How to Help a Child With ADHD Master the Art of Homework

A strong and consistent afternoon routine encourages academic success at home and in the classroom.


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Q: My 9-year-son was recently diagnosed with ADHD, and he really struggles at home to complete his homework. How can I help him?

A: According to the American Psychiatric Association, in 2011, approximately 11 percent of children ages 4 to 17 years old (6.4 million) had been diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Rates of ADHD have increased an average of 3 percent from 1997 to 2006 and an average of 5 percent per year from 2003 to 2011. The average age that a child is diagnosed is 7 years old, meaning many children are diagnosed earlier.

ADHD affects children, adolescents and adults. It is characterized by problems with attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Research finds that people who have been diagnosed with ADHD have more difficulty in school, at work and in social situations than those without the disorder. Some people with ADHD (especially children) are more likely to experience a range of additional behaviors, making social and school situations more challenging. These co-existing conditions include:

  • Anxiety
  • Learning disabilities
  • Conduct disorders (fighting, oppositional defiance)
  • Depression
  • Bed-wetting
  • Sleep disorders
  • Tourette’s syndrome

As a parent, you are your child’s advocate, and it is vital that you communicate his or her needs to teachers and staff. It is equally as important to listen to teachers and staff with an ear toward behaviors you can work on at home.

Many students with ADHD are distracted and often miss vital information in the classroom making homework and testing difficult. Helping children who are easily distracted starts at home with a plan that is consistently followed every day.

Children need a set homework plan and a designated homework area. The kitchen table or family room (without TV or games) can make an ideal space. Plan for 20- to 30-minute work windows with short breaks allowing the child to get excess energy out and stay focused. Depending on the type of homework, parents can make it fun by reading together or acting out homework problems.

Involve your child and make learning fun. For example, ask him or her what might happen next in the story. This encourages problem solving, comprehension and engagement with literature. Some parents make homework a game by using memory cards, dice or dominoes for math problems. Others incorporate a rewards system for finishing an assignment or earning good grades.

Organization is one of the most important keys to success with homework. Create a homework folder and send it to teachers every day with questions or concerns that can be addressed at home. Color-coordinate the folders depending on the subject and use the folder to organize loose papers. Remember that a strong and consistent afternoon routine encourages academic success at home and in the classroom.

Understanding your child’s needs and struggles in the classroom helps you make small tweaks at home that can lead to better behavior and improved grades. School creates multiple challenges for kids with ADHD, but patience, persistence, love and a plan can help your child thrive during homework time.

Hannah Coble is a licensed clinical social worker at The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital with a background in behavioral health and outpatient therapy. Send questions for Is My Kid OK to



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