Originally published on The Yellin Center blog

We know lead dominos come in all forms. Sometimes they take the form of a task, other times the form of an action, or even a process.

For many of us, work or school is the driving force behind our overwhelm. There’s often a big project to start, a paper or proposal to write, or a test to study for. We have to remember—the lead domino for any of those scenarios is just the one thing we can do that will give us some momentum.

Here are some frequent scenarios our students encounter:

  1. There’s an assignment due at the end of the week and you’re confused about the instructions. What’s the lead domino? Send an email.

Teachers and professors want to help you succeed. They definitely don’t want to see you fail just because you misunderstood part of an assignment. Reach out to ask for clarification, come into office hours, or even schedule a Zoom call if that would expedite the process and be more convenient. (Side note: make sure the clarifications around the instructions are documented somewhere, like in a notebook or on a Google Doc—you don’t want to have to email them a few hours later to ask again.) Asking clarification questions can save you from HOURS of work wasted on guessing. Not emailing, on the other hand, could cost hours of your future time as you redo the assignment, or the cost could be the hit your grade will take due to the points deducted. By sending this email, you’re also showing the instructor that you care about their class and your academic success overall, helping to establish a positive student/teacher relationship.

  1. You have a test coming up and you need to focus and study. What’s the lead domino? Create a clear workspace.

Notebooks, textbooks, flashcards, slideshows on your laptop—you have so many materials to sift through when preparing for an exam. They may all be helpful and necessary, but you know what’s not necessary? Yesterday’s half-full cup of coffee, the balled-up, dirty workout clothes on your chair, and pieces of an unfinished art project strewn across your desk. There’s no room for the materials you need, so take a minute to clean your space before you jump into studying. This will save you from wasting time searching for missing flashcards in the midst of scrapbook paper, or frantically cleaning up cold coffee when it inevitably spills on your notes. Take a minute to set yourself up in a clean environment, void of distractions.

  1. Tasks are piling up, but you’re just spinning your wheels. Where do you start? What’s the lead domino? Write everything down.

It’s hard to prioritize effectively if you’re not looking at a full list of the things you have to accomplish. If you have limited time to complete a number of tasks, you can’t always dive in blindly and hope for the best. Write down every task, assignment, or action that needs to be done. Once it’s all written down, you have a clearer idea of what things already have fixed times (class at 12:30, soccer practice at 4), providing structure to build around. At that point, you have everything you need to map out a realistic plan!

Planning is the first thing we do at Untapped when we sit down with students. We take every assignment, test date, dentist appointment, and violin lesson of the week and assign them to the appropriate days. If we don’t write down a test date, we might forget to account for study time in the days leading up to the test. If we don’t write down a violin lesson, we could incorrectly assume the number of hours available to do homework that night. Creating a plan is one of the best lead dominos, on both micro and macro levels, when you find yourself needing to get started. Whether you’re looking at your week as a whole, or you just can’t bring yourself to get to work on a specific project, take a moment to make a plan and organize your thoughts.

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    Originally published on The Yellin Center blog

    When we talk about the lead domino with our students, it’s often in the context of school.

    If you can finish the missed homework assignment in math from Monday, you’ll have a better, more complete understanding of that section, then you’ll be able to finish your review packet, which will set you up for focused studying material for the chapter test next week…

    However, we face situations where our lead domino is something outside of academics or work; it’s actually just a small change we could implement in our everyday lives that would make things run more smoothly.

    One of our favorite lead domino examples to help people start their day off on the right foot is the landing/launching pad. For adults, the landing pad is where we drop our wallet, keys, and sunglasses as soon as we walk in the door. When we leave, it becomes our launching pad. Because we’re taking the step to place our necessities in the same spot every time we come home, we aren’t scrambling the next time we head out the door. Everything is right where we left it, every time. We can simply scoop up those essentials and leave on time. For students, a launching pad can be an organized backpack sitting by the front door each morning. At night, if you and your student can take the time to pack their laptop, chargers, pencils, all binders, etc., and even make lunch before heading to bed, you can prevent the majority of conflicts that usually take over your mornings.

