Homework and ADHD

Archived Q&A and Reviews


5th grader's ADHD meds and afternoon homework

Oct 2006

My son has ADHD and takes medication to help him concentrate during the school day. It is a shorter-acting medication and generally wears off around 2-3pm. It very difficult for him to concentrate on his homework and get it done in the afternoon and evening. He is in the 5th grade and the homework is becoming more challenging and more important. We have been trying a very short acting homework dose of medication in the evening, but it is tricky to time it so that it doesn't affect his appetite for dinner, but still takes effect in time for him to get his work done, and then wear off in time for bedtime. These efforts haven't been very successful and all of us are getting very frustrated. His homework has become a huge source of stress for everyone in the family. How do other families with children with ADHD manage this? Do your children take a longer-acting medication that lasts thru the afternoon, and do they do their homework then? Or if they take a later homework dose, when do you give it to them and how does that work? I know we can't be the only family with this struggle and we need help. I would really appreciate knowing how others manage it. With 5th grade homework being this tough to get thru, the prospect of middle school and high school is overwhelming. We really need to come up with a better way for him to handle his homework. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.
Frustrated mom

As an adult with ADHD and a coach, I have a tip that might help your son. Perhaps you can work with him to teach him how to break down his homework assignments into small pieces. Then each day the first 15 minute attention span would go to the breakdown, then he can take a break and do a completely different activity (sometimes only another five to ten minutes is needed) then go back and spend 15 minutes on the first homework chunk. The ''small bites'' and permission to rotate through other activities or even different types of tasks might work for him sydney

Ask your MD about a longer acting medication. We use Concerta which lasts about 10-12 hours. The shorter acting meds. were giving us too many peaks and valleys and moodiness in addition to being harder to manage. Our MD really thought Concerta would work better and he was right. best wishes

The leap in homework keeps increasing in amount and complexity, steadily from 4th grade! My son is in 5th grade - and he struggles too with homework and keeping track of assignments, projects being due at different times. Partially due to his age and wanting more independence - homework becomes quite a dramatic event in our household too! We're still trying to figure out how best to deal with this. I wonder also how he's going to manage in middle school.

I don't have specifc advice for dealing with ADHD medication/strategies - but I'm wondering if you've asked your son's teacher/school for accommodations - perhaps resource so he can do part of his homework at school and get help there, or a modification in the amount of work assigned - does he have an IEP or 504? Have you talked with his teacher? Some parents I know have their child work with tutors - often times they interact better with tutors. I've also heard of educational therapists who work specifically with ADHD kids. Would you be able to have your son's medication switched to a longer acting one or change the timing of when he takes his medication - so perhaps he takes another dosage at school? Have you checked the Schwablearning website? There's alot of information there and also supportive parents with alot of expertise. Check out http://www.schwablearning.org Hope this helps! Good luck!

My daughter is in 7th grade and just starting taking medication herself this year. She takes a long acting formula, but with afterschool activities many days she isn't able to start homework before 6:00. I try to give her incentives to get her homework done as soon as possible -- playing a computer game or something like that -- but it is still often a struggle. I realized too, that nagging her to finish her homework by a certain time didn't really work, and just raised the stress level for everyone. So I try to give her some space to relax before she gets started on her work. Remember that this is not all about the medication. We are still new to this process ourselves, but I am realizing that it requires understanding how my daughter learns, and how keeping her interested and motivated requires a completely different approach than will work for her more typical sister.

I suggest talking to your child's teacher. I always found that if I had an honest talk with my daughter's teachers about the stress that homework was causing, enlisting them as an ally, they always offered accomodations of some sort, as long as they knew she was doing some of the work and understanding the concepts. Maybe there is a different kind of assignment, a more interactive or hands on approach, that might be a more suitable way of learning the material. Don't just struggle through this alone. I've never met a teacher who wants to hear that their homework assignments are causing stress in the family Veteran of the homework wars

