7 Tips to Homeschool a Child with ADD During the Pandemic
Have you ever blamed your child’s teacher for not motivating your child to finish their schoolwork? Thought the teacher must not be any good because your child is really smart but doesn’t do well on tests? Or assumed the teacher doesn’t know how to deal with a child with attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? (Note, in this article, we will use the term ADD since many people who have this condition do not have hyperactivity.)
With the nation’s schools closed and most of us living under some form of quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic, parents are being forced to homeschool their kids. And for some of you, you’re getting a first-hand look at just how challenging your ADD child can be. You may finally be realizing your child’s teacher wasn’t the problem after all. And you may be struggling to get your offspring to pay attention and complete any schoolwork.
What can parents do to help create an effective homeschool environment for ADD kids?
Know the 5 Hallmark Symptoms of ADD
It’s important to recognize the most common symptoms seen in children with ADD:
Short attention span: Children with ADD have trouble with boring, routine, everyday tasks and need stimulation and excitement in order to stay engaged.
Distractibility: Children with ADD tend to notice more in their environment than others, which makes them easily distracted by outside stimuli, such as light, sounds, smells, certain tastes, or even the clothes they were. Their keen sensitivity causes them to get easily off task.
Disorganization. Most children with ADD tend to struggle with organization of time and space. They tend to be late and have trouble completing tasks on time. Many things get done at the last moment or even later. They also tend to struggle to keep their spaces tidy, especially their rooms, book bags, drawers, closets, and homework.
Procrastination. Tasks and duties get put off until the last moment. Things tend not to get done until there are deadlines or someone else is mad at them for not doing it.
Poor internal supervision. Many young people with ADD have issues with judgment and impulse control, and they struggle not to say or do things without fully thinking it through. They also have a harder time learning from their mistakes.
Understand that ADD is a Brain Disorder
ADD is a brain-based disorder. It tends to affect the frontal lobes, in particular, an area called the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC is involved in focus, forethought, judgment, organization, planning, impulse control, empathy, and learning from one’s mistakes.
Brain SPECT imaging studies show that ADD brains work differently. SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) is a nuclear medicine study that evaluates blood flow and activity in the brain. Basically, it shows three things: healthy activity, too little activity, or too much activity.
SPECT studies show that in the healthy brain when a person concentrates, blood flow increases to the PFC. In people with ADD, however, concentration causes blood flow to decrease to the PFC. In fact, the harder someone with ADD tries to concentrate, the worse it gets. Research shows that the low activity in the front part of the brain is often due to lower levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical heavily involved with attention span, focus, follow-through, and motivation. When its availability is low, people tend to struggle in these areas.
What’s a stressed-out parent supposed to do? Here are 7 strategies to create a more effective learning environment for kids with ADD.
7 Strategies to Homeschool Your ADD Child
1. Adopt structure and routines.
Kids with ADD have trouble with uncertainty and have difficulty delaying gratification. On the flip side, they are more likely to thrive in a structured environment. Be sure to post a daily schedule in the house where they can see what activities will be happening at what times.
2. Keep lessons short.
A short attention span is one of the hallmarks of ADD, so plan homeschooling lessons accordingly. Think of teaching in short segments rather than lumping all schoolwork into one continuous block. Depending on your child’s attention span, you may do a 30-minute or 45-minute lesson followed by 15 minutes of free time, especially active playtime. Physical activity boosts dopamine and enhances blood flow in the brain, both of which can be beneficial for kids with ADD.
3. Follow up often!
One of the things children with ADD have trouble with is follow-through. Because of this, you need to take an active role to make sure they know exactly what is expected of them in each school lesson and then check to make sure they have completed it on time. Check in frequently with your child to help keep them on track rather than waiting until the deadline.
4. Notice the positive.
ADD kids react better to positive encouragement and lots of it. Rather than pointing out what they’ve done wrong—not finishing an assignment on time, wrong answers on a test, or fidgeting—be sure to notice what they’re doing right. Saying things, such as, “Excellent job
5. Stay calm.
When trying to teach your child at home, NO YELLING! Due to low levels of dopamine, children with ADD often find themselves seeking conflict or playing “let’s have a problem.” They can be masterful at making other people mad or angry at them. Don’t lose your temper with your child, which often just makes things worse.
6. Know your child’s ADD type.
Brain imaging studies have found that ADD is not one thing. There are 7 different types, so one treatment will never work for everyone. The 7 types of ADD are: Classic, Inattentive, Overfocused, Temporal Lobe, Limbic, Ring of Fire, and Anxious. To know your child’s type, you can take the Amen Clinics ADD Type Test online.
7. Ask if you might have ADD too.
ADD is a generational disorder, meaning it tends to run in families. Often, when a child is suffering from the condition, one or both of the parents may also have it. In many cases, the parents may never have been tested for ADD or diagnosed with the condition, so their symptoms remain into adulthood. If you’re really struggling to manage your ADD child, it’s worth investigating if a short attention span, disorganization, procrastination, or other issues may be getting in the way of your ability to homeschool your little one. Addressing your own problems will improve your ability to be an effective home teacher. This Healing ADD at Home online course from BrainMD can be very helpful for adults with ADD.
If you’re struggling with your ADD child and it’s causing you stress, anxiety, and frustration, it’s important to address it sooner rather than later. Just because you’re sheltering at home doesn’t mean you have to wait for the pandemic to be over before seeking help. In fact, during these uncertain times, tending to your family’s mental well-being is more important than ever, and waiting to get treatment is likely to make symptoms worsen over time.
At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults and children, as well as in-clinic brain scanning to help our patients. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.