, but rather a product of the challenges associated with ADHD. Professionals suggest that a vast majority of people with ADHD struggle with executive function, though the skills can be taught and learned if addressed appropriately. Below are some important points of advice for parents or authority figures when considering this behavior from their student:

    Above all else, it’s important to ensure that the student feels their behavioral tendencies (including the ones that can be perceived as rude in certain contexts) are appreciated and understood. When feeling understood, it’s easier to use and reflect upon the advice one is given to create a change. This also builds rapport between the authority figure and student that allows them to collaboratively find solutions to the problematic behavior without discouragement.

    Resources:

    1. https://www.additudemag.com/my-child-is-rude-defiance-adhd-social-challenges/
    2. https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2017-05-31/what-adults-who-dont-have-adhd-should-know-about-adults-who-do
    3. https://psychcentral.com/adhd/adhd-and-disrespectful-behavior#fa-qs

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