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8 Solutions for an ADHD Child - Learning Specialist Tutor in SF Valley & LA

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

As a tutor, I have worked with ADHD and learning challenged students. Students with ADHD seemingly cannot focus and getting homework done becomes a chore for the parents and the student. Staying focussed in class can be a serious challenge and often grades begin to slip.

What is surprising to learn is that these challenges are just as frustrating for the student as they are for the parents. The student likely wants to excel in school and complete assignments quickly and correctly, but it's as if the student is not fully in control of his or her brain.

8 Solutions for an ADHD Child - Learning Specialist Tutor Troup Wood in Los Angeles

Often parents chastise ADHD students and tell them to try harder and focus more, but this does not address the problem. What they need are coping tools.

Here is a short list of ways to start helping your ADHD student. It contains strategies that have worked for me. If you are in Los Angeles, or want help online, please don't hesitate to reach out with a question about this article by emailing me at

I am located in Sherman Oaks, but serve Encino, Studio City, Brentwood, West Hollywood, Calabasas, and the surrounding areas. I have also found that online lessons are just as effective and engaging as in-person, even for ADHD students.

1. Stimuli While Studying

An ADHD student's brain is like a car, and the gasoline is the neurotransmitter dopamine. Without enough of it, the car shuts down. Dopamine, the reward drug of the brain, is refilled through stimuli and activity.

Video games, social interaction, social media, physical activity, and drug use -- legal or illegal -- are all things that can raise dopamine levels. That is why, when a student is frustrated with an assignment, or the thought of starting feels daunting, they shut down and need to escape this feeling through an activity which will raise their dopamine levels.

So, how can you refill the car and speed it towards an essay or math assignment rather than video games or Instagram? You can add in a challenge, such as sitting on a yoga ball, or using an under-desk peddle device.

Adding these items might seem counter intuitive to someone with a normally functioning brain. After all, aren't they distractions? Yes, they certainly can be, but the alternative is your children struggling with their studies and shutting down. They need this stimulus to keep their minds engaged!

2. Drugs - Good or Bad?

I get it, many parents do not want to medicate their kids. And most kids I work with do not need to be medicated. In fact, I think most people overmedicate and fail to teach effective coping mechanisms.

Drugs - good or bad? 8 Solutions for an ADHD Child - Learning Specialist Tutor Troup Wood in Los Angeles

Drugs such as ritalin and adderall can come with nasty side effects which can cause anxiety and other problems. However, they can also improve cognitive function in kids with ADHD. If your child is having a tough time, it might be worth talking to a psychiatrist about your options.

3. Setting Learning & Study Goals

If I am brought in to help a student with their ADHD, I start by asking the student why they want to do well in school. If they tell me they don't care, I ask them to rank how much they care on a scale of 1 to 10. If they say 2, I ask them why they didn't say 0. This tool forces them to find the reasons they have for motivating themself. The conversation naturally leads to talking about their life goals, and consequently their learning and schoolwork goals. What's important is these goals come from the student, not from me, a teacher, or the parent.

Whenever we come up with something, I have the student write it down. Children of any age, even high school and college, can lose track of what's motivating them. Having it written down, and taped to the wall, helps connect the student to their desire to work hard on schoolwork.

Learning goal setting - 8 Solutions for an ADHD Child - Learning Specialist Tutor Troup Wood in Los Angeles

When I'm working as a regular academic tutor with an ADHD student, I ask them to come up with the plan for the day. If we have English and math, we guess how long it will take to complete each section. This is called "chunking," when we break a large, intimidating assignment into doable chunks. For instance, nobody can simply dive into a 10 page research paper -- yikes -- but they certainly can take the first steps, such as picking a topic and finding one scholarly website about the topic. Each step, or chunk, should take less than 15 minutes, depending on the student's ability to focus.

The student will write out today's subjects, the number of questions or pages to read, and how much time they think each chunk will take. As we progress, they will cross off the activities. And after each activity, they get a 3-5 minute "brain break."

By writing the plan out themselves, they are in control of the lesson. They have already agreed to spend a certain amount of time working on their studies. As Dale Carnegie says in his book How To Win Friends and Influence People, if you want someone to do a job well, empower them more.

If the student miscalculated how long a task will take, that is great information for next time. I will remind them that they averaged 3 minutes per page last week, so we should plan for the same pace this week. The more they understand their own skillset, the better their time management will become. And what's more, they will be able to see improvement over time!

