This new school year is bringing many uncertainties to Maryland families. With the recent decision of Howard County Public Schools to postpone in-person classes until January, parents of children with special needs find themselves in a particularly difficult position. Many parents are understandably concerned about their children receiving an appropriate education outside of the in-person school environment. There may be concerns about IEPs and how to handle the specialized educational needs of students at home.
For parents of children with ADHD, helping students focus on virtual school can be challenging. Students with ADHD struggle with executive function skills.(1) These children tend to thrive on the routine and structure of the school system. During virtual learning, not only is that familiar structure lost, but the sudden changes and expectations can be overwhelming and distracting to neurodivergent students.(1)
If you’re nervously preparing for the year ahead with your student, take a deep breath and then try the suggestions below to help the school year go a little more smoothly for everyone:
Try to Follow a Reasonable Schedule — and Check In Frequently
Depending on how your school issues assignments, Zoom meetings, and other activities, try to have a visual tracker for your child to review each day. A paper planner or simple checklist is an easy, tangible way for your child to understand what is expected of them. If possible, throughout the day, check in with your child as much as possible to review any changes and monitor completed assignments.(2)
Bring the School to Your Home
It’s important for your child to be comfortable. However, if at all possible, try not to have your student working on assignments in bed or while lounging across the living room floor. Instead, create as much of a study environment as possible to keep them focused and engaged. (1) Set up your student with a desk or even at the kitchen table along with pens, pencils, and any other needed school supplies. The more that you can create a school-like environment in your home, the more that your child will be able to focus and engage while working.
Expect the IEP to Be Followed
Any supports that are listed in your student’s IEP should continue.(2) While you may have to maintain some flexibility due to the situation, don’t feel like you have to sacrifice your child’s IEP simply because of virtual schooling. Reach out to your student’s teacher or school administrators if you feel like something isn’t being fairly followed.
Encourage Breaks from the School Day
Children with ADHD learn best when they are allowed to move and take breaks. Encourage your child to take a quick bike ride, dance to Go Noodle, or even just jog in place. Exercise is always a positive for students with ADHD. Students with ADHD should also be allowed moments of free time to refresh and ready themselves for their remaining assignments.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Working parents, in particular, find it difficult to balance homeschooling with their own careers. If you find that you need support, don’t be afraid to reach out to your child’s teachers for resources and advice. Your school may be able to suggest new accommodations or even virtual tutoring to help your child when you are not available to provide continual school support.(1)
This experience is stressful for teachers, students, and parents alike. Speaking with your child’s therapist or physician may also be necessary in order for your child to cope and fully focus on learning.(2) This is especially true if you notice that your child is experiencing high levels of anxiety or other concerns.
Assessment and Treatment Options for Students with ADHD
NeuroBehavioral Associates offers services for children with ADHD, as well as other attention, learning, and neurodevelopmental differences. We provide comprehensive assessments to fully understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
NeuroBehavioral Associates remains open. We are providing low-contact assessments in our office, as well as telehealth services. Call 410-772-7155 or email us to schedule an appointment today.
- Rogers, K. (2020, May 23). How to help children with ADHD thrive in a virtual schoolhouse. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/23/health/online-school-children-adhd-coronavirus-wellness/index.html
- Spinks-Franklin, A. (2020, August 5). ADHD & Learning During COVID-19. Retrieved August 14, 2020, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/ADHD-and-Learning-During-COVID-19.aspx