ADHD, Organization, and Study Skills

Find suggestions and resources to help a child with ADHD get back on track in school.
My fifth-grader has ADHD. He has difficulty taking notes in school, writing neatly, and most importantly, remembering to take home the correct books and papers for homework assignments. It takes him a very long time to do his homework, although he is very bright and understands most of it. Mainly, his handwriting is very messy and he forgets punctuation and grammar. His written work is below what it should be. Homework has become a nightmare and his grades have gone from A's and B's to C's and D's. He isn't in special education because our school doesn't offer any assistance that we feel would help him.

I've just hired a tutor, although my son's teacher doesn't think one is needed -- she says he just isn't trying hard enough. He's taken medication daily for the past four years. I believe some type of coaching would teach him the skills and techniques that would enable him to organize himself at school and at home. We find it very difficult to get the help and guidance we need. Any suggestions?

You're probably right about your son needing some direct intervention in addition to the medication he is taking to help him get back on track in school. An excellent resource for strategies directed towards improving organizational skills, time management, reading comprehension, vocabulary development, and test-taking skills is Study Strategies Made Easy: A Practical Plan for School Success by Leslie Davis, Sandy Sirotowitz, and Harvey C. Parker. Both you and his tutor should have a look at this book for ideas to help your son.

Can your son use a computer? It would be so helpful if he could learn keyboarding skills so he could write his assignments on the computer and not by hand. Keyboard Skills by Diana Hanbury King (published by Educators Publishing Service, 1-800-435-7728) is a great book for teaching touch-typing within an alphabetic system rather than the more traditional ASDFGHJKL format. Once he knows how to locate the keys, then he can use any of the typing programs available on CD to build up speed. I especially like UltraKey Version 4 but programs like Typing Tutor and Type to Learn are also good.

You can certainly implement these strategies now, but I think it would also be a good idea to ask for a full psychoeducational evaluation for your child. Some of the difficulties he is experiencing could be due to a learning disability and not just the ADHD. If a learning disability is diagnosed, your school district would be required to provide appropriate services for him. Try calling Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders (CHADD) at 1-800-233-4050 or the Learning Disabilities Association of America at 1-888-300-6710 for assistance in getting your son the help he needs.

And don't forget to let your son's doctor know how he is doing in school lately. He may need an adjustment in the dosage or type of medication he is taking. It is critical that your son's response to medication be monitored on a regular basis.

For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.

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