ADHD is a learning disability of the executive functions. The most prevalent symptom in teens and adults is a “lack of independence“ or follow through. Executive function areas of impairment include: Organization; planning; consistency of quantity and quality of work; consistency of performance and effort, and motivation; and initiation.
ADHD teens are developmentally behind in these areas of executive functioning, and therefore they are considered by experts as “developmentally younger by 2-3 years” than their same age peers. In other words, they are immature when it comes to taking responsibility for their actions with consistency.
ADHD teens often have superior reasoning skills and abilities and yet they can’t “show what they know” so to speak, which is frustrating and de-motivating. It does not foster strong self-esteem and self-confidence.
ADHD teens need oversight and monitoring that they cannot readily provide to themselves. With consistent guidance, structure and support, they can begin to experience success in areas where they are used to failing. Part of this process involves retraining their brains to think that with effort and structure, they can succeed. With repeated success, they begin to break their negative habitual patterns of behaviors such as careless errors, rushing through work, incomplete work output, etc, because they actually do care as they have experienced enough success to care.
Behavioral strategies for implementation across home and school by adults involved with ADHD students:
- Have consistent expectations and approach to work completion. This means that assignments are posted by the school staff to be read by the parents.
- Parents/Advisor closely monitor homework under the guise of wanting to be very involved in what their child is doing, not so much checking up, but involvement.
- All independent work, at home and school, is completed in a quiet, relaxed environment, and a consistent setting. Homework is not done in the bedroom, or in the hallway at school. Time is managed by adults and breaks are initiated if the student is not productive. Procrastination or sitting for hours staring at the paper are not permitted. Adults abstain from asking “is the homework done”, and instead routinely check it for completion. The script is “let’s go over the homework so I can see what you are doing”. This prevents the work avoidance or “lying”.
- No electronics in the bedroom. This is the parent’s decision, not the students
- No activities outside of school and sports come before homework ever—no exceptions.
- Medication regime must be followed.
- They sleep for 8- 10 hours.
- School should attempt to hold students to the standards as other students and use accommodations to do so. Parents can expect resistance and do not react to it or process it—stay the course and follow the guidelines. Do not react to the student’s emotional reaction when feeling stressed or challenged.
- Don’t ask questions, especially “why” questions, that only perpetuates the “shutting down” and potential for “lying” and resistance.
- Parents should have access to all online school information and the student’s online access codes.