    Another lead domino that can positively affect our day is exercise—we know that exercise is the miracle drug. Exercising helps us activate neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. When we find ourselves stuck, unmotivated, or overloaded, getting up to go for a 20-minute walk can change the trajectory of our whole day and our productivity. This exercise increases blood flow to the brain, triggers those neurotransmitters, and helps us concentrate. When we return to our to-do list, workload, or whatever it is that’s overwhelming us, we’ll find that our focus has improved significantly thanks to that exercise and its impact on our brain. When students are stuck on a homework assignment and have been sitting in front of a computer for too long, the action they need to take is entirely non-academic; they just need to get up and move.

    One of the most important, and hardest, lead dominos that sets us up for success, is sleep. Sleep can dictate almost every aspect of our lives: focus, mood, energy level, etc. It has the power to positively or negatively define a day, or even a week. However, getting more sleep is never a quick fix. Behind better sleep is a routine that must be developed and maintained.

    The lead domino can be, but does not always need to be, an action or a task that defines your whole day. It may simply be a choice that can help you move forward in a small series of events, and you probably have a few lead dominos that you could choose from that would all result in the same outcome—you just have to get started. Common examples of this include: jumping in the shower, making a cup of coffee, or choosing to face the one task you’ve been putting off that’s hanging over your head. All of these actions can help you move forward in a small way, but that little bit of momentum can make it easier to tackle the rest of your day. Two hold-ups we see, in both adults and in adolescents, are: struggling to follow-through with the lead domino, and getting caught between two actions and not being able to decide the best way to move forward.

    For example: You’re trying to brush your teeth and get out the door to go grocery shopping. As you’re putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, you realize you have a load of clean laundry that needs to be moved from the washer to the dryer. So you put down your toothbrush to go flip the laundry, but on your way to the basement you stop to pick up and put away shoes that were a tripping hazard. As you’re putting them away, you notice some empty mugs on the coffee table, which reminds you that you haven’t had a single sip of water all morning. You pause for a minute to go grab and drink a nice, big glass of water. As you set the glass down, you remember the laundry, but you also remember that your toothbrush is sitting on the bathroom sink, locked and loaded for you to brush your teeth. What’s your next move?

    Brush your teeth, flip the laundry—you just need to decide. Committing to that decision and moving forward will help propel you to achieve your original goal: getting out the door and making it to the grocery store.

    Does this series of events sound familiar?

    As parents, educators, or just trusted adults, we can get so focused on helping students succeed that we forget—everything we relay to our students also applies to us. We’re not above facing those daily challenges, they just typically don’t come to us in the form of math assignments. When we can apply our own advice to ourselves, we model real-world efforts and accomplishments for our students, showing them the effectiveness of our lead dominos outside of school.

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      Originally published on The Yellin Center blog

      Some days, we feel stuck. Maybe we have a clear to-do list with reasonable tasks, maybe we have a full page of high-priority items. In both scenarios, we can feel overwhelmed and find ourselves spinning our wheels. Why can’t we just pick something from the list and get to work?

      In these moments, we debate if we should choose the easiest tasks just so we can knock them out quickly, or if we should start a harder, longer task that’s the source of some tangible anxiety. Instead of getting caught between these two options, we have a third: Find the lead domino.

      Part 1: Identifying the Lead Domino

      Take a step back. Look at your list. Maybe even look beyond your list. What one thing could you do that might positively impact the rest of your day? Maybe it’s not a work or school task, maybe it’s just jumping in the shower. Maybe it’s pausing to really prioritize your to-do list. Maybe it’s committing to not checking your phone, email, or other distractions that can pull your attention, until the task with the closest deadline is complete. Regardless of what your specific “lead domino” is, it has the power to positively impact your day. By knocking it down, you’ve opened yourself up to a strategy and system that can more easily carry you through the rest of your responsibilities. One domino knocks over the next, and the next, and the momentum is perpetuated in a chain reaction. 

