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Homeschooling a Child With ADHD: 4 Practical Tips


Homeschooling a child with ADHD may not be easy, but it can be highly rewarding and effective. You probably have a bright, creative, imaginative child that may soar in some areas while struggling in others. And that's why homeschooling is often a good option!


It allows you to focus on the child's strengths and passions and work closely where the child struggles, ensuring that they are not bored or falling through the cracks for lack of focus and attention. You can set the pace for each subject and nurture their interests.


The decision to homeschool is a brave one, and there's a fulfilling journey ahead of you. But before you start teaching daily lessons, consider these tips. They just might be the thing you need to help your child thrive!

Tip #1: Establish a regular daily routine

Having a routine in place is crucial to keeping ADHD in check. That’s why it’s important to set up a plan that fosters cooperation and makes your child excited about their lessons.


Try organizing a schedule by following these tips:

  • Get the kids involved in planning

Ask them which school subjects they like the best and which ones they like the least. Then, try to start your schedule with the least favorite subjects. If they know that the next thing on the list is the subject they like, they’ll probably stay focused on finishing the assignment.

  • Create a plan that’s easy to follow

Consider creating a visually appealing schedule. Then, go over the schedule with your child and make sure he or she understands it. Try to institute it slowly by adding one subject or activity at a time until your child remembers which lesson comes next.

  • Make sure they see progress

Your schedule should visually show what is expected to be completed so that it can be crossed off or flipped over when finished. That way, your child can track their daily progress.

Tip #2: Make room for their interests


Try to leave plenty of time in the schedule for the subjects and activities your child enjoys. Consider scheduling these activities right after lunch. That way you won’t have to rush the child through enjoyable activities in order to complete a subject.


These areas of intense interest can be tremendous resources. For example, if your child loves basketball and identifies Stephen Curry as a hero, then you can use that energy and channel it toward concrete behavioral change.


At times when your child gets discouraged about school and homework, you can ask them to think about what Stephen Curry’s life would be like if he had said, “Why try?”


In his book Overcoming ADHD - Helping Your Child Become Calm, Engaged, and Focused--Without a Pill Stanley Greenspan writes about the importance of following the child’s lead and interests.


The author suggests that if a child wants to talk about baseball or dinosaurs and shows interest in interaction, engagement, emotional signaling, and so on, you should follow their lead. Once the child is engaged and motivated, you can move on to other topics and broaden the conversation.


According to Greenspan, a child's interest should be the starting point for the interaction, but it doesn’t have to be the ending point. Gradually incorporate other themes, building on the child’s concerns as well as their pleasures.

Tip #3: Add movement


Physical movement releases feel-good chemicals that stimulate the brain and relax the body. So, before you start daily lessons, think about encouraging your child to move strategically. Try to engage them in sensory, vestibular, and proprioceptive activities as follows:


  • Sensory activities

A sensory cushion, therapy ball, or a chair band can help a child who is having difficulty sitting still. These tools may allow your child to make small movements that are not distracting.


  • Vestibular activities

Vestibular refers to the system that allows us to know where our body is in space. It detects the sensation of any change in position, direction, or movement.


The receptors are located in the inner ear and are activated by the fluid in the ear canals moving as you move. When you turn upside down, for example, the fluid in your ear canals gives your central nervous system information about your body's position in space.


Vestibular activity releases histamines, which may improve attention. Histamine is a chemical that can act as a neurotransmitter that communicates messages to the brain.


Some of the outdoor and indoor vestibular activities your child may enjoy are:

  1. going down a slide

  2. swinging high in the air

  3. riding a scooter

  4. spinning in an office chair

  5. performing inverted yoga poses


  • Proprioceptive activities

Proprioceptive refers to the body’s ability to perceive its own position in space. This movement releases serotonin, which may decrease hyperactivity levels. Before daily lessons, your child can engage in the following proprioceptive activities:

  1. climbing a rock wall

  2. doing the monkey bars

  3. jumping on a trampoline

  4. pushing/pulling a heavy bin of toys

  5. climbing stairs on hands and knees


If you feel like movement helps your child focus better, you can incorporate some activities during the actual lessons. For example, when you think it’s time to refocus, you could say something like, “Run to your room, touch the wall next to your bed, then run to my room and touch the window, then come back here and do 5 jumping jacks.”


