If you have a child with ADHD, chances are you have to
repeat directions over and over again — and your child still doesn’t do as you
asked. Children with ADHD have trouble understanding and following steps in a
process. Their brains have difficulty grasping a sequence of events, which
leads to disorganization. Daily schedules at home can help increase awareness
Make a List of Daily Routines
First, make a list of daily routines, such as brushing teeth
and getting dressed. Post the list somewhere visible in the house, for example
on the refrigerator. Keep each step simple and clear, such as “eat breakfast”
or “clean room.”
If you have a small child who can’t read, use pictures
instead of words. If your child has trouble remembering what should happen
next, ask them to look at the list. Praise your child or offer rewards when
they complete a task from the list.
Create a specific routine for getting your child ready and
out the door. Have your child perform tasks in a specific order. For example:
- put on your clothes
- brush your teeth and hair
- make your bed
- eat breakfast
This will save you from having to direct the child every
time they finish a task.
If your child is off task or asks “What should I do next?”, point
to the chart or schedule. If you have limited time in the morning, have your
child set clothes out the night before or pack belongings for school ahead of
Children with ADHD often have trouble falling asleep. This
may be due to abnormal REM sleep patterns or stimulation from medications. Help
your child sleep better by developing a regular routine before bed.
First, create a calm environment for sleep. Dim the lights,
reduce noise, and lower the temperature. Reading a book, listening to calm
music, or taking a soothing bath can help them relax before bed. Make sure your
child gets to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends.
Keeping your child focused on homework can be challenging.
It can take a long time and you have to direct your child’s attention
constantly. A homework routine can help.
Have your child do schoolwork in the same space and time
each day. Set a timer and have your child work in short segments. The younger
the child, the shorter amount of time. Allow them to take breaks between
Once your child finishes their homework, have them put it
away immediately, such as in a backpack or special folder. This will emphasize
Create the Proper Environment
Children with ADHD are lost when it comes to organization.
Being surrounded by constant clutter can lead to further distraction. They need
a clean, organized environment so that their minds have fewer opportunities to
Use bins, shelves, or other containers to organize toys and
books in the home. Then, use pictures or labels to identify the containers.
Research supports the idea that increased organization — in the classroom and
home — directly affects school performance. Encourage your child to participate
in cleanup on a regular basis to foster organizational skills.
To eliminate distractions, you need to identify your child’s
key triggers. TV, cell phones, and scattered toys can cause your child to be
less focused. However, for some children, background noise like TV or music at
a low volume can actually aid in concentration. Be aware of what distracts your
child, and then slowly eliminate these factors when your child needs to
concentrate, such as during homework or chore time.
Designate a Quiet Place to Study
With your child’s help, find a place that’s comfortable, relaxing,
and has minimal distractions. Make sure that the area is well lit and has
plenty of school supplies. It might take a few tries to locate the right spot.
Once you do, have your child work there every day.
Help Your Child Prepare for College
For teenagers, the transition from high school to college is
an exciting and scary time. For adolescents with ADHD who don’t deal well with
change, moving to college can be a source of anxiety and confusion. There will
be more opportunities for distraction and less structure — especially if your
child plans to live away from home.
Begin Preparing Early
Like many teenagers, kids with ADHD often put off the kind
of tasks that college applications require. Some students with ADHD have
trouble planning or committing to important deadlines. Help your child navigate
the college maze by creating a long-term schedule of application deadlines and
a checklist of what they need to complete for each application.
Your child should also prepare for the ACT and SAT as early
as possible. Some experts recommend beginning as early as sophomore year of
high school. Your child may also have accommodations for testing written skills
in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504. These programs
offer specialized instructions and services for students with an identified
disability. Be sure to contact the test administrator in advance to make sure
your child meets all the necessary requirements.
Find a College That Matches Your Child’s Needs
As you visit college campuses and conduct research, focus on
schools that match your teen’s individual learning style and goals. For
instance, does your child learn best from lectures or through hands-on
research? Are the college’s population and campus large or small? For some, living
at home while attending a local junior college may be the best option. This
will allow them to draw on structured support at home while learning to
navigate a new educational environment on a less intimidating scale.
Find Support Services
Once your teen chooses a college, it’s time to find
on-campus support. Most colleges and universities offer services for students
with learning disabilities. Try to visit the college over the summer and
inquire about support services.
Find out if accommodations such as alternative testing or
individual tutoring are available. Inquire about the college’s writing resource
center if your child struggles with writing assignments. Service staff can also
help your child communicate special needs to professors, such as extra time to
take tests, or specific seating. Make a separate plan with your teen to ensure that
all of their professors are contacted.
Develop a Time Management Routine
Before leaving for school, discuss with your teen how
they’ll manage their time, schedules, and workload. There’s a lot of free,
unstructured time in college, and the workload for a full-time student can be
hefty. Create a plan that balances studying and socializing.
You can’t micromanage from afar, but you can help your child
develop a daily routine based on their class schedule. Stay in touch and check in
often. The first semester is usually the most difficult, so set up a line of
communication via phone, email, or Skype.
What’s the Takeaway?
Routines can help a child with ADHD know what to expect and
how to follow instructions. Adolescents with ADHD, however, have an extra set
of obstacles to overcome. Work with your teen to develop habits and routines
that encourage organization and time management. Teach them how to remove
distractions and follow a schedule. This will ensure ADHD doesn’t prohibit your
child from receiving an excellent education.