      If you begin with a “lead domino” task, you can build the momentum needed to cross off the rest of your list items more easily—even if they are exponentially larger. Often, by achieving one key task on the list, the rest of the tasks will be significantly easier. 

      If you set up 13 dominos in a row, each domino one and a half times bigger than the one before, the first domino could be five millimeters tall and the last domino could be more than one meter tall and weigh 100 pounds. If you knock the first domino over, after just 13 “reactions,” the largest domino would topple over easily. We can apply this idea to our lists. The “lead domino” task is like the 5 millimeter domino; if you get this one accomplished, toppling the 100 pound domino at the end will be much easier than trying to push over the heaviest domino first.

      How can we identify the lead domino?

      Completing your lead domino may take awhile and be more tedious than you’d like, but by tackling this task first, the other tasks will be easier to complete going forward. Your lead domino could be anything from outlining a paper to going to the gym for a workout! Both of these activities are examples of lead dominos that give you the momentum to get your work (or your day!) started.

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        When school is in session, students gain not only academic knowledge, but life skills they can apply to be successful in school (EF skills like organization, prioritization, planning, etc.). Because some of these skills go relatively unused in the unstructured summer season, many students return to school in the fall with less knowledge than they ended the year with, and are often out of practice in terms of their executive functioning. We refer to this as the “summer slide”: over the course of the summer months, students lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained the previous school year.

        Studies show that students can lose up to 40% of the progress they made during the school year, and that percentage is even higher for our neurodiverse students.

        Due to the lack of structured academic stimulation throughout the summer, the summer slide can be difficult to prevent. Fortunately, there are plenty of approaches to combat this phenomenon. Some suggest involving a student in summer programs through their school, libraries, museums, or other learning institutions; others advocate for reading and practicing math to keep those skills sharp.1,2 It’s important to remember that each student is unique, and everyone will likely benefit from different approaches. Since the summer slide typically impacts two areas—knowledge and EF skills—there are two approaches to mitigate its effects.

        Below are a few effective strategies to help students retain the knowledge gained throughout the academic year:

        1. Encourage students to read. Reading is among the most widely-recommended ways to keep students’ academic minds firing over the summer. When encouraging a student to read over the summer, consistency is key, and reading with the intent to really comprehend and retain the content is what prevents the summer slide. Making time to talk to students about the books they read ensures that you have the opportunity to gauge their understanding. The Children’s Literacy Initiative is in favor of a “Goldilocks” approach to selecting a book for a student: the book needs to be easy enough to avoid frustration, but challenging enough to prevent boredom while reading.3
        2. Engage in educational games. From the student perspective, summer is a time to engage in preferred activities as opposed to academically focused activities. While we want them to stay sharp and knowledgeable over the summer, we don’t want to enforce that concept with methods that will make them defensive or resentful. Work to find a middle-ground: vocabulary games, apps or websites where they “win” when they’re successful, etc. If you can find methods that provide dopamine in some capacity, like through the idea of “winning,” students are more likely to retain information, and do so in a more relaxed context.
        3. Practice writing.2 Writing skills really come down to practice, which is part of the reason that student progress is so hindered by the three months of summer. During the school year, students’ writing is usually limited to academic topics. However, over the summer, encourage them to flex their creative muscles and free-write about anything they want. Not only will this inspire students to write of their own accord, but it will help them write more easily the following year. This also helps students brainstorm with less hesitation or stress associated with the task.

        As many students struggle to remember content covered the previous year, there are just as many students who struggle to maintain some of the academic skills they gained the previous year. Below are examples of effective strategies to help a student retain those skills.