Any kind of action may be helpful as long as it stops the wiggles and gets the blood pumping.

Improving attention and reducing hyperactivity with neurofeedback


In one study, researchers investigated the degree to which neurofeedback training can improve attention and reduce hyperactivity in children. Neurofeedback is a non-pharmacological treatment that involves training the brain to regulate itself and reach a healthier brain state. Eventually, the patient’s brain may achieve and maintain this better state even without the feedback.


The research involved 94 children with ADHD, ages 8 to 12, who were not taking medication. Then, they assigned 59 children to a neurofeedback intervention and 35 others to an active control group that completed an attention skills training program. The study's primary outcome was an improvement in attention and reduced hyperactivity/impulsivity, as rated by parents using a standard clinical instrument.


Compared with controls, more children who completed the neurofeedback intervention responded to treatment, defined as symptom reduction of at least 25%. At post-training and 6-month follow-up, 50% of children assigned to the neurofeedback group were classified as responders, compared with 26% at post-training and 30% at follow-up in the attention control condition.


The results of this study supported the clinical efficacy of neurofeedback. This type of therapy may be recommended as a treatment modality for children with ADHD beyond conventional behavioral training and medication. Once available only in specialized clinics, neurofeedback is now available to everyone, at home.


Tip #4: Keep it short and sweet


There’s no such thing as a perfect homeschooling method. Each child is different and requires an individual approach, but some strategies may help you to better find your flow and pace:

  • Introduce a subject in a non-standard way

Instead of worksheets, try using educational videos, podcasts, or other types of media to introduce or expand on a subject. If you’re using videos, choose the ones that involve less music and more focus on audio that includes a human voice.


  • Make learning a game

You can try adding games suitable for each subject: flashcards, drawing, balance games, call-and-response games, etc. If you add flashcards, consider if your child is left-brain or right-brain oriented.


Traditional math fact flashcards typically appeal to left-brain-oriented children. If your child is right-brain oriented, use flashcards that utilize pictures for each number, and accompany each fact with a story.


  • Stick with short lessons

In the book A Charlotte Mason Education: A Homeschooling How-To Manual, you can read about the importance of keeping subject lessons short. Indeed Charlotte Mason calls for 5-20 minutes per lesson in grade school and 30- 45 minutes in high school.


If you feel that your child needs a bit more or less time, it’s good to be flexible. Since the ADHD brain operates inconsistently, there’ll be days when your child seems “on” and days when they seem “off”. Sometimes, these “on” and “off” moments will alternate during the day, or even within the hour.


While you’ll want to be consistent with their routine, sometimes you may have to shift a few lessons around or even skip some subjects. That’s why it’s important to schedule the most important subjects first so those are taken care of, and then you won’t feel pressure to complete every other subject on an “off” day. Being flexible can not only make homeschooling less overwhelming for your child, but it can also take the stress off your shoulders!

Summary


To keep your child engaged and focused, you should probably take an individualized approach and base your homeschooling method on your child’s needs and preferences.


Tip #1: Establish a regular daily routine

  • Get the kids involved in planning

  • Create a plan that’s easy to follow

  • Make sure they see progress

Tip #2: Make room for your child’s interests

  • Consider scheduling these activities right after lunch so you don’t have to rush the child through something in order to complete another subject.

Tip #3: Add movement

  • Try to engage your child in sensory, vestibular, and proprioceptive activities

Tip #4: Keep it short and sweet

  • Introduce a subject in a non-standard way

  • Make learning a game

  • Stick with short lessons

Through homeschooling, your child may be able to learn to the best of their ability. And while the teaching can sometimes be challenging, you'll be given the opportunity to play an even bigger role in your child's life. Stay brave and don't get discouraged. Rewarding days are ahead!

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