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Empowering Your Child with ADHD: Strategies for Independent Study Success"

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

I could never understand why my daughter didn't want my guidance when it came to studying. It was pretty clear that poor time management planning and other executive function difficulties that come with having ADHD were really getting in the way of her reaching her learning potential. I feel well equipped to help her, after all, I'm an occupational therapist and I know how to conduct task analysis and break down big tasks into smaller pieces. Most of my career has been spent working in schools supporting students who have difficulty learning, paying attention, socialising, to participate fully in school life. I have a deep understanding of ADHD and how it impacts task performance and everyday activities. Despite my professional background, couldn't seem to find a way to help my child overcome the difficulties she was experiencing with studying that were acceptable to her. Instead of helping, I she felt I was interfering, getting in the way and magnifying her difficulties.

The frequent push for me to help my daughter only created greater tension between us. Whenever there was an impending assessment, assignment, task, or test, my skills and knowledge quickly became irrelevant. I was trying to be a therapist and a coach to my daughter, but she resisted, and I ended up just being a frustrated mother (and she a frustrated daughter). Nothing seemed to make a difference, and I questioned why I couldn't support her and why she wouldn't listen to my guidance and expertise.

Then, I had a lightbulb moment. A psychologist at the school said, "You can't be a therapist; you just have to be a mum." Suddenly, I saw things differently, and since then, I've had a shift in my perspective about what help really means. I started listening, really listening to my daughter and what she needed. And often, she says she doesn't need any help. I realised that if I really want to help her, I need to stop making offers to help and start listening to her struggles without trying to solve the problem. That's hard to do as a parent.

I still have times when I am desperately want to advise, guide, direct and inform my daughter how to tackle a challenging school work tasks. But over time I have come to realise that there is lots of ways I can support her that don't involve her directly. Here are my guiding tips on what steps you can take to support your child successfully complete school work tasks, assessments and assignments

1. Know what's due and when. Get a copy of your child's assessment schedule for each term so you can remain informed about when they are expected to hand in work and prepare for assessments. Child with ADHD may be up to 30% behind in executive function skills. This means that planning and organising will be harder for them, and they need more scaffolding and support to stay on top of what is due and when. Use this information to have conversations about the upcoming due tasks and ask for your' child's input ideas on how they think they will approach. Of course, keep your child in the loop about your intentions to access the assessment schedule. This approach is most suitable for children who are in years 5 - 9 but as you'll be the best judge of when you no longer need to stay abreast of assessment due dates


2. Advocate for your child's learning needs with the school and get them on board with providing additional support where required. Some ways the school may be able to help your child tackle assessment tasks include providing additional clarifying instructions, breaking down tasks into smaller parts (and getting the teacher to set separate due dates for each part, where possible), and providing samples of completed work or templates for them to use, so they know exactly what's expected


3. Communicate the exact nature of your child's strengths and difficulties. This may include informing the school that your child works better in groups and seeing if there are opportunities for this to happen.


4. Seek external help Struggling to meet the constant demands of schoolwork can be overwhelming and frustrating for both you and your child. Getting support from an occupational therapist, ADHD coach, psychologist or tutor can provide practical strategies for your child to navigate executive function difficulties and feel empowered to take charge.


5. Sit in the dark with your child. You don't have to solve your child's study problems, but instead just sit within them in their struggles, their gloom and their overwhelm. Listen as they share how challenging, frustrating and boring study is.

In the words of Brene Brown:

" No one reaches out to you for compassion or empathy so you can teach them how to behave better. They reach out to us because they believe in our capacity to know our darkness well enough to sit in the dark with them.”

Remember, every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. It's important to be patient, flexible, and open to trying different approaches until you find what works best for your child.

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