        1. Find other opportunities outside of classroom learning to encourage experiential learning. Active opportunities, like encouraging volunteering, or spending time outside, can be turned into learning experiences.1,2 Applying the discipline and the sequencing processes (taught through experiences in the academic year) to non-academic activities that still have structure and require attention helps students reinforce their understanding of these idea through practice, allowing those concepts to keep their momentum and not get lost over the summer.
        2. Engage in team-oriented exercises. Some schools encourage group work in their classes, which necessitates many important skills for students to learn like communication, emotional regulation, and compromise. As group work can require lots of coordination and organization, it can be particularly difficult for students with ADHD to have time away from this practice. Sports, camps, time with family, and any other group activities are really beneficial in helping students maintain this practice during the summer.
        3. Make plans. Summer for students is often a long period of unstructured time, requiring little to no planning or time management on the student’s part. Parents and educators can model structured time and consistent routines, as well as help students to make similar plans over the summer in order to start managing their own time between their activities and free time.
        4. Set goals.3 Goals are a very helpful way for students to stay on track, especially when dealing with such a time period like summer. The nature of goals can be very diverse (reading, learning, athletic, or social goals), but simply having something to work towards can help students practice making and keeping commitments, which will serve them well when they continue into the academic year.

        It’s generally accepted that the best way to effectively prevent the summer slide is to create fun opportunities to keep students in practice. It can be challenging for students to be motivated to engage in learning opportunities during the summer, so it can be easily applied in the context of fun, “summer-type” experiences. Creating learning experiences (both academic experiences and skill-building exercises) can also help the student remember these more when they return to school, as it may be easier to make a connection from a fun experience to what they learned from it.


        The summer slide is one typical result  common effect of the summer months on students; however, its effects can be mitigated by creating opportunities for effort and engagement for a student. Below are some of the strategies that were covered in this article.

        Strategies to retain academic knowledge gained during the prior year:

        1. Encourage reading over the summer.
        2. Engage in educational games.
        3. Practice writing.

        Strategies to retain academic skills developed during the prior year:

        1. Find opportunities to encourage experiential learning.
        2. Engage in team-based activities.
        3. Create plans to aid in time management.
        4. Set goals.


        1. https://extension.umn.edu/supporting-learning/preventing-summer-slide

        2. https://www.additudemag.com/stop-summer-slide-video/

        3. https://cli.org/2014/08/07/5-tips-for-preventing-summer-slide-2/

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          Originally published on Grown and Flown, November 16, 2022

          Procrastination: “the action of delaying or postponing something.” Your definition may be “the source of all my fights with my teenager.” It’s not a new topic, but it’s a conversation you can’t bear to have one more time. What can you do?

          Behind your child’s defensiveness and your frustration is a reason—the source of the procrastination. Task initiation, time management, and attention are a few culprits that often fill that role.

          We’re all familiar with time management and attention, but “task initiation” puts a name on a struggle that many can’t quite articulate. We all know the feeling of not being able to start something: a task we don’t want to do, an email we’ve been putting off. Task initiation isn’t just a lack of motivation—it’s an executive function (EF) skill that not everyone has. EF skills come naturally to many but must be learned by others.

          Many diagnoses, such as ADHDdyslexiaanxiety, and depression, are known to be accompanied by EF challenges, including struggling to start a task. Neurotypical kids may also face some of these challenges, and that’s normal! But it’s up to us to help them build up the skills that aren’t as strong so they succeed academically and beyond.

          What can a parent do when initiating a task is a struggle

          When initiating a task is a struggle, it can stem from many underlying causes. If your child cannot bring themselves to start a project, try to sit with them and figure out where their avoidance is coming from.

          If they’re in college, you might be on the receiving end of a panicked phone call…are they feeling overwhelmed by the weight of the project? Are they avoiding it because they don’t have an excellent grasp of the content? Are they preemptively nervous that their project won’t be good enough?

          General overwhelm

          Feeling overwhelmed is common, but sometimes we forget what that felt like at 17 or 18. It felt like the world was crumbling down around us, and we couldn’t catch a break: too much to do and too little time. If we do poorly on this assignment, it could bring our grades down, and with it, our ability to get into a good college and get a good job, and — it’s paralyzing, and that can be hard to snap out of quickly.

          If you find your child in this position, remind them that teachers and professors are regular people. They get overwhelmed too, and one quick email asking for an extension is worth preventing a multiple-hour meltdown.