We give our son the 10 mg Ritalin L.A. (long-acting), and that provides enough focus to get him through school and homework time. The downside is the lack of appetite, as you mentioned. We give him a small snack after school, a medium-sized ''dinner'' around 6 p.m., and a larger ''bedtime snack'' around 8 p.m. Sometimes he doesn't get sleepy until 10 p.m.! This is not ideal, obviously, so I'm interested in how other parents respond --Oakland mom

sounds like you need to move to a once a day, longer acting med for your boy. homework will only get more intense and he will need to have all cylinders firing at 6p to get through without major stress. my ADD son is in 6th gr at a private school where homework is definetly a factor and he is doing very well. this woudl not be possible without his morning pill. he does not eat lunch regularly as a result of his meds, but i give him a HUGE brekkie complete with bangers and eggs - high fat, doctor's orders - to kick off the day just before he takes his pill and later he eats a large dinner with only neglible snacking in between. The lack of midday appetitie is a hard pill for mom to swallow but we've found a good balance we feel. As needed he takes his med on saturday to get through any homework project, but generally we try to keep the weekends med free. Good luck. nicole

Our son is 13 and has ADHD. We have been through a lot of different medication plans over the years. What we have done for quite a few years now is working well. He takes a long acting stimulant in the morning and a short acting booster at noon. This takes him through afternoon homework. He must do his homework right after school. We allow him to eat dinner later than most children. He usually gets hungry between 7 and 7:30. We stop TV and games one hour before sleep. Research has shown that this helps to quiet the mind in all children, but especially kids with ADHD. By the way, he eats a big breakfast and no lunch to speak of. We have never had a weight problem with him on this schedule. Anne

I found two things that improved the homework situation. Switching to the timed release formula of a medication so that it lasts more like 8-10 or even 12 hours makes it possible to still have that concentration in the afternoon or even early evening. Also, I found that as my daughter matured, she just seemed to be able to become more independent in her homework. That happened in grade 6. ak

We have a 4th grader with similar issues, and have struggled with homework for the last couple of years. His meds don't seem to help a ton by the time he gets home and we have chosen not to supplement them (he is now on concerta). I swore I would not be the homework monitor again this year and challenge/ruin my relationship/feelings with my kid. Last year he had a tutor at our house, which helped some, but this year we sent him to Raskob for tutoring, which lasted all of two weeks, since he totally rebelled. He has been doing homework club in the ams, and the work is getting done, albeit in a half-assed manner. Someone has suggested hiring a high school kid - a boy for our boy - to come over two times a week to help, hang out, be a cool friend. That seems like it could be the best solution, I just have to make it happen. I appreciate your struggles and look forward to others' responses Tired Mom

It's hard, and no wonder you're frustrated. To answer your question, before the school year started, we changed our 7th grader from Ritalin to Concerta, mostly to address the late afternoon/homework slump. The lack of appetite and insomnia side effects seem manageable, although I must say I often have him skip his medication on weekends (I'm not recommending this because I haven't even told our doctor and I'm not sure he'd approve) and I'm astounded at how much he eats. You didn't say exactly what the problems with homework are. I play a very active role in his homework, not doing it for him, but making sure he knows what to do and actually does it. If your son isn't clear about his assignments, for example, you'll have to set up a way to get that info from the teacher. And incentives are good - when our son is done he gets to play computer games, so that's his motivation to stay focused and finish. Good luck and I hope you get some good suggestions. another mom dealing with ADD

You are so right! Every family struggles with this! We had the same issue and worked with our son's doctor until we finally switched to strattera which doesn't have that same impact on appetite and sleeplessness. Talk to your doctor. (Ours is Brad Berman and we love him.) Maybe a change of meds will help. Good luck! mom who has been there

My son takes ''Concerta'' on school days. It lasts 12 hours, supposedly. We used to have a problem at home when it wore off around dinner time, but the coming down effect seems to have evened out over time. It did help with after-school homework.

It also seems to work as an appetite suppressant, so this may be a problem with a younger child. My son seems to get plenty to eat anyway (a teenager) but is just not hungry at all until it wears off on school days. We make him eat breakfast before taking it in the morning, and it usually wears off by dinnertime, so he gets two good meals (and doesn't eat as much junk in the afternoon as some teenagers). You could ask your doctor if it might work/be safe for your child another mom

You might consider a trial of Concerta, the long-acting medication. It lasts 10-12 hours and is designed to have a lesser effect at lunchtime. Works for my daughter and is available in very low doses so you can start slow as you see what works for him Parent of ADDer