Homework can be tricky for children with ADHD, especially after they’ve spent all day at school.
When children come home from school, they want to play, spend time with their friends and family, or watch TV. Homework is simply not something most children are excited about, but most kids are willing to do it because they have accepted that it is a requirement and there will be negative consequences if it is not completed.
Unfortunately, it is often difficult for children with ADHD to sustain their focus long enough to do their homework, making them resigned to the negative consequences of not completing their work.
This is because the ADHD child’s brain is “stuck” in a certain pattern of dysregulation that doesn’t allow them to sustain concentration on non-stimulating tasks or perform certain executive functioning tasks, such as planning, organizing, and prioritizing their assignments. In a way, ADHD children are physically incapable of self-regulating and performing certain tasks because their brain won’t allow them to engage with the task.
However, with the right homework plan, it is possible to help motivate ADHD children to complete their assignments on time, study for tests, and become responsible, successful students. While completing schoolwork will likely always be more difficult due to their struggles with focus, there are strategies that can help mitigate this weakness and maximize their available resources to increase their productivity.
In this article, we will cover some effective ADD homework strategies for children that can improve their study habits. This article will also discuss the Drake Institute’s non-drug treatment protocols used to help children reduce or resolve ADHD symptoms by achieving a healthier state of brain functioning, resulting in long-term symptom relief.
Learning how to study with ADD can be difficult, especially if your mind and body are not receiving the necessary resources for the brain to function optimally. That’s why providing children with a healthy and nutritious diet should be a top priority for every household, as diet is the foundation of productive thinking and behavior.
Without a healthy diet, children suffering from ADHD will find it even more difficult to concentrate on their schoolwork, and this is especially true if their diet consists of sugary soft drinks, candy, and processed fast foods. Indeed, if your child is not eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, they are more prone to misbehaving and performing poorly on their assigned tasks.
For parents with ADHD children, avoiding processed foods loaded with artificial colorings and high sugar content should be a top priority, as both of these ingredients can have detrimental effects on behavior and health.
As a general guideline, ADHD diets should consist of essential trace minerals such as Zinc, Iron, and Magnesium. Foods that are heavy in these minerals include:
Parents should also take great care to ensure that their children are eating enough healthy fats, as every cell in the human body (including our brain) is made up of fats, and some reports have shown that in some children, Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation is 40% as effective for ADHD as Ritalin, minus the side-effects. Healthy sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include:
Even if your child doesn’t have ADD, providing them with a healthy diet is one of the best ways to ensure that they will grow up to be healthy and productive.
And when it comes to mitigating the effects of ADD and ADHD, we feel that the optimal method is to combine ADHD diets with clinical ADHD treatments, like brain map-guided neurofeedback, as nutritious diets can reinforce and maximize the improvements in brain functioning brought on by our non-drug treatment protocols.
When it comes to ADD and homework, creating a homework schedule is one of the best ways to improve a child’s productivity.
By creating a homework schedule, children will know exactly what they will be doing once they get home (so long as the schedule is enforced), so there’s no guesswork involved from either the parent or the child as to when the work will be completed. However, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be arguments about the schedule and whether it’s fair: children with ADD intrinsically struggle with non-preferred asks, and a homework schedule won’t make these issues magically disappear.
That being said, a homework schedule can help students be more disciplined and productive because, without it, most children would rather turn on the TV, play a video game, or browse social media instead of completing their homework. In children with ADD, these issues are exacerbated, as their ability to plan and organize their day (executive functioning) is already hindered due to their attention deficit disorder.
When creating a homework schedule, remember to include breaks, as most children will need a few minutes to relax so that they can better focus on their work. Many researchers have pointed out that the average attention span of children and adults is only around 20 minutes. Beyond this point, it becomes increasingly difficult to pay attention to the task at hand. So, by giving children a brief, 5-10 minute break, they will be better able to focus on their assignments without becoming too tired or fatigued.
Knowing when to schedule these homework breaks will require a bit of trial and error, as every child is different. However, including a break as part of the schedule somewhere around the 20 or 30-minute mark is generally a good place to start. During these scheduled breaks, it would be a good idea to have healthy snacks readily available to ensure that your child has enough energy to power through their assignments. Parents should encourage children to stand up and walk around during these breaks, but to avoid activities that are too stimulating or too far away from the task at hand.
Finally, there are two other important aspects to creating a homework schedule that parents should keep in mind: place and time.
In general, it’s a good idea to have a designated “homework space” for your child to work in that is free of distractions. As part of the schedule, the child should work in this space each day since this will help the child get into a “work mode” that allows them to concentrate on their tasks.
Time is the last aspect of creating a homework schedule, and this too will require a little bit of trial and error. In some cases, your child may need a break from schoolwork and might not be ready to jump into their homework as soon as they come home. Instead, they may need to go outside and play or go on a long walk before they can re-engage with their schoolwork. On the other hand, many children are more than willing to dive straight into their homework as soon as they get home so that they can watch TV later in the day or play video games with their friends.
In the end, it’s up to the parents to determine when “homework time” will begin, and once the time is set, everyone must abide.
