Like it or not homework is about to become part of your child’s daily routine when school starts back up in the fall. For kids with ADHD, getting into the habit of doing homework is never easy. Fortunately, parents can help make the adjustment a little less painful by having a homework station filled with supplies and ready to go by the first day of school. Creating a homework station that works for kids with ADHD means considering their unique organizational, motivational, and attention-related challenges when planning the location, the supplies, and the clutter control strategies.
Kids who don’t have ADHD may be able to sit down in any corner of the house or bedroom and get their homework completed without any problem. But, when a child has ADHD, it’s a different story. Where they do their homework can have a big impact on how quickly and accurately they get it done.
- Monitoring: Kids with ADHD need to be monitored during homework time. Without supervision, they are much more likely to procrastinate instead of getting started right away, and once they do get started they will lose focus more quickly. Monitoring and supervising your child doesn’t mean sitting next to them during homework time, but it does mean being someplace where they can see you and where you can check-in while they are working.
- Consistency: Every child’s homework station is different, and kids with ADHD may have some unique preferences – some may prefer to stand while they work, others may be most comfortable working on the floor instead of sitting at a desk. But all kids with ADHD should do their work in the exact same spot every day. They will quickly come to associate this “homework spot” with homework time, making it easier for them to transition quickly from play time to work time. Having a consistent “homework spot” also eliminates nightly time-wasting arguments or negotiations with kids about where will be doing their homework.
Making sure that every homework supply your child needs is readily available at their homework station is important for kids with ADHD. Why? Searching for supplies and sharpening pencils are two of the most popular (and most effective!) homework procrastination strategies! Wondering which supplies to include? Here’s a list to get you started:
- Sharpened pencils (at least 5 well sharpened pencils)
- Pencil sharpener
- Eraser (one that works well)
- Colored pencils or crayons
- Paper (printer paper & lined loose-leaf paper)
- Glue stick
- Timer (setting time limits and time goals will be an important part of the homework routine)
- A place to hang their backpack near their homework station
- Access to a computer nearby
- A large hard surface as a work area
- A comfortable chair (based on your child’s preferences)
Clutter is a huge distraction for kids with ADHD, especially when they are doing homework. Maintaining a clutter-free homework area will help your child get started on homework quickly and stay on task. It will also make it much easier to notice when they are running low on supplies or have managed to misplace or break all their pencils (again!).
- Create an organized supply system: All kids would benefit from an organized supply system, but for kids with ADHD organization is practically essential. Instead of using a single shoebox, supply bin, or drawer to store their supplies, use individual cups, bins or a divided tray. Label each compartment with the supplies that should be included. If your child doesn’t have a dedicated desk and will be working at the kitchen table or on the floor with a lap desk, then use a supply caddy with labeled compartments that they can move to and from their homework location each day. Just remember to place only one type of supply in each compartment and use labels liberally.
- Create a clutter-clean up routine: The best way to manage clutter is to prevent it from building up in the first place. As part of your child’s homework routine, have them put all their supplies away, throw out loose papers, and sharpen their pencils as soon as their homework is finished. This way their workspace will be well stocked and clutter-free the next time they sit down to do their homework.
Having your child’s homework station set up and ready to go by the start of the school year will help them transition more smoothly into their daily homework routine. Having clear expectations around homework and putting a homework “when-then” plan into place are also essential for homework success. In my next post I’ll be talking about strategies for simple and effective homework plans you can start using right away.