Homework Help for Students With ADHD

Helping child with homework
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Homework, homework...does anyone really like homework? For a child with ADHD, just getting the assignment written down and the correct books in the book bag to go home can be a monumental task. Papers inevitably get lost, either en route home, at home, or en route back to school.

Oftentimes, assignments simply don’t get done. If they make it home, the energy that must be used to recall the instructions, understand the assignment, and focus on the tedious task of getting it completed with all the other distractions around may prove too much.

Homework really does involve numerous steps. One missed step can create loads of problems. For the child, it can become so overwhelming that it is easier to just not do it. Homework can be frustrating for parents, children, and teachers!

The middle and high school years can be an especially hard time. Students receive less supervision. They have multiple teachers with multiple teaching styles. Expectations and responsibilities are much greater. Self-esteem is more fragile and feelings of self-consciousness skyrocket.

How can adolescents with ADHD develop subtle strategies for getting homework done without drawing attention to themselves? How can parents help?

Be an Advocate

Be an advocate for your child. Meet with the teachers and discuss homework concerns. Sometimes it isn’t possible to meet with all your child’s teachers. If this is the case, send emails or contact them by phone.

If appropriate, the teachers can lessen the amount of homework assigned to your child. This can be done in a way that is not noticeable to your their peers. If the regular math assignment is problems 1 to 30, it may be that your child only has to do 1 to 15. This can be set up with teachers in advance. It is also possible for your child to be given extended time to complete assignments.

Provide Tools and Support

Go shopping with your child to pick out a notebook where they can write down homework assignments. Ask the teachers if they will help with verbal reminders to the entire class, “Your assignment tonight is... ​I will give you all a few minutes. Please write your assignment down now.”

Ask teachers if they will begin writing assignments on the board in addition to giving verbal instructions. This approach can be beneficial to the whole class, not just your child.

Your child's teachers can be on the lookout to make sure your child is focused and writing the assignment down as instructed. If they aren't, a simple tap on the desk or pat on the back may be enough to refocus them without drawing attention.

Teachers can even check the assignment notebook at the end of class to make sure it is accurate. If possible, try to get a schedule of the week’s assignments so you can have them at home as a backup.

Keep a Second Set of Textbooks at Home

Talk with the school principal about getting a second set of school books to keep at home over the school year. For children with ADHD, just getting the correct books home at the end of the school day can be difficult. A backup set at home can be a lifesaver on those more disorganized days.

Organize the Backpack

Help your child organize their backpack. Use part of homework time to help teach her how to clean out old, unnecessary items in the book bag. That way you won’t be surprised with a half-eaten, moldy apple left over from school snack two weeks ago.

Your child can also get their materials together and won’t be distracted by unnecessary items in the bag. At first, you may feel that these tasks are too simplistic, but for a child with ADHD, your extra support and guidance is vital.

Color Coding

Color coding is always helpful. When you buy the homework assignment notebook, purchase various colored folders, notebooks, book covers, even colored pens. Match each color to a particular subject.

Buy a separate closable folder to use for homework papers. This folder will provide your child with a consistent place to store homework papers, hopefully keeping them from getting lost in the backpack or elsewhere.

Structure Homework Time

It is a good habit to get to homework soon after your child is home from school or after-school activities. A snack to re-energize and a drink to refresh is nice, then it's homework time.

Some kids benefit from a little exercise and outside play first. If you find your child needs this time to release extra energy and refocus, simply structure it in right before homework time begins.

Have a designated area for homework like the kitchen table or a desk in a nearby quiet room, but preferably not your child's bedroom. Distractions may be too great there. Plus, the bedroom may be more isolated. It is important for you to be available to your child to respond to questions and provide prompts when needed.

Some children do best in quiet. Some do better with a little background noise or music. Some kids work best with periodic short breaks. You and your child can work out which environment is most productive for them.

Make the homework routine predictable and stress-free. After homework is done, check it over. Then help your child put the completed assignment in their homework folder and return all appropriate items to their book bag, zipping it up securely when done.


If a child is on medication, it is possible that the effects of the medicine have worn off by late afternoon homework time. Talk with your child’s doctor about trying to schedule one of the dosages of medication later to help during the homework hours. Be careful that your child doesn’t take medicine too late, or it may interfere with sleep.


Try to remain relaxed and upbeat during homework time. Use this time to provide positive feedback to your child for their hard work. At dinner, compliment their efforts in front of the rest of the family.

Sometimes it is so easy to focus on the negative. Remember to point out the things your child is doing well. At the end of the week, if all goes well, take your child out for special time together.

A Word From Verywell

Completing homework is a daunting task for students with ADHD. Extend grace and patience and provide extra support for your child. In many cases, establishing official school-based accommodations can provide the extra assistance your child needs.

By Keath Low
 Keath Low, MA, is a therapist and clinical scientist with the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina. She specializes in treatment of ADD/ADHD.