From smartphones to televisions, there are a whole host of things fighting for your child’s attention.
As mentioned, part of the solution to this problem is to create a “homework space” that is free of distractions; however, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your child will be more productive.
Sometimes, your child might feel “alone” or “claustrophobic” in a workspace that is too sterile or boring, which can actually decrease their ability to concentrate.
As many of us can attest, sometimes we need a “slight” distraction while working or performing schoolwork, like listening to the radio or having the TV on in the background, as these things can provide stimulation that helps some children to concentrate.
However, even background noise can be distracting for some students, especially if they have ADD. This is why parents need to monitor the effects of these distractions to see whether they improve or decrease productivity. Furthermore, while background noise may be beneficial for some people, individuals with ADHD will likely have a lower threshold for what is “too distracting.” For example, having the TV on is likely to be entirely too distracting for individuals with ADHD, and they will likely have better success if background noise consists of things such as music, ambient sounds, or even white noise.
If your child seems to work better while listening to music, then this “distraction” should be fully integrated into the homework schedule.
Being there for your child when they’re working on their homework can be critically important to their success, especially when a difficult problem comes up.
By being present, children are less likely to become frustrated or to give up when they encounter a problem that they can’t solve because they know that they can turn to you for support.
Try setting a good example and sitting with your child reading a book, a magazine, or doing some other quiet, sedentary activity that is similar to studying and doing homework, proving to your child that it’s possible to sit still and focus for an extended period of time. Don’t forget to leave your smartphone behind!
If you can’t be there during “typical” (early afternoon) homework hours, you might want to consider trying to align your child’s homework schedule with your work schedule so that you can be there to help when they do need it. Being able to provide support to your child during a task that is challenging to them can be crucial to their success. Even if you are not actively providing guidance, simply knowing that someone is there to support them can be invaluable in maintaining their focus, motivation, and self-confidence.
When a child with ADD gets stuck on a homework problem, they’re likely to get frustrated, which in turn can cause them to misbehave.
In many cases, a parent can help their child work through a difficult homework problem, but sometimes having a “study buddy” will be even more effective, especially if the children are friendly and have academic strengths that complement each other.
However, it’s also important that parents ensure that their child is studying when with their study buddy, as sometimes this arrangement can cause children to goof around and not take their homework seriously. There also has to be some monitoring to make sure they are not simply being provided with answers by their partner. While this partnership may not be appropriate for everyone, for those who can work through these “temptations,” the benefits of such an arrangement can be significant.
This isn’t to say that parents should hover over their child when they’re with their study buddy, but monitoring the rate at which homework is being completed and its correctness will be important when determining the effectiveness of the study buddy.
That being said, if the homework is taking a little bit longer to be completed, but it’s being done correctly, and your child is happy about doing it, then that’s a tradeoff that might be worth making.
Something that often gets overlooked is positive feedback for turning in assignments on time, receiving high marks, and abiding by the homework schedule.
Positive feedback is also often the best answer to the question of “how to get kids to do their homework,” as both children and adults like attention and rewards, and will alter their behavior to earn more of them.
However, obtaining attention can be accomplished in a variety of ways—not all of which are healthy and productive.
This is especially true when it comes to completing schoolwork: if your child makes an effort to adhere to their homework schedule and to achieve good grades, but isn’t rewarded, they will have less incentive to continue behaving in this manner. While it is tempting for parents to view this behavior as simply “doing what they are supposed to be doing,” there needs to be an acknowledgement that for individuals with ADHD, as this is an accomplishment that likely took significant effort. That additional effort is an accomplishment for these children and should be acknowledged and rewarded.
Therefore, it would be wise to reward your child for good behavior, especially behavior that results in positive grades at school.
Many parents have found success using a star chart that keeps track of their child’s weekly progress, where these stars can be “cashed in” for a reward of some kind, like extra time for playing video games or perhaps a snack of their choosing. How these stars are rewarded is up to the child’s parents, but it’s probably best to be a little lenient to incentivize homework and positive behavior.
For example, completing a homework assignment might be worth 1 star, but completing the homework correctly might be worth 2 or 3 stars. Extra stars can also be rewarded for other, non-homework related tasks, like taking adequate notes in class, remembering to bring the correct books home from school, and keeping their study materials (notebooks, binders, etc.) tidy.
Finally, if your child is still struggling to complete their homework despite adhering to a homework schedule and everything else mentioned above, it might be time to talk to their teacher.
Some teachers will be more than willing to adjust the amount of homework your child is receiving on a day-to-day basis, so long as the problem is presented clearly, calmly, and without placing any blame on the teacher.
In addition to not placing blame, it’s probably best to discuss your child’s struggles in a face-to-face conversation, as too many things can get lost in translation over the phone, through emails or text messages.
When discussing your child’s struggles with homework, it’s important to mention how your child is trying as hard as they can to complete their assignments, but despite these efforts, the homework is taking an inordinate amount of time. Make sure to discuss all of the structure and accommodations being provided at home and be open to the teacher’s suggestions of things that may provide additional benefit for the child.
