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ADHD and Homework Organization
Q: My fifth-grader was diagnosed with ADHD when he was five and is currently taking Ritalin® twice daily. He has problems with getting his homework organized. His teacher writes the homework on a special bulletin board every morning and it's not erased until the following morning. He has all day to write his homework down into his daily agenda and this isn't happening. He's constantly forgetting to write assignments down, but the teacher only checks his agenda "on occasion." She stresses that in sixth grade, the teachers will not always check his agenda. His answer to why the assignment did not get copied into his agenda is "No reason." His teacher has offered little help, except to give him detention, which obviously isn't working. Any suggestions?
A: Any positive behavior your son is working towards needs to be reinforced. You can find student planners that can really help your son to have a regular place to record his assignments daily and a place for parent/teacher feedback about his progress. Look at suppliers like A.D.D. Warehouse (1-800-233-9273) for helpful materials.
After completing a written contract about expected goals in this area, your son needs to be rewarded in some manner for copying down the homework. Start with a relatively easy goal (e.g., three out of five days during the week, then four out of five, and finally five out of five days). The teacher (or your son) can engage the help of a "homework buddy" to remind him initially about copying the assignment. Over time, these reminders should be phased out and your child should be expected to complete this task independently. For more ideas about how to tackle the homework blues, have a look at Harvey C. Parker's book, Problem Solver Guide for Students with ADHD or Sandra Rief's How to Reach and Teach ADD/ADHD Children: Practical Techniques, Strategies for Helping Children with Attention Problems and Hyperactivity.
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.