1. Help Them Become Better Organized
The biggest and most important thing that you can do to help either a student or a child with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is to help them be organized in both their schoolwork and their life.
When it comes to being organized, this could mean you give them planners, to-do lists, post-it note reminders, or color-coded binders for each class. Each of these is a great option to help remind them to keep on task and also what they are going to need to do.
A struggle for many teens with ADHD is that they can often be forgetful, so they may forget homework or books at home, or they might forget to turn them in. So by helping keep them organized, they are more likely to get their schoolwork in and get their assignments graded.
For parents who are trying to help teach their children how to become organized, set aside some time each day to go over their binders and area to see if it is organized. Do this each day and establish an expectation for their organizational skills. This will help them establish a habit of staying organized for when they are in high school and eventually college.
2. Have a Calendar or Schedule They Can See
A calendar is an important tool that can be incredibly important in helping a teen with ADHD be more successful in school and life. By having a view of what will be going on during the different days, they won’t be surprised or caught off-guard by any irregularities in their routines, and you can also mark when they have assignments due so that they can start working on them ahead of time.
A weekly schedule is another great tool that serves a very similar purpose. By having a view of their daily or weekly schedule, they can see a visual of when they will be doing what. Make sure that free time is placed into the schedule so they have that to look forward to as well.
The Natural Resource Center on ADHD offers a recommended schedule along with other helpful tips on how to help children and teens use them in this training booklet.
Another great tool for scheduling is to have a visual timer that they can see. This will help them understand exactly how much longer they will have until they can change tasks. When using a timer, make sure that the intervals that they are working in aren’t too long as they will get distracted.
3. Have a Check List or a To-Do List
This is another great strategy available that any parent or teacher should use to help remind ADHD students or teachers to remember what they need to do as well as what they have to remember. Don’t be afraid to use the list for a variety of things.
From a list of homework that they have to do each day to a list of the things they need to have for baseball practice, a list will help them remember and make them less forgetful.
4. Establish Routines
A routine is probably the most helpful thing for any teen with ADHD. From a simple morning routine that they have each day to establishing a routine for their homework, this will help ease the amount of change, meaningless for their brain to process at one time. A routine will allow them to focus more on their work as well. (Source)
And part of the routine that you establish should include plenty of breaks for them. One of the best study and homework routines that parents and teachers can use with teens who have ADHD is the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique is a learning technique that has your study of work for about 20 minutes then take a short 5-10 minute break. You repeat this two or three more times and then take a longer break. This works great for teens with ADHD as it gives plenty of opportunities to get energy out during breaks and time to rest their brains as well. You can find Pomodoro timers online to use.
5. Limit Distractions
Just as routines are used to limit the amount of change a teen has to handle, if you can limit the number of distractions around them, it will help their brain focus more. When in a classroom, have a student or kid with ADHD sit in the front row near students who aren’t distractions and keep on task. Also, keep them away from windows and doors as anything going on there can easily distract them.
By sitting in the front of the class, it will also be easier for teachers to notice when the student is struggling. This means they will know when to give extra help or offer extra clarification to the student so that they can better understand what is being taught. (Source)
6. Let Teachers Know
Also, to help your teen with ADHD be more successful in their classes, let the teacher know that they have this disorder. This will allow for teachers to properly prepare and also they will be more understanding if the students are a distraction. Doing this can also allow for the student to receive slightly more time on tests along with other aids that will be vital to helping them succeed.
Many parents have found that meeting with their child’s teachers throughout the year to discuss how to best help the child succeed has been very helpful. It allows for them to be on the same page, as the teacher and also offers tips for when the parents help the kid with work at home. Another good idea is to give you a phone number so that the teacher can easily get in contact with you. (Source)
7. Have Something for Them to Fidget With
Fidget items provide a great way for kids and teens to let out a bit of energy without being too much of a distraction for the rest of the class. There are a wide variety of fidget toys such as the well-known fidget spinners to other items like fidget putty. To find a variety of different fidget toys check here.
