As the new school year begins, remember that teens with ADHD need extra programs and support to succeed academically. The following tips will help ensure that your teen has everything needed to succeed from the start. Involve your teen in the planning, and you’ll both feel confident.
To be effective in school, kids need to be organized. Where do books go? Where do you take notes? Where do you write down assignments that need to be completed? Where do you keep handouts and worksheets? And what should you do with notices from school? Teens with ADHD have weak “executive functioning skills,” which makes it hard for them to stay organized. Help them create systems: Color-coded notebooks by subject, simple folder systems for storing worksheets and assignments, assigned places for everything from school supplies to school notices, and visual calendars.
One of my favorite tools that a high school English teacher used with his students was the Grade Contract. At the beginning of the semester, he asked students what grade they wanted to achieve in the class, and then shared the work they would need to do for that grade. The Grade Contract helped the students set specific goals and promoted a keen understanding of the milestones they would need to meet. In a less formal sense, parents can have discussions with their kids about course goals. Help your teen break down each goal into the necessary milestones and provide support to achieve the goals. Having a road map makes the end goal less daunting and helps your child stay focused. Since kids with ADHD struggle to sustain motivation for long-term goals, attach rewards and motivators to each milestone and check in regularly.
Staying on task and completing an assignment means understanding how to manage time. It’s helpful to coach your child through the steps of the first few assignments of the school year. Ask your child to articulate the assignment, then write out the plan of attack together. “First this, then that, next this, and after that …” Have your child check off each of the steps as he/she goes. After your teen announces he/she has completed the assignment, review the checklist. Praise hard work and effort! If he/she has missed a step, have him/her make corrections before turning in the assignment. Eventually, pull back on your support and have your teen create his/her own plan of attack. If it goes well, you can supervise from a distance. If your teen is still struggling, then stay involved or get him/her extra time management support and skills training.
Navigating ups & downs
One day, your child and his or her best friend may be inseparable and the next they may avoid each other completely. It’s difficult for parents to always understand their child’s evolving (and changing) friendships, but the best way you can be there for your child is by listening. Offer support and advice, but avoid getting overly involved. Navigating such ups and downs is an important part of your child’s development and growth.
If your child needs more support than what you can provide, Huntington Learning Center offers an Advanced Study Skills Program to help kids improve their organization and executive functioning skills and give them practical tools for improving their goal setting, time management, memorization and recall, and study guide use.
About the author Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. She serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Center.
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