When this occurs, some teachers will allow parents to sign off on homework once the child has worked on it for a certain amount of time. Other teachers might substitute the current homework for something else that might be more suitable for your child’s needs. Accommodations can also be formally provided by requesting an IEP or 504 plan that addresses these concerns.
In short, conversations with your child’s teacher should be solution-oriented, face-to-face, friendly, and focused on improving your child’s academic performance, while still requiring them to perform at the best of their abilities.
When it comes to treating ADD, there are a few options available to parents, including stimulant ADD medications, and non-drug treatment options like the ones found at the Drake Institute.
Treatment of ADD or ADHD with medication is a widely used treatment option, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best in terms of safety and long-term improvement. Many stimulant ADD medications carry a significant number of negative side effects, including:
In addition, many people develop a tolerance for these medications over time, which results in the individual needing a higher dosage to obtain the same level of symptom reduction. Unfortunately, when the dosage of these medications increases, so does the likelihood that they will experience one or more of the negative side effects associated with the medication. It should also be noted, that treating attentional deficits with medications is not necessarily correcting the cause of the problem, meaning that if an individual were to discontinue these medications, their symptoms are likely to return.
Popular ADD medications include Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, and Dexedrine, and while these drugs can work for some people, parents must understand all of the associated risks.
Learning how to study when you have ADD doesn’t require taking medications.
At the Drake Institute, we fully believe that children can experience symptom reduction without the use of ADHD medications, which is important since many of these medications carry a significant number of negative side effects.
Through the use of advanced treatment technologies such as qEEG Brain Mapping, Neurofeedback, and Neuromodulation, children can actually improve their brain functioning and sustained focus, resulting in better performance at school and work.
At the core of everything we do at the Drake Institute is Brain Mapping, as it provides us a window into how the patient’s brain is functioning and where the dysregulation is occurring.
In the case of ADD, brain mapping can help identify which parts of the brain are under or over-activated and contributing to the child’s struggles with school. During treatment, we’ll target these regions to improve brain functioning, which can help minimize the effects of the child’s attention disorder.
Once brain mapping is complete, the findings are compared to the FDA-registered normative database to identify which regions are deviating from “normal” activity patterns.
When dysregulation is discovered, a treatment protocol using Neurofeedback and Neuromodulation is designed specifically for the patient’s unique situation. This customized process allows us to provide better results compared to treatment protocols that use a “one size fits all” approach. It should also be noted that by addressing their underlying cause of the child’s difficulties, the subsequent improvements obtained through neurotherapy are typically long-lasting and do not require continued maintenance, like medications do.
Biofeedback and Neurofeedback treatment is a non-invasive, non-drug treatment protocol that helps the patient retrain the brain to more optimal functioning, thus increasing their ability to complete homework or other assigned tasks.
During Neurofeedback treatment, the brain is not artificially stimulated and drugs are not administered; in fact, nothing invasive is performed at all.
Instead, Neurofeedback involves placing sensors on the patient’s head that records and displays the patient’s current brain functioning patterns, providing real-time feedback into how their brain is operating. When patients can witness firsthand how their brain is functioning, they are better able to self-regulate and improve brain functioning for concentration, which in turns, helps reduce the manifestation of negative symptoms.
One example of Neurofeedback treatment is one where the patient’s brainwave patterns are converted into a computer game where a car is driving down the highway. When the patient’s brain shifts into a healthier functioning frequency, the car moves and stays in the proper lane and an auditory tone is triggered. This tone is then repeated every half second that the patient sustains this healthier mode of thinking, which helps improve and stabilize this brave wave pattern.
With continued treatment, Neurofeedback treatments like the one described above will help the patient learn how to improve sustained focus on even nonpreferred tasks. Furthermore, with practice and repetition, the underlying dysregulation that caused the child’s difficulties can actually be improved, resulting in a “stronger” brain and long-lasting benefit.
Finally, the Drake Institute utilizes Neuromodulation therapy to support, enhance, and accelerate therapeutic improvements gained through Neurofeedback. This approach has been so successful that we’ve fully integrated it into our existing treatment protocols in 2019.
What is Neuromodulation?
In short, Neuromodulation provides therapeutic neurostimulation of dysregulated brain functioning by stimulating brainwave patterns that the patient is deficient in. Once established, the brain can then mimic or emulate this pattern to form healthier brain wave activity. This treatment protocol can also increase blood flow in damaged areas and reduce inflammation.
This treatment technology is so safe and effective that it is now used worldwide in renowned medical centers such as Harvard University School of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, UCLA School of Medicine, and many others.
If your child is struggling with their schoolwork due to ADD or ADHD, please don’t hesitate to call us for a free consultation. Our non-drug treatment protocols have provided many students with long-term symptom relief, helping them to achieve and go farther in school than they ever have before.
If you or a family member need help, please fill out our confidential online form. After completing the form, someone from our Clinical Team will contact you in the next 3 hours.
Interview with Dr. David Velkoff
Interview with Dr. David Velkoff
Spanish News Feature
“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Behavioral Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Behavioral Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Behavioral Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Behavioral Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”