5 Important Things To Remember When Helping Teens With ADHD

Teenagers in Hong Kong that are diagnosed with ADHD often find it difficult to keep up with the demands of secondary school and typically underachieve. As an Educational Psychologist I am often asked what schools can do to help these students.

Establish a mentor or contact person (school counsellor, subject teacher, educational assistant, resource teacher) with whom the child has good rapport. Setting up regular meetings (twice a week) is suggested. The child should be checking in with this person at a specified time to discuss the requirements for each class and the progress being made on short and long term assignments. This contact person could also have contact with the child’s subject teachers to help make sure the child is keeping up with requirements.

Key Points To Remember:

1. The mentor or contact person should also keep some kind of visual records (graphs) of the student’s progress towards meeting goals (handing in assignments, favourable feedback from teachers, increases in scores on assignments that involve writing) and this should be reviewed with the student on a regular basis. Be sure to include the student in establishing goals.

2. Establish a specific time each day for homework completion. This usually works best if it can be done before the student leaves school. If homework must be completed under parents’ supervision there should also be a specific time established for completion. Try to keep to a set time limit and have the student complete whatever they can during that time. Avoid conflict over homework issues to the point where it results in negative emotions between parent and child. Keeping a graph or chart of the child’s progress and compliance in completing homework can be helpful.

3. Teachers should clearly communicate task parameters. The student should know exactly where they need to start and finish, how much is to be done and the estimated time involved to complete the task. Encourage the student to sit in the front of the room near the teacher so that you can provide regular prompting. Try to keep the student away from peers who may easily distract them. Once you have given directions for a task approach the student and confirm that they have understood and provide some extra monitoring of their progress.

4. If at all possible it can sometimes be helpful for the student to be able to access some desired activity (especially for homework) based on adequate attention to tasks and completion within time frames. This is particularly important for tasks they find difficult such as writing assignments.

5. Be positive. Research has consistently shown that children with ADHD receive many more control statements from adults than a typical child. For a teenage child with ADHD (especially one who may have gone undiagnosed for a long time) their attitude towards school and learning can sometimes be quite negative. Some of this may be due to the multiple directions and control statements as well as unfavourable feedback they have received from parents and teachers over the years. Try to be conscious of the comments that you make to the student and praise them as much as possible when they demonstrate appropriate vigilance to tasks and attentive behaviour in the classroom.

Following these guidelines will certainly help ensure a positive learning for teens with ADHD. For more information, please feel free to contact us at info@childandfamilycentre.com.hk.