It may still be summer, but back-to-school shopping commercials and sales are already under way! As you create the list of school supplies and backpacks that your family will need for the next school year, remember that teens with ADHD also need extra programs and support to succeed academically. By planning for extra support now, you will ensure that your teen has everything that they need to succeed right from the start. I recommend having a plan in place that targets the three areas below. Involve your teen in the planning as much as possible, so you’ll both feel confident and prepared heading into the school year.
- Organization. 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. Start off the school year right by helping them create systems. Color-coded notebooks by subject, simple folder systems for storing worksheets and assignments, assigning places for everything from school supplies to school notices, and visual calendars.
- Goal Setting. 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 each student to decide on the grade they wanted to achieve in the class, and then shared the work they would need to do to achieve to reach that grade. The Grade Contract helped each student set specific goals and promoted a keen understanding the milestones they would need to meet along the way. In a less formal sense, parents can have discussions with their kids about course goals the academic year. You can help your teen break down each goal into the necessary milestones, and provide them with the support the need to achieve their goals. Having a roadmap for your child makes the end goal less daunting and helps your child stay focused and on-task. Since kids with ADHD struggle to sustain motivation for long term goals, attach rewards and motivators to each milestone and check-in regularly.
- Time Management. Staying on task and completing an assignment means understanding how to manage the time at hand. 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 that needs to be completed, 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 they go. After your teen announces they have completed the assignment, review the checklist. Praise their hard work and effort! If they have missed a step, have them make corrections before turning in the assignment. Eventually, you can try pulling back on your support and have your teen create their own plan of attack. If it goes well, you can supervise from a distance. If they’re still struggling, then don’t hesitate to stay involved or get them extra time management support and skills training.
If your child needs more support than what you can provide at home, learning centers like HLC offer great programs like the Advanced Study Skills Program that help kids improve their organization and executive functioning skills and give them practical tools and tips for improving their goal setting, time management, memorization and recall, and study guide use.