Getting Your Child with ADHD Ready for School

Setting some reasonable goals for the school year sets the tone and gives clear expectations that can lead to a successful academic year. Goals could revolve around completing assignments and turning them in, getting ready for school on time, good reports on behavior at school, and getting to bed on time. Each family will have their own views on what is important; I suggest you meet as a family to work these out. I think it works well when all children in the family have their own unique list of goals. You might also have a goal related to all of the children being able to get along without fighting.

Getting the day off to a good start can set the tone for the day for the whole family. At a family meeting, discuss when everyone needs to be out the door. List all the things that need to take place to make this happen, then figure out how much time each task will take. From there, determine a schedule and what time each person needs to get out of bed. Once you have a plan, give it a dry run to see if it is workable. You could use a stopwatch to see if the goal can be met. Make any necessary adjustments and then post the schedule so everyone can see it. Consider a once–a–week family activity to celebrate if you are successful for a week. (If you are successful for a few weeks, you could space out the celebrations to once a month.)

To make wakening go smoother, plan for your child to get ten hours of sleep, not the eight hours that our society has embraced as the standard expected sleeping duration. If you child can attain the ten hours that children and teens with ADHD actually need, mornings will inevitably go better. Another strategy is to modify the alarm clock. Consider purchasing a clock that is already engineered to have an extra loud bell or buzz. Another way to make an alarm clock sound louder is to place it in a metal pie pan where dimes have also been placed. An additional method is to place a metal cookie tin on it's side and put the alarm clock inside. It is best to place any alarm clock far from the bed so your child must walk over to it to shut it off. Forbid alarm clocks with the snooze feature that would allow extending the period for arising for an additional several minutes. When the alarm rings, it's time to get up, period.

To help with the daily chore of getting dressed, consider color coding, labeling or putting pictures on the dresser drawers. Your child will know once-and-for-all where each item is. I suggest a logical sequence so that the top drawer is for items going on the face, head, and neck. The next drawer is for items that go onto the upper torso: sweaters, blouses, take tops, and shirts. The middle drawer is for the middle of the body so put underwear, lingerie, and sleepwear there. Below the middle drawer insert pants, slacks, shorts, and jeans. The bottom drawer might be dedicated to shoes, socks, hose, and slippers. Modify this sequence as needed for your family's individual needs, but adhering to a logical sequence such as this one helps.

Provide some sort of structured reminder of the time remaining before it is time to leave for school. Timers and buzzers may suffice, but often ADHD involves impairment of the ability to sense the passage of time. So even when the timer goes off, the child is amazed and not prepared for the fact that that the time has expired. The best solution is the silent Time Timer, which shows a red area that gradually shrinks in size as time goes on. The child stops pestering you about "Is the time up yet?" and "How much time is left?" because the disappearing red area is visible from any distance. Even small children who can't read a clock can understand how much time is left. Make arrangements to meet with your child’s teacher as soon as possible. If your child has an IEP or a 504 plan then you can meet to discuss how you can best work with the teacher to implement the plan in their classroom. If the school is not aware of your child’s ADD or ADHD, just meet as an interested parent first.

Help your child get organized. Children with ADHD often have trouble getting organized and easily lose things. You can help by designating areas for your child’s school supplies — backpack, pens, paper, books — and making sure that everything is kept in its place. Buy notebook organizers and help your child use them. Have your child or teacher write his assignments in a special homework book every day, and check it when he gets home from school to see what needs to be done. Today, many teachers post homework assignments on the school’s Web site. Over the summer, show your child the Web site and how you can both access it.

Find a quiet place for homework. A child with ADHD is easily distracted by noises. Your child should have a place for doing homework that’s quiet and away from doors and windows, the television, and other distractions, including pets. The designated homework space could be in the child’s room, the family room, or any place she will be able to work without being distracted. Create routines. Whether school is in or out, a child with ADHD needs routines, Your child will behave better if you develop routines from wake-up time to bedtime. This routine should include time for homework or reading, family meals, and play — indoors and out. Some families prefer to let their children unwind when they come home from school and start their homework a little later. Others prefer that their children finish their homework and then play. Either way is fine, as long as you stick to your routine and your child has the time he needs to complete his assignments.


Scott Young, MS, CCC, LNC earned a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing in 1992 and has been a nationally certified Christian Counselor since 2003. Having worked professionally in inpatient psychiatry for 16 years and with children and adults as a mobile therapist, Scott specializes in family counseling, children’s counseling, parenting concerns, individuals with special needs, developmental and learning disabilities, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, anger, social skills, self esteem, depression, and character building. Scott has seen the importance of looking at each person holistically and considers all areas of health when working with clients. Scott earned a doctorate in Naturopathy in 2014 and offers a comprehensive approach to overall health and well-being by integrating counseling, botanical and herbal medicine, naturopathic and holistic medicine, and lifestyle therapy. Scott is passionate about working with children and serving as an advocate for children with special needs.

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