Methods to Inspire ADHD College students
Learning can be a war of opposing agendas.
I want my child to read, know their multiplication tables, and have decent writing skills. I worry that they are falling behind – that we are not “doing enough”.
But my child with ADHD wants to pursue his passions unhindered. You want to create a 12-part LEGO stop-motion film series or build a cardboard robot from scratch. The mere thought of school can provoke an atomic bomb-like response. When we finally get started, simple tasks can take hours.
So how do we broker a contract when we want such different things? And how do I get my child to just do math ?!
These are all questions I asked myself during my homeschooling journey that started with my first son, now 14 years old. When he started school, we didn’t realize he had ADHD. His symptoms were mild, so the fights were small but still challenging.
Then my second son came along. What we thought we knew about parenting and schooling was completely destroyed. Now 9 he’s a whirlwind of intensity and passion. When it comes to ADHD, we like to say that it is “the whole package”. I was overwhelmed by the thought of teaching this child for the next 12 years!
[Read: 11 Expert Tips for Schooling Kids with ADHD from Home]
But I learned more about ADHD and adapted my homeschooling and general approach to education accordingly. As a result, my respect for my children and all the creative, brilliant people with ADHD grew. My boys need a lot of energy to focus on something they don’t care about and to rule in their active mind, always with ideas. I began to understand their frustration and feel sorry for them. It was more difficult to feel at war with my children when I started to see the world through their eyes.
With creativity and humor, it is possible to teach children with ADHD at home and provide them with meaningful learning experiences in other ways. Whether a long-time homeschooler like me, or brand new due to the pandemic (maybe you also intend to continue studying at home in the long term) or whether your family prefers traditional, personal school, we all need help and support in motivating our children around about learning. Here are my top tips on how to help your child with ADHD survive and thrive educationally, regardless of the environment.
A Good Learning Experience: 6 Tips for Children with ADHD
1. Don’t take ADHD symptoms personally.
It’s easy to worry that your child’s behavior problems mean you are a bad parent or teacher. Disconnecting from the emotional side of living with ADHD has worked wonders for me. I don’t need to be upset or emotionally upset, but I can still correct disrespectful behavior. I’ve found that the more “passionate” I remain, the fewer power struggles we have.
For my youngest child, emotional impulsiveness makes it difficult to remain calm and respectful when disappointed. (It’s disappointing to have boring schoolwork when he was hoping to write a symphony that morning!) Knowing about its triggers helped me be compassionate and more patient. Some days school becomes easy and some days it becomes difficult. Anyway, I don’t have to get upset or get overly emotional.
[Read: Never Punish a Child for Bad Behavior Outside Their Control]
2. Divide the work into manageable parts and add incentives.
To my 9 year old, the 28 problems in his math class can feel overwhelming and impossible. So let’s break it open. He solves 10 problems and then takes a short break.
Many children with ADHD also love to have something to look forward to. When I realized that my child was spending more time doodling than working, I made the activity an incentive. He may draw a picture after completing 10 tasks. He’s happy about this reward and shows me what he’s creating. Your child may want to try to “beat the clock” and do a certain amount of work before the timer runs out. Whatever it is, an incentive makes the work more interesting and the focus more stable.
3. Get moving! Incorporate physical activity into learning.
We have a trampoline – I think it’s a necessary element in homeschooling kids with ADHD. When everyone gets too gross I send them outside to jump for 20 minutes. My children usually come back refreshed and ready to start over. Sometimes I even read the story aloud while they jump. Get creative with the activities your child is already enjoying to get their energies flowing and revitalizing a sluggish brain. Here are some fun ideas:
- Jog around the garden and spell words together.
- Kick a soccer ball and have them answer a math question before they knock it back.
- Take a 10-minute break from dancing in the living room before starting on a tougher topic.
4. Interweave interests and passions in school.
Many children with ADHD focus on a specific interest. My 9 year old loved Pirates of the Caribbean for only 2 years. He woke up every day with plans worked out, such as writing a 10-book series about his teddy bear’s adventures on Tortuga (an island that featured prominently in the series). I could have said no as I had already planned a different writing curriculum, but why waste so much drive and passion? And the good news is, whatever your child’s obsession is, some home schooled parents likely made it a lesson!
The internet is full of ideas for using LEGOs in STEAM activities (same goes for Minecraft). If your child loves bugs, bake a beetle-shaped cake and have them measure the ingredients for a fun maths lesson. Older children can study the Latin names and roots of the word for the most obscure insects, or write diary entries from the point of view of a specific beetle that contain everything they have researched. The possibilities are endless.
5. Focus on small positive accomplishments.
The dreaded “We’re Not Doing Enough” syndrome is very real to home-schooling parents. Instead of comparing yourself and your child to others, focus on victories. Did you finish most of your math today with just two breaks? Large! Have you come up with a way to combine the necessary work with your current hobby or obsession? Wonderful. Have you returned your child to work 52 times without losing your temper? Amazing. Celebrate all of the victories – your child’s and your own.
6. Get support – for yourself.
When you run out of wisdom, is there another parent, preferably a child with ADHD, whom you can feel sorry for? Being able to vent your frustrations, whether on a person or even in a journal, is a lifesaver. To be vulnerable and to receive and give support from friends without feeling judged is life giving. Most cities have active online homeschool communities, usually through Facebook. Look for people who are in a similar boat. Homeschoolers usually love to help others take this path or continue.
Homeschooling – or school in general – can feel impossible when your child has ADHD, but it doesn’t have to be. By working with our child’s strengths, coping with their struggles and looking for creative solutions together, the struggles can stop and everyone can win.
Learning Experience: Next Steps
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Updated May 25, 2021
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