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Gifted, ADD, and Can't Get Homework Done

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Noreen H. Joslyn, LISW, ACSW

Q: My son is 12 and is extremely gifted in math and science. He is also ADD. He is on medication and it has been very successful in helping him concentrate in class. However, he has a problem with getting his homework in. His grades this semester were much lower -- not because he couldn't do the work, but because assignments were handed in late or not at all. I'm not sure if he forgets to write down his assignments or if he does the homework and then forgets to hand it in. I have asked his teachers to send me the assignments, but I don't know if this will help build the skills he needs.

A: It is true that your son must learn to take responsibility for his school work. However, if he has ADHD (from your description it sounds like ADHD-Inattentive type), then he needs to learn to use some assistance properly. In cases like this, I have been able to get the school to appoint a teacher as a mentor to the student in order to teach him organization skills. You are probably thinking something like, "I've already tried to teach him organization skills and he won't listen to me." It's often amazing how someone other than a parent can get through to a student. (I think they must get used to the sound of our voices and automatically tune us out!) This person doesn't have to be one of your son's regular teachers -- just someone, preferably a male teacher in your son's case, with whom your son has a good relationship. They could meet twice a week and go over your son's school responsibilities. This has no cost to the school, is not embarrassing to your son, and takes you out of the struggle over homework. As a parent, you still have the right to do what I call a "quality check" of your son's homework.

Other suggestions that come to mind:

  • Get him a folder for containing only homework -- no matter what the subject. He should never tuck assignments into textbooks.
  • Does your son need what is called a "homework dose" of his ADHD medication? Some physicians will prescribe a lower dose at approximately 4:00 p.m. to assist in homework concentration.
  • Would the school allow your son to use an electronic device (such as a palm pilot) to keep track of his assignments? Many ADHD adults have found electronic helpers to be invaluable in helping them stay on track.

I also recommend the following books which contain many helpful suggestions for ADHD students: Driven to Distraction by Hallowell and Ratey and ADD Success Stories by Hartman and Ratey. Good luck.

More on: Expert Advice

Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.


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