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My ADHD Child Refuses To Do Schoolwork. What Should I Do?

November 3, 2022
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    "My ADHD child refuses to do schoolwork. What should I do?" This is a common question among parents of students with ADHD. The good news is that there are changes your family can make to help. 

    In this article, we'll discuss how ADHD impacts schoolwork and how solutions such as limiting distractions, mixing learning with pleasure, and scheduling study time in a way that's beneficial to your child can help. Then, we will go over additional challenges that might affect kids with ADHD who are struggling in school.

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    Does ADHD make it hard to do schoolwork?

    ADHD makes it harder to stay focused, which no doubt affects schoolwork. However, ADHD is more than that, and it can be hard to understand from the outside. Many ADHD symptoms directly impact functioning at school. For adults, similar problems may show up at work. Take inattention symptoms as an example:

    • Failure to give attention to detail or making careless mistakes.
    • Difficulty following through with instructions.
    • Trouble holding attention during tasks or play.
    • Seeming as though one is not listening when spoken to directly.
    • Challenges with organization.
    • Reluctance to engage in or avoidance of tasks that require sustained mental attention (like homework or schoolwork). ADHD and school avoidance entirely can happen.
    • Losing items necessary for activities and tasks.
    • Being distracted easily.
    • Forgetfulness or memory problems.

    Hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms can also affect kids at school, as well as during homework time. These signs include:

    • Excessive talking.
    • Leaving one's seat in situations where remaining seated is expected.
    • Running or climbing in situations where doing so is inappropriate.
    • Acting as though one's "always on the go" or is "driven by a motor."
    • Interrupting or intruding on other people's activities and conversations.
    • Blurting out answers before a question has been completed.
    • Fidgeting, squirming in one's seat, or tapping of the hands and feet
    • Difficulty waiting for one's turn.
    • Trouble taking part in leisure and other activities quietly.

    ADHD isn't a character flaw, and people with the disorder aren't doing these things on purpose. After all, with ADHD, there are marked differences in the brain. Treatment can help, as can at-home and in-school support. Once you identify that your child has challenges with homework or school assignments, it gives you the opportunity to help them overcome them. If your ADHD child is failing school or struggling, read our tips to help below.

    Remember that you don't have to have every symptom of ADHD to receive a diagnosis. Discover more about the different types of ADHD here.

    How can I help my ADHD child do schoolwork?

    Getting a child with ADHD to listen and do tasks like schoolwork and homework can be tricky. Most kids would rather watch TV or play as it is, but with ADHD, the battle can be even more significant. One way to find suggestions that work is to look at some of the techniques and accommodations that help kids with ADHD in school, as they may also help with homework time, too. For example, you might give your child multiple breaks or let them work in short bursts, provide time to move around in between study sessions, implement reward systems, or sit with them while they work on assignments and offer guidance or encouragement as needed. These are all similar to the accommodations for ADHD you might see in a school setting.

    Where do you start, though? Let's go more into depth about what parents can do to help their children focus on and complete tasks.

    Note: If your child struggles with school assignments or other tasks, Joon can help. Joon is a game specifically created for children with ADHD and their parents. Kids receive points and finish missions by completing tasks set by the parents, which allows them to care for a virtual pet of their choice in the game. Many parents have seen their child build better habits and become more motivated and autonomous with Joon. Try a 7-day free trial here.

    Getting Your Child To Do Tasks

    Homework and school assignments are only two examples of tasks that people with ADHD might have trouble with. Here are some quick tips to get your child to initiate and complete tasks such as school assignments when they are crying or refusing to do it.

    Limit Distractions

    Limit distractions to help your child avoid getting sidetracked. First, determine what tends to distract your child most when they work on assignments. Is it sounds from the TV? Toys? What about items on the table where they sit down to work? Then, remove those distractions. White noise may be beneficial and even calming, but for the most part, noises in the home can be highly distracting, so keep this in mind.

    Engage your child

    People with ADHD don't necessarily just struggle with staying focused. It is also common to have trouble initiating tasks, which can certainly be the case when it comes to schoolwork. Having another person there during a task can really help people with ADHD, so sit with your child as they work on school assignments to engage them. Prepare to re-engage your child gently if they get off track. Make sure that you remain calm and patient.

    Simplify instructions

    Break instructions down into small, easy-to-follow steps. When tasks are brief and come with a fast reward (e.g., "you can play outside afterward,") your child is a lot more likely to follow through. Spend time with your child going over an assignment's instructions little by little. If there is a difficult problem in their assignment, walk them through it.

    Mix pleasure with learning

    When you mix pleasure with learning, there's extra motivation for your child to engage with school assignments. This might mean that you implement strategies such as a reward system (e.g., a sticker chart, time with electronics post-homework time, etc.). Or, it could mean that you use strategies to make the lesson itself more fun. Parents able to sit with their children while they work on assignments might read the instructions in an animated fashion or make a game out of the assignment.

