How To Help A Teenager With ADHD Prepare For Exams?

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

Teen age is not an easy time, both for the teenagers as well as their parents. What if this turbulent time is even more complicated by a condition such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)? How would parents of a teenager with ADHD help him/her to perform well at school, and do his/her exams well? Read on to understand some tips to help parents of teenagers with ADHD.

1. You cannot leave them alone

Teenagers like to be given some autonomy and freedom to make decisions on their own, and to manage their own lives. However, when ADHD enters the scene, things are not so straightforward. The typical skills that you need to ace an exam, such as organizing your study material, deciding on a plan for revision and focusing on study material for an extended period of time, are all difficult for the ADHD mind. This means that you cannot leave your teenager with ADHD to manage their exams one their own. They need your help.

2. Give them a suitable place without distractions

Children with ADHD are easily distracted with internal and external stimuli. This means that a teenager with ADHD cannot sit down to study in a room where the Television is on, or there are other people talking. The mobile phone is also a distraction.  However, teens typically react violently when their phones are taken away. If you make sure that all they want to do is listen to music while they are studying, it is fine.

3. Allow some movement

Most teens with ADHD cannot sit still if the activity they are doing is not very interesting, like studying for exams. So, allow some movement and fidgeting. Most of them need at least 15 minutes of free moving time for every one hour of studying. For some, even one hour of sitting still is too much. The point is that there should be breaks interspersed with studying time.

4. Accept the mess, but incentivize the cleaning

Most, if not all, teenagers with ADHD will have a messy room and a messy study table. Parents will do well to accept that they will be disorganized. In fact, part of the disorganization is because of the age. The ADHD just exacerbates it. One of the ways in which the mess can be reduced is to give monetary rewards. For example, getting all their notes in order and filed will earn them one dollar.  Cleaning their study table will earn them one dollar and so on. The ADHD brain cannot respond to long term rewards, but they do respond to short term ones.

5. Help them get colorful

The ADHD brain easily gets distracted, and even on the previous day of the exam you might see your teenager daydreaming, staring into space. So, you need to monitor their methods of studying. Just reading the text book will not work. They might be able to focus on the first paragraph, but by the second paragraph their mind will be somewhere else. Therefore, use a multisensory approach. Let them draw mind maps with exciting colors, and make charts as they study. Highlighters, colour pens, plenty of plain paper are all extremely necessary for a teenager with ADHD to prepare for exams.

6. Engage a study buddy/tutor

Many teenagers with ADHD find it hard to focus on the task at hand. Their mind wanders, and their body itches to move. It is helpful if someone sits with them, to keep them on the task. It can be anyone who wants to help the child. If your financial situation permits, it will be very beneficial to engage a tutor, who can not only keep the child’s mind on task, but also help out if there are doubts.

7. Supplements

There are many studies that have come to the conclusion that supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids are good for ADHD. Usually it is given in the form of fish oil. In addition, zinc, iron, magnesium and vitamin D supplements also may work well, especially for teenagers who are fussy with eating, and those who do not like to go out in the sun.

8. Never lose the personal connection

Sometimes, when a child is diagnosed with a condition such as ADHD, parents take a backseat and give a more active role to the child’s doctor and the therapist. This is a mistake. The child, who is a teenager, still needs the parent to give unconditional support and guidance. For the therapist and the doctor, it is just another teenager with ADHD, but for you, it is your child who has the ADHD.


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