5 Tips for Setting-Up your ADHD Child for Success in the New School Year

The start of a new school year offers parents of children with ADHD an opportunity to talk about strategies for school success. Here are 5 back to school tips that can help get the new school year off to a great start!

1. Collaborate with your child

When parents and children collaborate on ideas for improving school performance, children take responsibility for their choices and are more motivated to follow through.

2. Set up academic and behavioral goals

Discuss which behaviors were helpful and unhelpful last year in order to learn from past mistakes and focus on what works. Goal setting is the first step in the collaboration process. Parents can ask their children the following questions in order to clarify what they want and how they want to achieve their goals. For example:

Parent: What is your goal for this year?

Child: To get a higher grade in math.

Parent: What can help you reach those goals?

Child: I can ask for help when I am stuck, and I can do my math first.

Parent: How do you think I can help when you are stuck?

Child: You can help me get organized in the beginning, and check in.

Parent: How do you want me to react when you get off task?

Child: Just remind me of my goals and how great it would feel to succeed.

Goals could include:

  • Getting out of the house on time
  • Getting to sleep early
  • Handing in assignments consistently
  • Organizing the desk/school bag/room
  • Exercising more
  • Managing impulsive behavior

3. Translate goals into action items

Create checklists with your child to include the steps that need to be taken to achieve each goal. For example, make a checklist for what needs to be done in the morning to get out the door on time, how to get organized for the next day, and steps in the bedtime routine.

4. Structure a homework routine.

The following questions can help you set up a specific homework routine with your child:

  • Where do you focus best when you study?
  • What can help you stay focused? (food, music, changing position, visual reminders)
  • How long of a break do you need after school and before starting homework?
  • How will you check your work – alone or with a parent?
  • Where will you put your completed work?

5. Plan how to handle distractions

ADHD children are distracted by both internal and external stimuli. Internal distractions include day dreaming (e.g. while getting dressed, doing homework, in the bath) and negative thoughts. External distractions may include screens, and noises coming from both inside and outside the house Brainstorm strategies for avoiding distractions and maintaining focus, such as writing down thoughts in a “My Thoughts” notebook , shutting down all devices, or using music as background noise to minimize distractibility .

Schedule specified “screen-time” (video, TV, etc.) to help reduce distractions. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) long-standing recommendation has been that kids’ screen-time entertainment be limited to less than one (or maximum two!) hours per day. In addition to scheduling specified screen-time, schedule screen-free times. Suggestions for screen-free times include during meals, in the mornings before school, and one hour before bedtime.