Establishing Routines

Establishing Routines

Children with AD/HD benefit significantly from a structured and positive home environment, which include consistent use of routines that become the foundation of everything that they are expected to do and what their parents provide for them, a healthy climate of positive reinforcement and encouragement and good role models.

AD/HD symptoms are more severe when:

  • the family is disorganised.
  • there is a lack of routine
  • parents disagree on parenting issues.
  • parents lack consistency.
  • the relationship between parents is troubled.
  • negative reinforcement is given by one or both parents

The AD/HD child thrives when:

  • the family is organised;
  • everything is planned around consistent routines;
  • the parents present a unified front;
  • there is a harmonious atmosphere in the home; and
  • positive reinforcement is continually given by both parents.

Parents can therefore help their children by providing:

  • structure
  • routine
  • self confidence

Structure & Routine

Decide on a timetable together for:

  • homework
  • after school activities
  • meals
  • TV, etc.
  • bedtime
  • and keep to it rigidly.

Morning Ritual (incentive-driven)

  • Specific wake-up time
  • Set time for breakfast
  • After breakfast hygiene (teeth, face, hands)
  • Check that schoolbag contains everything needed.
  • Leave house at a pre-determined time

Preparations Made Night Before:

  • Bathing/showering
  • Checking homework
  • Packing schoolbags
  • Laying out clothes
  • Making lunch

Things to Avoid:

  • Don't allow TV or computer in the morning
  • Don't shout at your children
  • Don't allow children to shout at each other
  • Don't be inconsistent
  • Don't relax the routines

Family Dinner:

  • Have a set time for dinner each evening
  • Use this time to discuss events and to make plans with everyone's input
  • Have children sett table and clean up afterwards
  • Model respectful listening skills

Establish a Bedtime Routine:

  • Have your child bathe before going to bed.
  • Give your child a light, healthy snack
  • Tell or read a soothing story
  • Have a strict time for lights out and be consistent.
  • Parents own experience as children
  • Parents disagreeing on rules
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of time
  • Lack of patience
  • Keeping up with the Jones's" syndrome
  • Undiagnosed AD/HD

Even when the core AD/HD symptoms are well contained, children have often persistent problems with planning, organisation and time management. It is therefore important that parents be aware of this and realise that they need to be proactive in addressing this aspect of the child's AD/HD. Some of the things that parents can do in such situations include:

Working out strategies with teachers to minimise the effect of this in home-school interaction.

Devising a system with the child and make this into a routine at home. Looking ahead to foreshadow what needs to be done on a daily basis.

Establishing Homework Routines

Children with AD/HD take three times longer to complete their homework than their non-AD/HD peers so parents need to help them before and during this process with whatever is appropriate for their child. Children need short rewards after completing each piece of homework (10 minutes doing an activity they enjoy) and they also need help organising what subjects they need to focus on each day and they need help prioritizing. They may need help getting started on each new item of homework. None of this is unusual for children with AD/HD, and rather than having unrealistic expectations of their child, parents should make the necessary accommodations that will help them.

  • Sustained Attention
  • Task Initiation
  • Planning / Prioritization
  • Organization
  • Time Management
  • Goal Directed Persistence
  • Metacognition

Bearing this in mind, it is obvious that children with AD/HD will need the help of their teachers first and then their parents to be able to complete their homework assignments and hand them in on the due day. Homework without Tears!(By Joanne Norris, Ed.D., 2009.

Optimal Conditions for Successful Homework

Quiet area on table with plenty of space and free from distractions (looking out on green area would be ideal).

Organized in a way to make it easy for the child (including: In-Tray, Out-Tray, homework plan, books, notes, etc. needed.

Parent/caregiver sits with child at same table also working on something.

Parent/caregiver gives the help needed to get started, to brainstorm, to help the child evaluate time needed for each homework item.

Child sets Timer for the specified time (necessary).

Incentive decided for successful completion of homework (necessary).

Why Is Homework A Problem?

For children with special needs, the school day is very stressful and they want to relax at home.

  • They find it easier to procrastinate in the home environment as there are too many distractions
  • They may have ES difficulties - reading, writing, working memory, putting ideas down on paper, starting, and completing projects, keeping focused, etc..
  • They cannot organize themselves.
  • They can't remember what homework they have to do and/or they don't have the books they need.

Routine & Incentives are Essential Discuss with your child the Incentives you use to "bribe" your child to complete his/her homework.

Homework time should be AFTER your child has eaten a healthy after school snack and BEFORE s/he watches TV or plays computer or video games.

Emailing or texting friends should not be allowed until AFTER homework has been completed.

These "banned" activities would work well as incentives.Planning / PrioritizationChildren with deficits in this area might have problems with:

  • Writing homework down at school
  • Bringing home the books, etc. needed
  • Organizing homework space
  • Knowing what to do first, etc.
  • Planning writing and other project

Interventions at School

Teacher gives more time to child to write homework down and checks that it is correct.

Teacher writes homework on a sticker and sticks into child's homework journal.