Sometimes, a student will not want to do any homework. Instead of telling them that they simply have to, I ask them what will happen if they don't. This trick can get played out, so I don't use it too often. Usually, if they don't do their homework, they will get a bad grade. Enough bad grades and they won't pass the year, and might be held back. That means losing friendships and being stuck in school for an extra year. This discussion leads back to the goals they have written down at the beginning of the year, month, or week.

4. A Word on Punishments, Boundaries, & Deadlines:

I sometimes will have to tell a particularly challenging student that if they do not want to do their work today, I don't want to waste my time, and I will leave. I never raise my voice or get angry, I simply explain that I don't want to charge their parents for time spent watching their child procrastinate.

I give them a 15 minute warning, with reminders every 5 minutes while I try to engage in discussion. If they are tired, I challenge them to a pushup contest to get their blood flowing. If they're hungry I suggest they get a snack. But if time is up, I leave. And if they change their mind as I walk out the door, I still leave. If I don't leave, I am teaching them that deadlines don't matter, that they cannot trust my word, and that my time is not valuable.

Similarly, parents can avoid setting a boundary and then breaking it. If phones are a distraction and the child agrees to give up their phone for an hour so that they can study and meet their learning goals -- that phone should not reappear for any reason during that hour! Notice how that boundary was not set as punishment, but rather in support of the student's own goals.

5. A Visual Timer

A visual timer on a teacher's iPhone, or an hourglass timer is useful to help a student know how much time is left on an assignment. This tool needs to be used together with the learning goals they have written down for the day. When they know time will be up in a few minutes, they are able to focus for the last stretch.

Other visual organizational strategies are critical. Bins, folders, and dividers help students keep track of their homework and streamline the process of storing assignments and getting out their homework to start work. These organizational strategies should be devised and labeled by the student rather than forced upon them -- because one person's organizational system can be another person's worst nightmare!

Other things to look into:

6. Vision Therapy

Sometimes, a student's eyes will not track together properly. This causes similar symptoms to ADHD. Reading is slowed and sometimes painful, and it is easy to get distracted. There are some simple visual exercises that a vision therapist can give your child to improve their ability to focus visually. This helps reading speed, comprehension, enjoyment, and mental focus.

7. Mindset

I always recommend the book Mindset by Stanford University researcher, Carol Dweck. This book discusses the difference between the fixed and growth mindsets.

Oftentimes, when a student has a fixed mindset, they are operating under the belief that talent, ability, and intelligence are fixed attributes. If they struggle with a new assignment, it will expose them as stupid. To avoid this feeling, and to avoid disappointing their parents and teachers, it makes more sense, emotionally, to procrastinate and avoid the assignment entirely.

8 Solutions for an ADHD Child - Learning Specialist Tutor Troup Wood in Los Angeles

In contrast, the growth mindset is the belief that working hard and diligently will improve one's ability, intelligence, and grades. Parents can help foster this mindset by avoiding telling their struggling child that they are lazy, or they never apply themself.

On the other hand, it is equally damaging to tell a child they succeeded on an assignment because they are brilliant, or innately smart and talented. These fixed attributes enable the fixed mindset. Instead, parents can say, "you got an A because you weren't afraid to rewrite that essay three times!" Or, "I saw how you trained (or studied) harder than the other kids; that must be why you won that competition."

If a student gets an A, of course it is natural to praise them, but praise their work ethic and the strategies they used. The truth is, if the assignment was too easy for them, that means they're not being challenged or making any mistakes they can learn from. They should know that pushing oneself and making mistakes is sometimes the best way to improve.

This is merely skimming the surface of Mindset, and you might want to read the book or listen to the audiobook to learn more. Here is a short video on the topic.

8. Therapy or Counseling

When I was a teenager in high school, my parents dragged me to see a counselor. He called himself a coach, which was much more palatable to a teenage boy. Vulnerability was a scary concept to me, and delving into my feelings, habits, and thought patterns was like learning a new language. But during our sessions, I discovered what truly mattered to me and how I could get out of my own way. I learned how to communicate my emotions effectively, which changed my relationship to my parents.

For any teen, talking about the many difficult feelings that come as a result of ADHD is nearly impossible. There is the feeling of not being in control of your own mind, and therefore your life and future. There is the feeling of disappointing your parents. And the fear that perhaps you are just stupid or lazy.

No child should have to cope with that on their own, and a licensed therapist could make a huge impact on your child's life and your relationship with your child.

Of course, if you want a tutor for your child -- a mentor who has dealt with similar challenges himself, who can help your child deal with their learning disorder -- there is no need to look further. I am here to help!

Let's set up a free consultation over the phone this week -- email me now with the day and time (afternoon) that works best for you: Or call me now at: (213) 262-9838


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