A common complaint of parents and educators is that their ADHD or Asperger’s children or students aren’t doing their homework. Here’s the bottom line – without proper intervention, many students with ADHD or Asperger’s are simply not capable of managing it on their own, even if they are in high school or college.
This doesn’t mean that they are any less motivated.
It simply means that their ADHD or Asperger’s is getting in the way. Our students’ executive functioning skills, such as task initiation, sustained attention, planning, prioritizing and organization, are impaired and developing at a much slower rate than their peers. In fact, delays can be as much as 4-6 years! Add to that the hallmark traits of impulsivity and distractibility and you have a “homework nightmare”!
All is not lost, however.
This is the second of a two part series that spells out a 5 step process that will take the headache out of homework and move your child or students towards functioning independently.
In Part One, I discussed the first 3 steps:
Step One: Make homework the number one priority;
Step Two: Help the student make a homework plan; and
Step Three: Supervise the student until they can do it on their own.
Here are the remaining 2 steps:
Step Four: Take the pressure off and emphasize work ethic, not grades.
The effect of “pressure to perform” has been documented through research that comes out of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Doctors at NIMH used imaging tests known as PET scans to study the brains of individuals with ADHD and determine how well they function. They found that, in individuals with ADHD, under certain circumstances, there are areas of the brain that do not function as well as they should. They identified “pressure to perform” as one of the circumstances that causes activity in the brain to slow down.
Bottom line: pressure to perform adversely affects the ADHD or Asperger’s student’s ability to focus and pay attention. If you want to take the headache out of homework time and make it more likely that your child or students will complete their work, stop pressuring them to make good grades.
I’m not suggesting that grades are meaningless or that ADHD and Asperger’s is an excuse for poor grades. What I am saying, however, is that in order to produce the desired effect we are looking for, we must stop focusing solely on grades and acknowledge our students for doing their best and possessing a strong work ethic. When students possess these qualities, the struggle to get them to do their homework is non-existent. And, here’s the added bonus – good grades and academic success will follow!
Step Five: Let them do it their way.
Parents often come to me and complain that their child listens to music while doing their homework. They see this as a distraction, when in fact it may be just the opposite.
As I’ve stated in previous articles, we all learn in different ways. When looking for strategies to help students with ADHD or Asperger’s, the rule of thumb is to match strategies to the student’s interests and strengths. If listening to music makes it easier for them to do their homework, let them listen to it. If they find it easier to stay focused on their homework while studying with their friends, or listening to books on tape, walking on a treadmill, bouncing on an exercise ball, or rocking in a chair, let them do it. Ask them what works best for them. Or give them the freedom to experiment with different strategies, no matter how “unconventional” they may seem to you.
It will surprise you to discover how much more they can accomplish and how less stressful it will be for all of you when your child or student is using strategies that they enjoy and are most effective for them!