Helping Kids with ADHD Cope with Distractions

Because of COVID-19, this school year has started off differently than any other we have experienced. For children who are learning remotely, we may be wondering how we can best help them stay focused and engaged while they are learning from home. For some parents of children with ADHD, just the thought of keeping them motivated to learn, while sitting in one spot, might feel like an impossible task.

Westfield first-grade teacher Caryn Terry has taught preschool through second grade over the past 24 years, and this year she will be teaching her first grade class entirely online. Terry has a lot of tips for parents of children with ADHD who might be wondering: How exactly is this going to work? Here are some of her suggestions:

  • Play calming music quietly in the background.
  • Give your child their own work space free of clutter and toys.
  • Check in, but don’t continue to go in and out of the work area while they are learning.
  • Post a schedule each morning for your child to refer to throughout the day.
  • Have supplies prepared and ready ahead of time.
  • Keep the same routine. Have them get up, dressed, go to bed, eat breakfast and lunch just like any other day. Also consider having them go outside daily for recess, just like they would if they were in school.
  • Take lots of brain breaks. Try apps like Calm or Go Noodle.
  • Make sure your child has a comfortable chair or stool. Possibly place a pillow under them, or a weighted blanket on their lap, or around their shoulders at different times throughout the day.

“Another way parents can keep their children engaged is by sitting with them for parts of their learning day to show they are interested and care about what they are working on,” Terry says. “Allow your child to show you their accomplishments, and be sure to give them feedback and encouragement.”

Distractions aren’t the only struggle. There is also the issue of time management. This can be hard for all students, but especially those who have been diagnosed with ADHD.

Terry suggests using visual clocks and timers. Visual clocks will show the student the amount of time for the task. As the time elapses, the red disappears.

If a visual clock is too distracting, try a timer. The timer can be set by the student, and they can see how much time the task will take. After the timer goes off, they know they are finished.

“I have used sand timers as well, because they are visual, yet quiet,” Terry says. “A visual schedule is also helpful, so they can see what is coming next, prepare, not worry about the unknown, and keep track of how much they have accomplished or finished in the day.”

Like all things with parenting, it may take some trial and error and there may be some tears shed along the way, but you will get it. And remember, your child’s teacher wants to see your child succeed and is there to help, so be sure to reach out and ask for suggestions along the way.

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