          Please work with your child to make a different game plan for next time, and try to figure out a system where they’re open to you, holding them accountable, but in a blame-free way. If you have the human resources available, see if there’s someone else they’d be ok with holding them accountable. With middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college-aged kids, accountability is often more well-received when it comes from someone other than a parent.

          Overwhelm goes hand in hand with anxiety, which can be a huge driver of task initiation challenges. Anxiety knows precisely when the project is due. Anxiety has a pretty good grasp of what needs to be done. Every minute that passes on a Thursday night, before a Friday deadline, anxiety is thinking about the project that needs to be done.

          There’s even a mental outline, maybe. At 9 pm, when we finally sit down to start the paper, the (often self-applied) pressure reaches an unbearable level. Whether we can turn it in before 11:59 pm or not, it’s taking a toll on our mental health, and we need to break this habit. When your child gets some help starting the paper, or the project, earlier in the week, this race against the clock doesn’t rear its head as aggressively.

          Lack of understanding or learning differences

          This part can be the hardest. Procrastination, skipping class, poor grades, and lying (a punch to every parent’s gut) can all stem from a lack of understanding in some capacity. This should NOT be mistaken for lack of intelligence!

          This also doesn’t mean they’re unable to grasp a concept — they may just be struggling with class pacing or how content is presented (aurally, visually, etc.). Suppose you’re consistently getting last-minute project announcements from your high schooler (Mom, I have a DBQ poster due tomorrow for history. Do we have any poster board?) or tearful, 11 pm phone calls from your college student (panicking about a subject they’ve always loved). In that case, you may be wondering: What is the hold-up? Why are they putting this off? They’ve always loved history. What shifted?

          This is an easy trap to fall into. Comparing your child’s previous interests and successes makes perfect sense to you; they’re incredibly smart and love learning, yet they’re struggling, and you can’t understand why. Sometimes you vocalize this to show how much faith you have in them.

          Suppose they could only see themselves and their intelligence the way you do! You know they have “it” in them; you’ve seen “it” repeatedly. Your priority is to help them succeed; this feels like encouragement from a parent’s perspective.

          What they hear, for better or worse, is this: You used to be so good in history. What happened?

          They know they’re smart. They know that as soon as they grasp a concept, it’ll stick with them for the foreseeable future. But after hearing that they’re smart and have “got this,” your child can’t find the courage to tell you what’s happening: they’re trying to take notes fast and can’t always keep up. It’s tough to listen, look at the board, and write or type; when they get behind, they feel defeated.

          Our kids, especially teens, are rarely going to share this information with us voluntarily. They’re sensitive, and they have assumptions about how we may react. They may feel ashamed that they can’t meet the made-up expectation they think you have.

          So as much as you can, with no threats or punishments on the table, ask if there’s something you can help with. Task initiation is often the easiest area to support. For many students, that’s the biggest hurdle, and once they’ve begun, they’re good to go. But, even if that’s not the big hold-up, starting a project with them can give you insight into where the struggle is coming from.

          Fear of failure

          The tree of anxiety has many branches. This often looks different depending on gender: girls are significantly more prone to anxious tendencies than boys. That anxiety can show up as perfectionism, or even obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

          Perfectionism is the enemy of procrastination. A perfectionist would rather avoid turning something in altogether than in something they’re not 100% happy with; their fear of failure has more control over them than they probably realize. A perfectionist with OCD may write and rewrite notes until they’re color-coded to their liking, and the handwriting is flawless.

          If your child has perfectionist tendencies, they may spend significantly more time completing assignments than their peers. This is especially tough if they wait until the last minute to start assignments — see if you can work with them to set time limits on specific steps of projects and encourage them to start projects as soon as they get the rubric or instructions. If they finish the project before the deadline, once they’re through all of the steps, they can go back and “tweak” things until they’re more satisfied with their final result.

          The goal is to avoid settling into an “all or nothing” mindset. “If I can’t do it right, I have no interest in doing it at all” is a hard attitude to change, but it’s not impossible.

