Sunday, June 29, 2014

5 Tips for Homeschooling ADHD Children

Homeschooling is difficult enough for parents who attempt it. Add in ADHD, and you have a recipe for frustration for both the parent and the child.

Sam hates being serious.
I know this from personal experience. Sam has ADHD, with emphasis on the H (hyperactivity). In fact, the only thing Sam can really focus on is video games, which is why I'm glad there are so many educational video games out there!

Symptoms of ADHD in Girls

ADHD is often times misdiagnosed in girls because the symptoms for hyperactivity present differently. Girls also tend to hide it better than boys since it's typically socially unacceptable for a girl to run around like a chicken with her head cut off. It's expected that boys are going to be rambunctious. Girls not so much.

Sam on the other hand, is a different story.

  • She's the child who has to walk back and forth while reading her book out loud in order to focus on it. And even then focus is optional.
  • She constantly needs to know what's going on, even if it doesn't pertain to her in any way.
  • She talks constantly. A chatterbox on steroids is a good description.
  • She constantly asks "Why?" Even if there isn't a reason to ask why. 
  • She avoids chores and homework like the plague, and will instantly start crying when told to clean her room or feed the dog (after she asks why).
  • She thinks the rules don't apply to her (when they're meant specifically for her).

That's just a few of her symptoms. And as you can imagine, trying to homeschool her is rather difficult.

Getting Sam to focus isn't easy.

But it's also the main reason we do homeschool.

So our curriculum changes on a daily basis. Her attention, hyperactivity and focus vary on a daily basis which means I have be flexible in my teaching schedule.

I have found it is much easier to work with the ADHD instead of against it. Unschooling is the perfect way to do this. So on days when Sam's hyperactivity and focus are particularly bad, we don't attempt any of the stringent lessons I've planned. Instead, I let Sam figure out what she wants to learn.

Typically, a word or concept will come up in conversation throughout the day that requires some explanation and when it does, I encourage Sam to look up the word in the dictionary or discuss the concept with her in detail. Because she asked about it, she has the ability to focus on it. For a few minutes at least.

Tips for Teaching ADHD Children

There are things you can do to help your child focus when you're trying to teach them. Here are five tips I have found indispensable when trying to homeschool Sam.
  1. BE PATIENT! Teaching a child with ADHD is much more frustrating than teaching one without the disorder. That means you as a parent and teacher need to be more patient than Mother Teresa. It's not easy. I'm not a very patient person, just ask my husband. But when it comes to teaching Sam, I find that reminding myself that she learns differently and her brain doesn't have the ability to control it's executive functions seems to help.
  2. Start with the Hard Stuff First. When it's time to actually start "class," start teaching the subjects your child has the most problems with first. For Sam, it's math and reading, so we start with those. Why? Because kids with ADHD tire out quickly, meaning they lose whatever amount of focus they had within minutes of starting a task. Asking them to concentrate actually makes them physically tired. In brain scans done on people with ADHD, activity in the prefrontal cortex (the area that keeps you focused) actually decreases (it's suppose to increase). So for someone with ADHD, the harder they try to pay attention, the more difficult it becomes to do just that. So get the tough subjects tackled before they become too tired to concentrate. 
  3. Teach Unconventionally. Every student has a medium that makes learning easier for them. For Sam, it's visual. Showing her how to do something makes it easier for her to figure out what she's supposed to do. Telling her how to do it on the other hand, simply frustrates her (and me). Using the white board to teach things like math and time also makes it easier for Sam to comprehend the lesson. Do what works for your child. If your son or daughter learns better using a coloring book, then that's what you need to use.
  4. Use Rewards. Many people suggest allowing your child to play for a little while before getting into lessons. I disagree with this suggestion wholeheartedly. For Sam, letting her play only serves to frustrate her when it's time to actually start learning because she has to stop playing. This doesn't start any lesson well. Instead, I use playtime as a reward. When she finishes her math page, she can play Minecraft for example.
  5. Feed Them First. Before starting any lesson, make sure your child has had a meal, and make sure it's one that is full of ADHD-friendly foods. Don't feed your kids lots of carbs and sugars, and definitely no caffeine. This will only make their blood sugar rise which can cause even more problems when it comes to focusing. Instead, feed them healthy proteins, and veggies - preferably leafy greens. If you're vegan like us, leafy green veggies like kale and proteins that are high in Omega 3's like almonds or walnuts are perfect. Fruits work well too as long as they have a low glycemic index. Cherries, apples and oranges have low glycemic indexes meaning they don't turn into glucose as quickly as other fruits like grapes. My next post will delve into controlling ADHD with diet more thoroughly, but this is a good start.
Following these tips can help make homeschooling your ADHD child easier, but ultimately, it's up to you. Find what works for your child, it may take a lot of trial and error, but once you find the methods that work, homeschooling will be easier and actually rewarding.


Do you have any tips for homeschooling ADHD children? If so, tell us about them in the comments below!!  

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