Let’s Talk…. Home-schooling an ADHD teen in a pandemic.

So let’s talk ‘Home-schooling’ I know, it’s half term and the last thing we want to think about is home-schooling right?  As most parents will say, whether your child is typical or atypical, home-schooling is no picnic. Getting past all the distractions, like mobile phones, tablets and game consoles is a hard task in itself. I mean, let’s face it, for most kids, their home is their sanctuary. It is the place where video games and their toys reside. The comfy sofas are for plonking on to chat to friends on Whatsapp and to perfect those selfie skills. The last thing they want is to have their English teacher peering into the living rooms via Zoom.

So you can imagine that home-schooling an ADHD teen for pretty much a year, has definitely been a challenge. ADHD and all those distractions go hand in hand, especially the fun ones. Each day of school work means the same arguments: Him:  ‘I hate school work’ and me: ‘but you have no choice, you have to do it if you want any kind of future’ and his response: ‘I don’t care’.

The truth is, he does care, however, forethought and forward planning (a component of executive function in humans) is something he struggles with greatly. Executive function is the part of the brain that utilises cognitive processes to manage time, plan ahead, manage emotions and set future goals.  People with ADHD, have deficits in executive function also known as executive dysfunction and therefore find it very difficult to forward plan and execute tasks in a timely manner. So my teen cannot see the benefits of his education at this time.

Transitioning between tasks, maintaining focus for long periods of time and conducting self-directed tasks, (that are not of a benefit or fun) are also very difficult for people with ADHD. So using platforms like Google classroom can be very frustrating, as the kids are expected to self-learn. Something that my son cannot get his head around.

So how have we managed so far?  Well, with his inability to transition well, and giving up on the distractions like having him put the phone away during ‘school’ time has been an ongoing battle, so I came up with a plan to help us both get through this journey.

Here are the five things that I now do to ease all of our home-school woes:

  1. Take away all forms of media distractions for the ‘school’ day: This helps our son to regulate and settle down to doing the tasks, because he knows he has no choice as there is nothing to distract him, especially You Tube. I remind him that this is not a punishment, but a priority setting skill.
  • Do the tasks he loves first: Unfortunately,the idea of getting the crappy stuff out of the way first, doesn’t work in our home. Doing the tasks he loves first is a sweet bribe and gets his mental juices flowing. We always start with the Art class.
  • Always give him a five minute break between tasks: Getting him to take a breather, stretch his legs, grab a drink or a snack helps him feel relaxed and eager to carry on. Having him churn out the lessons for hours has not been productive in the past. He also, appreciates the fact that I understand his needs for a mental and physical break.
  • Give him mini rewards daily: Allowing him extra computer gaming time and returning his phone are always a welcome reward at the end of the school day. I remind him of the benefits of his hard work which he appreciates.
  • Praise! Lots of praise: Praising him on a job well done and the feedback his receives from his teachers always helps him get into the positive mental mind-set of doing the work.

These tips have worked for us so far, but hey am not saying getting there is always easy. The transitioning is always the hardest part. Once we get past the daily battles of actually sitting down to doing the work together, we both feel better. It is a journey, but I do recommend that if you cannot be hands on, then even being in the same room helps, to bounce ideas around and offer support and praise. Some days, you may get fantastic work and a positive attitude and on other days, it will be an uphill struggle. This is not easy for both of you, so congratulate yourself on the hard work that you as the parent put in to help your children succeed, and congratulate your child for trying. Good luck everyone.  

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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