          Accountability and a nudge to get started are two significant steps to overcoming procrastination tendencies, especially those that stem from trying to start an assignment. However, if your child is away at college, you may not personally be able to provide that support.

          If your teen is away at college and procrastinating, what can you do to help them?

          1. Please encourage them to explore campus resources: Writing centers, subject matter tutoring, and multiple other resources are offered on campuses, and many are free. If they’re open to that support, help your child discover which resources are available at their institution.

          2. Look into executive function coaching or academic coaching: Ask an expert! These coaches can help your child develop the strategies and tools they need to get through school and thrive in a professional setting.

          3. Consult with a medical professional: If there are mental hurdles your child can’t quite tackle on their own, that’s ok. Medical professionals can have valuable insight into your child’s challenges and help them overcome those roadblocks.

          There are many tips and tricks to help prevent procrastination. But before we can get into that nitty-gritty, we must get over the biggest hurdle: initiating the task or starting the project.

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            Many students today are involved in various activities in addition to school, which makes time management an important skill. Time management is the ability for a person to manage or divide their time among activities, and dedicate enough time to each activity to perform sufficiently.

            As students get older, coursework frequently becomes more demanding and is accompanied by more extracurricular activities; therefore, it’s important for students to learn how to manage their time as early as possible. 

            Students who effectively manage their time may perform better in school and their extracurricular activities, and they typically have more free time. Students with ADHD often struggle with planning which can make time management especially challenging. For students with ADHD, time management can help not only with the planning of their activities, but also with their focus and organization of thoughts.

            Why is time management important for students?

            What does it look like when a student struggles with time management?

            How can I, as a parent, help my student improve their time management skills?

            How can I, as an educator, help my students improve their time management skills?

            CASE STUDY: Jack is a middle-school student who scores well on standardized tests, though he has low grades and he has difficulty keeping up with his schoolwork—especially in math. He consistently arrives at school 15 (or more) minutes late, frequently turns in assignments past their due dates, and often has missing or incomplete assignments. Outside of school, Jack is a competitive year-round sports player, takes piano and drum lessons, and volunteers with his family at a soup kitchen once a week. Some of his favorite hobbies include video games, trampolining, and playing basketball, and his parents report that these activities sometimes distract him from his schoolwork.

            In Jack’s case, his good scores on standardized tests show that he’s high-performing academically, though his lower grades and difficulty keeping up with his work indicate that he may struggle with time management.

            To help set students up for success at school, Jack’s math teacher changes his homework schedule so all homework is due on Thursdays. The teacher also reminds students about the upcoming homework due on Thursday, gives approximations on how long the homework should take, and gives students the next 20 minutes of the class period to work on their homework while it’s fresh in their minds.

            To help set Jack up for success at home, Jack and his parents make homework a clear priority by setting aside 60 minutes each night after practice to complete assignments before he gets to trampoline, play video games, or play basketball. Although Jack might rather start with one of his preferred activities, he works on homework before he’s had a chance to get distracted by something more appealing to him, and he is more focused and motivated to complete his homework so that he gets to trampoline, play video games, or play basketball afterwards. As an additional measure, Jack’s parents ask his educators at school to provide him access to assignments a few days earlier, allowing Jack to set personal deadlines at least 2 days before an assignment’s due date. Even if Jack doesn’t meet his own personal deadline, this system helps him complete and turn in most of his homework by the official deadline.


            1. 10 Reasons why time management is important | Brainbridge
            2. Time Management for Students: a Psychological Explanation of Why We Struggle (colostate.edu)

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              Emotions tend to be contagious. The emotion portrayed by an individual has the ability to influence the mood of another, regardless of whether that emotion is positive or negative. In an article discussing the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the temperament of children, Dr. Alphonso Nichols, a clinician with a professional history of treating youth with ADHD, made the statement that anxiety is contagious, and it’s imperative for authority figures in a young person’s life to teach resilience.