Since some fidget items can include popping sounds, it is recommended that you talk with the teacher beforehand and get it approved as the noise could become a distraction for other students. Also, as a teacher, make sure the student doesn’t become too distracted as they can lose focus on the lesson, have periods they can use to burn off a bit of their energy, and help them re-focus on the lesson.
8. Give Opportunities for Movement
A major part of ADHD is the hyperactivity part. Kids and teens who have ADHD are going to have much more energy than other children, and they are going to want to use it. Items like fidget toys can help burn off a bit, but giving them breaks so that they can go on walks or run outside will greatly benefit their performance in class.
Many studies have shown that when any kid is active they will be able to focus on class better and overall be healthier. This is even more evident for kids and teens with ADHD.
It has also been found that when someone with ADHD is doing what they can to be healthy, AKA exercising, eating healthy, and getting plenty of sleep, they show fewer symptoms of ADHD and can focus more in their classes. (Source)
9. Have a Healthy Diet
Just as with getting plenty of exercise, eating healthy is an important part of life and can have a lot of benefits for teens with ADHD. But the most important thing that has been found about having a healthy diet for teens with ADHD, is the removal of sugar from their diet. When they have lots of sugar in their diets, it increases the likelihood that they will show symptoms, making it hard for them to be in classes and to focus.
It has also been found that eating lots of sugar at a young age can increase the likelihood of developing ADHD. In a study, it was found that if a child has a diet that includes a high amount of sugar, they are more likely to develop ADHD than a child who has a very balanced diet including plenty of proteins, vegetables, and fruit. The best way to think is that their diet should include a rainbow of foods.
10. Give Praise & Rewards for Good Behavior
When your child or student with ADHD does a good job of staying on task or getting an assignment done without getting distracted, make sure to give them some praise or a small reward. This will encourage them to continue to do this again in the future. If you are giving them rewards, make the reward proper for what they did. If it was something small, the reward should also be small.
Also make sure to change up the reward so that they are encouraged to continue to complete the goals they set and get all of their work done. Giving praise or rewards is called positive reinforcement and will continue to encourage good work. It has been found that positive reinforcement is an extra effect on kids and teens with ADHD.
11. Find Treatments That Can Help
Depending on how serious the ADHD is, there are a variety of different options that don’t include medication that can help the child or teen.
Due to ADHD, many children don’t understand many social norms of things that people will find normal, so a behavioral therapist will help them better understand these norms and help them be less of a distraction while in class. One of the most common versions of behavioral therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
This is also known as “talk therapy” and gives a chance for the teen to talk and express themselves. It allows them to express what is going through their head and they can find help to understand that it is okay to have a lot going on and come to terms a bit more with having ADHD.
Social Skills Training:
This is similar to behavioral therapy as it helps the teen become better at understanding social norms and how to have better conversations. This can be done by practicing with them at home, but specialists do offer many benefits that can help the teen fit in better amongst their peers.
Another option available to kids and teens with ADHD is to medicate. Different types of medication are available to help, but depending on the person the medication can have great effects in helping them focus, to no effect at all. It all depends on the person so it is recommended that you talk to a medical professional before prescribing any medication. After the medication is prescribed, keep in touch with the professional about the results.
13. Use Resources That Your School & State Offers
Lastly, see what different resources are available at your school and state. The most common option offered to students who have ADHD is the 504 Plan. This will allow for the student to have extra time on their test, a separate, quiet place to take the test so they aren’t distracted, and several other benefits.
It also offers speech therapy, occupational therapy, or counseling options that aren’t typically available to other students. The law doesn’t state how to get the 504 plan, so it is up to each school, so make sure to ask when starting. (Source)
It is also recommended that when you are first starting at a school that you write or get in contact with the school to inform them about the ADHD as well as request any help and assistance that may be available for students. The organization known as CHADD has a great example letter that can be used when asking for extra help.