Homeschooling and ADHD
Why homeschool a child with ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder)? For the same variety of reasons that parents choose to homeschool a child without ADHD! Homeschooling’s advantages include flexibility, individualized attention, the ability to proceed at the child’s pace, and more time for families to spend together. These reasons appeal all the more to those who have children with ADHD, because although these children are typically bright and creative, there are certain settings that prove challenging for them to learn in.
For example, many parents of an ADHD child in a traditional school setting have already experienced the challenges of helping their child complete homework and submit assignments on time as well as communicating with school personnel in an attempt to meet the child’s needs. This stressful expenditure of energy is alleviated by homeschooling because the parents select the curriculum and set their own schedules. Even a busy household is less distracting than most classroom settings, and accommodations can be made to help the student experience success within the context of a loving, family environment.
Homeschooling a child with ADHD offers:
- Fewer distractions
- Ability to modify environment
- Movement when needed
- Personalized curriculum selection
- Individualized attention
- Less family stress
- Breaks when needed
- Acceptance and support
- Social skills development
- Consistent structure
Despite these advantages, parents may still be intimidated by the thought of homeschooling their distractible, energetic, creative child. And parents who have been homeschooling an ADHD child for some time may be at a roadblock—feeling ineffective and out of strategies for helping their child learn. Let me encourage you! Homeschooling gives you the flexibility and freedom to keep looking for answers outside the box.
As a speech/language pathologist and homeschooling mother of three children, two of whom have ADHD, I have experience with this special learning need in both a personal and professional capacity. Here are some effective ways that parents can deal with specific behavioral and learning challenges associated with ADHD.
© HSLDA/MICHELLE THOBURN
Your ADHD child probably needs to fidget and move around—the flexibility of homeschooling allows you to incorporate more movement into lessons. Allowing the child to hold a “fidget item” (a small manipulative with sensory appeal) during lessons can actually extend the child’s ability to sustain focus, as the small, contained movements increase alertness and promote attention. Children with ADHD tend to need frequent breaks, and if you incorporate movement and exercise throughout the day, the primarily inattentive child will become more alert while the hyperactive child will be calmed. A calm and alert child is in the optimal state for learning.
Some children with ADHD have difficulty with social skills. Impulsivity can be problematic—they may blurt out responses or interrupt without first considering the consequences. Especially when excited or experiencing other strong emotions, children with ADHD may have difficulty regulating their vocal volume, tone of voice, and other components involved in successful social interactions. Children with ADHD also tend to be less mature than their peers, adding further challenges to social situations.
Tools & Tips:
- Use earplugs to block noise.
- Sit on a therapy ball.
- Use small, quiet fidget items such as pipe cleaners, stress balls, pieces of textured cloth, smooth stones, beads on a string to slide up and down, bendable wax-covered string, Tangle® toys, small and bendable toy people or animals, miniature Slinky® toys, hard rubber balls, and squishy balls.
- Stand while working.
- Use music to help focus.
- Explore lighting options.
- Use a visual timer.
- Allow oral answers.
Through homeschooling, these social issues can be addressed lovingly and consistently throughout the day. Involvement in homeschool support groups can be a natural context for practicing social skills (as well as provide parents the opportunity to compare notes with fellow homeschooling parents of ADHD students!). Social activities can be selected to reflect the child’s strengths and interests, thus facilitating the successful mastery of social skills.
Students with ADHD are notorious for being easily bored. They are distractible and their attention wanders. Modifications in the environment are simple to explore at home and can make a significant difference to the struggling student. Some students have found that they work best in a quiet atmosphere and even wear earplugs to block out background noise. Others find it helpful to listen to music while completing their school assignments. Offering a student a therapy ball to sit on can help meet the need for movement and increase alertness at the same time. A stool and an architect desk give the student the option of sitting or standing while working. Bright lights work best for some children, while others respond better to subdued lighting from a single lamp. Trying various options will help ADHD students discover what works best for them and the way they learn.
© HSLDA/MICHELLE THOBURN
Children with ADHD also typically have a poor internal sense of time passing. If they are engaged in a high-interest activity, time flies. Give them a less-preferred activity, however, and they are convinced it will take ages to complete. Add to that the component of high distractibility, and a 20-minute assignment can easily take over two hours to complete. Homeschooling can incorporate tools such as visual timers, which actually show time passing on a display. External tools to help manage time can be used in conjunction with other strategies, such as modifying the length of assignments or allowing a student to answer orally rather than writing out all responses.
Another characteristic of ADHD children is that they generally prefer to learn in brief increments, and they seek out variety and novelty. While these preferences cannot always be accommodated, homeschooling offers the advantage of allowing a child to work at his own pace while using curriculum that is compatible with his preferred learning style. (How do you discover these learning preferences in your child? Stand back and observe! Children often show us what they need and enjoy through both their struggles and how they choose to spend their free time.)
Here for You
HSLDA’s special needs/struggling learner coordinators offer a variety of resources for parents of struggling learners or children with special needs. HSLDA members may contact Faith Berens, Dianne Craft, and Betty Statnick for counsel and suggestions. Call 540-338-5600 or visit www.hslda.org/contactstaff.
For helpful resources 24/7 or to sign up for our e-newsletter, visit www.hslda.org/strugglinglearner.