              Resilience is the ability to recover quickly and fully from setbacks, challenges, and difficulties. Students with ADHD can face frequent challenges and difficulties in academic settings, which can be countered by resilience. Congruent with the philosophy of Dr. Nichols, it’s important—as educators and parents—to create an environment where a student with ADHD is able and encouraged to build up their resilience while growing, learning, and making mistakes. Below are some ways to create this space for a student:

              1.  Practice self-compassion and remind the student to do the same. 

              In an article by the University of California, Berkeley on how to build resistance, self-compassion is defined as “confronting our own suffering with an attitude of warmth and kindness, without judgment.”2 For students with ADHD, frustration can build with increased work volume, difficulty of learning material, overwhelming extracurricular activities, and time pressures imposed by authority figures. Modeling self-compassion and allowing the student to do the same can prevent them from becoming critical of their perceived struggles and instead confront them constructively. This practice can be helpful to build resilience, as it may be easier to acknowledge the frustration and move forward when difficult situations arise. 

              2.  Set realistic goals.

              Many students feel they are asked to do more and more as their educational level, aptitude for a subject, and abilities progress. It can be intimidating, or even paralyzing, for a student to add more onto what already seems like a substantial workload. Therefore, it’s important to help the student verbalize and establish realistic goals for themselves so they can gain a sense of accomplishment for what they achieve, rather than self-criticism for what they haven’t (yet).

              3.  Viewing mistakes as an opportunity for growth.

              It’s easy to view mistakes (a missing homework assignment, an unsatisfactory test result, a letter sent home from a teacher, etc.) as a major setback or an attack on a student’s progress. Unfortunately, this can stymie motivation and future advancement. Thus, it’s paramount to create an environment at school and home where a student has the ability to learn from their mistakes and improve upon them. Learning from mistakes doesn’t necessarily have to yield extrinsic rewards (e.g. a better grade on a test, or points back on an assignment, ), but can rather encourage the gain of intrinsic rewards. A big part of succeeding in life is learning from mistakes, and it’s important to create an environment where the opportunity to practice this is provided.

              4.  Practice mindfulness.

              Mindfulness allows a student the opportunity to slow down and think through some of their struggles. It also prevents the formation of intrusive thoughts, and confronts those that already exist. These are benefits that may be especially helpful for students with ADHD, as it may allow them to work through their struggles with a different perspective and maintain a positive attitude while doing so. In a classroom setting, the act of allotting a few minutes at the beginning or end of a laborious lecture, intensive class period, or challenging test to relax and meditate may help students process what they’ve learned and develop a positive outlook if they haven’t one already. At home, encouraging meditation sessions could allow for mental breaks in between activities or difficult homework assignments.

              5. Remain positive and find hope.

              In his article, Dr. Nichols reminds us of the importance of maintaining hope through difficult periods.1 It can be challenging at times to remain hopeful and positive, though it’s incredibly important in order to build resilience and allow a student to continue onwards. Throughout challenging class periods, it can be helpful to remind students that “if you don’t understand this yet, that’s okay,” and during review of challenging homework assignments or tests, to remind students that “if you got this answer wrong, that doesn’t mean you’re not smart.” While to some students this is implied, getting questions wrong or being confused during a lesson that everyone else seems to understand can be incredibly disheartening for a student. Creating this reminder may embolden their self-confidence, encouraging them to correct their mistakes or dive deeper to better understand the source of their confusion. 

              It’s important to promote resilience in an academic setting as it’s unlikely that anyone will progress through their academic career without facing setbacks. An old adage says that life is 10% what happens to a person, and 90% how they respond to it. Applying this philosophy to academia, both educators and parents may find it helpful to allow their students to build resilience through the difficulties they may face so that they can move past them and exceed their goals and expectations.


              Everyone processes setbacks differently, but one thing we have in common is that most of our lives are full of them. For students facing setbacks in the classroom, it’s important to provide space for them to build resilience. Here are a few ways that parents and educators can do this regularly:

              1.  Practice self-compassion and remind the student to do the same.

              2.  Set realistic goals. 

              3.  Viewing mistakes as an opportunity for growth.

              4.  Practice mindfulness.

              5. Remain positive and find hope.


              1. https://nextstep4adhd.com/anxiety-is-contagious-but-so-is-resiliency/
              2. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_science_backed_strategies_to_build_resilience

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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 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.


