Structure is an important tool for Rae-Anne Culp and her son Jack when it comes to managing his severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
“Jack does much better when he knows what is coming because of the set schedule,” Rae-Anne says. “Although he can’t really tell time, he’s getting better at recognizing a time and knowing when something is supposed to get done, like brushing his teeth at 6:45 a.m.”
After maintaining the all-important schedule with camp during the summer, she began preparing for the first day of school in early August so there were few, if any, breaks in the routine.
“A few weeks before school starts, we started talking about going back to school on a daily basis,” she says. “We talked about what he needed for school supplies and what the next grade would be like.”
That attention to schedule carries through the school year, and Rae-Anne offers other tips that may help, such as:
- Setting goals and rewards for the school year. This could be academic or behavioral, but should always be reasonable and attainable for your child, such as finishing homework on time, getting to bed on time, etc. Rewards could include granting extra media time or staying up an hour later on the weekend and can be reassessed periodically throughout the school year.
- Meeting with the teacher when needed to talk about how you can best work with him or her to help your child learn. Make sure to ask about the teacher’s homework expectation and how best to communicate to keep track of school work.
- Following a study schedule. Talk about whether your child would rather have down time after school before tackling homework or dive right into the work and relax later on. Then stick to that agreement.
- Scheduling fun time. This could be as simple as playing catch in the backyard or taking a bike ride around the neighborhood. It strengthens your bond and helps reinforce that you’re a source of support for your child.
Carol Baum-Gupta, MD, of the New England Pediatric Institute of Neurodevelopment (NEPIN) at Memorial Hospital, where Jack and Rae-Ann get the support they need for his ADHD and OCD, adds that the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests consistency is the key to school success. This includes:
- Getting a consistent amount of quality sleep helps children function in the daytime. “This includes shutting off all screens – TV, computer, and others – 30 minutes before bedtime,” Dr. Baum-Gupta says.
- Eating a nutritious breakfast to help them concentrate.
- Developing good homework and study habits, including creating a consistent work space that is quiet and without distractions.
- Turning to planners, checklists, timers, and parental supervision if needed to help children organize and focus on homework.