    Additionally, don't hesitate to implement external tools that can support kids with ADHD. A game like Joon is a great way for children to mix pleasure with schoolwork and other tasks. With the app, kids complete not just schoolwork but other goals a parent might set, such as making breakfast, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, or putting the dishes away.

    Try Joon App

    The Joon app is designed for kids between the ages of six and twelve who live with ADHD. Many families say that it helps improve their child-parent relationship, boosts their self-esteem, and makes tasks less stressful. Kids are often drawn to games, and what sets Joon apart is that it aids real-life functioning. 

    Now, how does it work?

    How Joon Works

    Games and gaming devices are emerging as forms of support for ADHD. In fact, in 2020, the FDA approved the use of the first video game-based digital therapeutic for kids with an ADHD diagnosis. Joon is a new kind of video game explicitly designed to help children with ADHD complete tasks. In the app, parents assign age-appropriate tasks that children must complete in order to take care of their pet, called a Doter, in the game.

    Since a child must complete tasks to get what they need to care for the Doter, it motivates them for school to get each task done. Parents can add tasks (also known as quests) themselves or select recommended tasks through the app. The point of Joon is to make tasks fun.

    Features of Joon

    Occupational therapists, school teachers, and psychologists all back Joon. The Joon app is safe to use, and parents are in control. Here are some standout features of Joon:

    • Joon supports executive functioning and independence in kids with ADHD who may otherwise struggle with daily routines and tasks.
    • 90% of kids who use Joon complete all of their assigned tasks
    • Joon has a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. 

    Joon sends reminders to your child to help them stick to their routine and goals for the day so that parents don't have to, and it is effective almost immediately. Every task in the game is positive, supporting confidence and well-being in children with ADHD. 

    Test-drive Joon for 7 Days

    If you're ready to try Joon, you're in luck. It's easy to get started, and when you download the app, you get a 7-day free trial.

    Break up study time

    Plan study time in short bursts rather than one long session. In part, the reason you want to break up study time is similar to why you might want to break large tasks or long-term projects into smaller pieces. Lengthy work is intimidating, and kids with ADHD are more likely to stay focused, attentive, productive, and happy if it's approached in smaller chunks. 

    Furthermore, breaking up study time means that kids will have breaks, which is vital when it comes to ADHD. One thing that can be helpful is to add physical activity to these breaks, as exercise is known to support school performance in children with ADHD. Even more, it is shown that when people study in smaller chunks of time, they retain information better.

    How much time should you set aside? The amount of time may vary from child to child, but it should not extend past 45 minutes at once. Even those without ADHD find that their brain loses steam if they attempt to focus for too long. Short intervals of study time dispersed over 4-5 days per week will likely come with better results than attempting to get a child to study for hours per day.

    Stick to schedule

    Create a schedule for your child that includes a certain amount of time set aside for assignments. Stick to the schedule meticulously. In time, the schedule will start to feel natural. Kids will grow to understand that the certain time of day you designate for studying is meant for just that. When you implement a new schedule or routine, it can be difficult to adjust to at first, so be mindful that it might be a process to get your child to sit down and work on assignments initially. It should get easier and come with less of a fight the more consistent and unwavering you are. We've talked a little bit before about how vital routines can be for the ADHD brain, and this is an excellent example.

    A reminder system may be useful, especially at first. You might use alarms, an app like Joon, or something else, to remind a child of the schedule.

    Talk with your child's teacher

    If your child struggles in class or with homework, it's important to communicate with their teacher regularly. Together, you can create solutions and gain an understanding of what's going on, as well as any next steps you might want to try to support your child's education. Take note of the resources for kids with ADHD that your child may benefit from, such as 504 plans and IEPs, that allow for accommodations. Tutoring for a subject that your child struggles with may be advantageous in relevant circumstances.

    Seek treatment

    Treatment options for ADHD, such as medication and behavior therapy, can help students with ADHD listen more attentively, begin and complete tasks, self-regulate, and curb potentially disruptive behavior or symptoms in class. If your child isn't currently receiving treatment and you feel that it's something they may benefit from, have a conversation with their pediatrician or another member of their care team.

    Common Reasons To Not Do Homework

    We talked about the direct impact that ADHD symptoms can have on homework and schoolwork, but there are other possible factors, too. Shame and trouble with executive functioning are common reasons why a kid with ADHD may refuse to do homework. Behavioral problems might make homework time challenging for parents. Similarly, comorbid diagnoses like learning disabilities, which are more prevalent among kids, teens, and adults with ADHD, can undoubtedly lead to struggles with homework. With the proper treatment and support, people with ADHD can thrive, and it is possible for kids with ADHD to improve their experience at school. Don't give up, and if problems persist, make sure to speak with a professional for guidance. 


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.