                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.


                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.


                  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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                    Most parents know the battle over homework with a teenager all too well. You know why it’s important for students to do their homework on time, but it can be hard to convince your teenager of the benefits of doing homework. We have developed some strategies that you can use at home to help your teen complete their homework more smoothly.

                    Understand Your Student

                    The first thing to understand about this subject is that, as a parent, you need to understand why your teenager is not doing their homework. According to the Washington Post, when students refuse to do homework it is because they do not care about what their teachers think. Furthermore, “If you have a teen who is accustomed to not caring about what his teachers or you think, then he is immune to your punishments and rewards.” 

                    To chip away at your student’s apathy, build your relationship with them. Ask if they can show you their favorite video game, or offer to go on a hike with them. Getting to know your teenager is important because they are just discovering who they are and how they fit into the world. If your teen knows that they are loved and supported by you, they will start to care about what you think of them. 

                    Reach out to a Trusted Teacher

                    Another strategy to help your teen care more is to “personally reach out to a teacher whom your [teen] loves and respects, and ask for support,” according to the Washington Post. When students know that trusted adults are not giving up on them, their barriers start to drop and they let themselves care about school, and therefore care about doing homework.  

                    If you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that everything will be ok. This is a relationship issue, and luckily those are relatively easy to fix. As yours and your teen’s relationship starts to improve, you will find yourself much closer to them and you will be able to trust them more. 

                    Set up a Structure around Homework

                    According to Empowering Parents, most students don’t do their homework because they are lacking the structure and discipline necessary to complete their work. As parents, you should try to structure your student’s evenings as much as possible. Schedule a time for your student to do at least an hour of academic time after school. Academic time is an hour where the student does homework or anything academic that will set them up to succeed in school. For example, imagine that your student only has 20 minutes worth of homework one night. The 40 remaining minutes of the academic time should be spent organizing their backpacks, cleaning out their email, etc. 

                    Homework time should be a quiet time in the house. Siblings should not be watching TV or playing video games in the next room. The purpose of a quiet house during homework time is to eliminate distractions for your student. 

                    Agree upon a structure for homework time after school when things are calm between you and your student. Write up the agreed upon schedule and post it in a central location like the refrigerator. 

                    Some students are involved in extracurriculars, so their afternoons aren’t the same from one day to the next. We suggest writing out a schedule that may vary day to day, but should remain consistent week to week. Your student will benefit from routine and structure, so the more similar you can keep afternoons, the better.

                    Use a Public Place for Homework

                    Students are easily distracted when they do homework in their bedrooms. We recommend you encourage your student to do their homework at school whenever possible, or at a public place in the house. Doing homework in the kitchen, for example, is helpful for students because you are there to hold them accountable and make sure they are doing their work. 

                    Using a public place for homework is also beneficial to the student because they are being held accountable to their homework without feeling like they’re being hovered over. 

                    Another great resource for students is Untapped’s Homework Center. Our homework center is a distraction-free place where we have specialists in every subject to help your student. However, if your student doesn’t need help and just needs a quiet place to work, they will find a distraction-free and productive environment. To learn more about the Homework Center, click here

                    Help Your Student Get Started

                    Task initiation is often one of students’ greatest challenges. Task initiation is the ability to sit down and start a task, even if you don’t want to do it. Parents can help their students with task initiation by starting the task with them. For example, you could help your student figure out their first two math problems in their homework. It is important to remember that you should only be getting your student started with the assignment, not finishing it for them. 

                    These strategies all circulate around a central theme: create structure and expectations around homework. Don’t fight with your student about homework. Instead, agree on a structure together and hold them accountable to the routine they created with you. Frequently reassure your student that you are on their side and you want them to succeed. This will help break down some of your student’s barriers and make homework time more manageable. 

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