Teacher informs parents by email about homework assignments for each week.

Teacher makes a list of books, etc. needed to complete this homework and checks that child has these in his/her schoolbag to bring home.

Interventions at Home

Parent/caregiver checks homework journal and transcribes this onto a Homework Plan.

Parent/caregiver helps child prioritize.

Parent/caregiver helps child take books and materials needed out of schoolbag and puts them in the In-Tray (Box, etc.).

Parent/caregiver organizes homework space.

Parent/caregiver helps child brainstorm to start (asking a key question, etc.)

Task Initiation

Children with a deficit in this area may have problems with:

Getting started.
Being able to motivate themselves to begin doing their homework.
Being able to start each new item of homework.
Being able to begin a long-term project.

Parent/caregiver should help child by:

Asking child to set Timer for the estimated time needed to complete homework item.

Reminding child of the chosen Incentive.

Asking a question or questions about the topic to prepare child for task at hand.

Brainstorming with child for writing projects and writing down ideas given by child.


Children with deficits in this area may have problems with:"  Packing schoolbag morning and evening

  • Keeping order in schoolbag
  • Keeping order in school locker
  • Bringing completed homework safely back to school
  • Finding things in schoolbag
  • Keeping track of belongings
  • Organizing information in his/her head

Interventions at School

Teacher helps child pack schoolbag at end of school day.

Teacher helps child find things in schoolbag.

Teacher helps child keep track of belongings.

Teacher is aware that child may not be able to organize ideas in his/her mind and helps develop this skill.

Teacher informs parents if child loses book, etc. that is important for school.

Interventions at Home

Parent/caregiver helps child pack/unpack schoolbag until skill has been learnt.

Parent/caregiver helps child keep order in schoolbag by using colour coded materials to store material for each subject.

Parent/caregiver helps organize child's school locker at the end of each week (with the child's help).

Parent/caregiver oversees packing of schoolbag after homework is completed.

Parent is aware that child may have difficulties organizing information in head and devised ways to help him/her with this (making a list, mind map, etc.).

Time Management

Children with a deficit in this area may have trouble with:

  • Timekeeping
  • Finishing school work on time
  • Keeping to a homework schedule
  • Timing homework and breaks

Interventions at Home

Teach child to use a Timer during homework and breaks.

Parent/caregiver should help child complete a Homework Schedule, allotting a specific time period to each item of homework.

Parent should ask Teacher if child can use Timer when doing seat work at school.

Parent/caregiver needs to help set the Timer for each homework item and for the breaks between (until child does this independently).  (Very Important)

Goal Directed Persistence

Children with a deficit in this area might have problems with:

Being motivated enough to reach medium and long-term goals.

Being able to stay focused long enough to complete assignments.

Being able to persist with homework when they encounter difficulties.

Long-term writing projects as they progress through school.

Interventions at School

Ask Teacher to break down longer projects into smaller segments and to give a deadline for each segment.

Ask Teacher to give appropriate Incentives for completing seat work in class.

Ask Teacher to encourage child to ask for help when s/he encounters difficulties while completing an assignment.

Metacognition Deficit

Deficits in this area lead to difficulties:

Estimating how long homework will take.

Evaluating the quality of their work.

Verbalizing more than one solution to a problem and making the best choice.

Self-monitoring themselves while doing home or seat work.

Evaluating how they did on a test and deciding to do better next time by avoiding an identified mistake.

Interventions at School

Teacher asks child: "How long it will take to complete seat work? - etc.

Teacher asks child "How do you think you did?" or "What will you do differently next time?" and gives child time to think about it.

Teacher should provide praise for each completed element of a given task - so that the child learns the importance of completing tasks.

Teacher should often ask child: "Did you follow the directions?" and "Do you like the way the paper looks?"

Interventions at Home

Parent/caregiver praises child for completion of each item of homework.

Parent/caregiver encourages child to be reflective about quality of work, length of time needed to complete a task, etc.

Give your child a set of questions to ask him/herself when faced with a problem.

Give positive feedback to your child when you observe him/her doing something correctly. SHOW your child what FINISHED HOMEWORK looks like.

Give your child a chance to make decisions about certain things in his daily life. 

Reading Difficulties: Not Remembering

Ask your child to read the title of a book chapter and guess what s/he is going to learn in that chapter.

Ask your child to make a question out of the title or about bold-faced font in a text before beginning to read it. (This helps focus the mind on finding the answers in the text).

Ask your child to underline key words in text.

Ask your child to summarize what s/he has read and then write it down.

Encourage your child to highlight important facts/points.

If allowed, ask him/her make notes in margin.

Show your child how to make an outline of text.

Ask your child to draw main ideas in a story (one picture for each paragraph).

Role play the story with your child.

To carry out a successful homework routine such as this, parents need to:

  • Be consistent
  • Be fair but firm
  • Be positive in their focus
  • Be willing to make changes at home
  • Have all their children doing homework at the same time
  • Be organized
  • Be willing to put in a LOT of effort as they will be asking their child to do the same

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