This is tough. We are in our third lockdown with no end date. Help is on it’s way in the guise of the vaccine. But we can make no plans nor receive hugs from our loved ones.
Add into the mix your attempt at getting the lessons done sent from school, juggling your own work schedules, keeping on top of chores plus the minute by minute struggle of your child with ADHD refusing to do any work.
What on earth do you do to keep from going under?
Let’s call it Home Learning rather than Home Schooling for a start. Your neurodiverse child needs things to be clear and logical. Home is home. School is school. The two cannot mix, it is confusing, doesn’t feel right and mum is mum not a teacher.
Teachers are doing an incredible job in very difficult circumstances. They have had to produce online lessons and get to grips with unfamiliar technology. I have many teacher friends and I know they are exhausted. We know that pupils have fallen behind with their learning. This is inevitable given the amount of schooling that has been missed. So teachers are under enormous pressure to deliver a full curriculum remotely.
To expect a primary school pupil with ADHD to be motivated enough to sit in front of a screen for 6 hours is unreasonable.
To expect a secondary school pupil with ADHD not to be overwhelmed, distracted or bored for 6 hours is unreasonable.
Your child with ADHD needs stimulating, fun, exciting, motivating activities to keep focussed. Your child needs movement and opportunities to talk and interact. Your child needs help with organisation and time-keeping.
From feedback I have received from families, many teachers are delivering lessons, then going offline and expecting pupils to complete the work and upload it.
This is just not happening.
Think what is your child actually able to do. How long can they reasonably focus for? Do they need longer breaks and shorter lessons? Do they need to maybe just stick to their favourite subjects? Do they need to concentrate on missed GCSE or A level coursework?
What is manageable and what is okay?
Communicate with the SENCO or Head of Year. Let them know you are all struggling.
Request perhaps that your child can have a Zoom call with a TA or Subject Teacher to go over specific work (this may be impossible due to staffing, but worth a try).
Request that your child accesses work in a different way or receives different tasks.
Request the thing that you know will re engage your child in learning. We are all experiencing a new way of doing things. Don’t be afraid to suggest something ‘out the box’ that you know will help your child feel less pressured.
In school, your child may have work that has been differentiated or adapted according to their needs. So as much as possible, the teachers should be able to set suitable and achievable tasks.
If your child is still at a stage in maths where they need equipment to help with fractions, it is of little point setting a whole sheet of equivalent fractions. This will lead to refusal, stress, tears and arguments. It is boring, bland and unachievable for a busy, buzzing ADHD brain.
Instead, ask staff to send a lesson where perhaps your child can make a pizza and divide it into fractions. Take a photo, upload it to the system. Job done. Lesson taught. Everyone happy. (And pizza for dinner)
You are not a teacher. Your job is to ensure your child is up, full of breakfast, sitting ready for Home Learning at the start of the day. If they flick between Zoom and Roadblox, then it is impossible for you to monitor. You can only do what you can do.
The teachers must be mindful that work is achievable. If that means that just for your child they have to plan separate lessons or activities, then that is what teachers must do. Afterall, this is what should be happening in the classroom.
Sources of learning
Learning may be the work that is sent home (differentiated and suitable of course). But it may also be BBC TV programmes. It may be going for a walk and investigating ice melting. It may be making a bingo game to learn French verbs. The app Caribu enables families to share stories and reading.
I also advise families that it is okay to scribe for your child if they find this a challenge. Older children may like to use the dictate function on Google sheets. Also, make sure the area they are working is free from as many distractions as possible.
Your child will only learn if they are engaged, see the purpose and find it interesting.
Every day write out a schedule. Use timers and Alexa to remind your child of the time.
Something like this….
Breakfast: High protein, no or low sugar
Home Learning: What actual lessons are happening. Be specific. ‘History’ is watching a Horrid Histories. ‘English’ is watching the brilliant Amanda Gorman at the Inauguration then making up your own poem. ‘Maths’ measuring ingredients for a cake. Remember, you shouldn’t need to come up with all these ideas. The teachers should be providing suitable activities for your child to practice their skills.
Breaks: Add many, many breaks. What happens in the breaks? My advice would be no screens until Home Learning is over. Breaks should involve movement and snacks (high protein, no or low sugar).
Lunch. Your child may like to choose their lunch from a menu (this gives them some control over their day). Can they help make it?
Go outside during lunch break to get exercise which promotes focus and concentration.
Parent Time: This is time for you. Time to get your stuff done.
Free time: When Home Learning is over, what does free time look like? Screens, Netflix, family games. Whatever helps your family relax and take off the pressure.
Bedtime: Keep to a routine and turn off screens an hour before bed.
The thing that is freaking out many of our teenagers, is the volume of subjects and work they are expected to do.
So if you can, help with organisation of the material, the files, the modules. Colour code if possible. Make a spider diagram and map it out so it’s clear and visual. Make a timetable so your child has an overall picture of what is to be done and when. This should take off some of the pressure.
This actually is the most important thing of all. This is what matters most. Your relationship with your child. If you are constantly fighting and arguing over Home Learning then your relationship is being damaged. Everyone feels stressed and emotionally charged.
Home learning is important. Catching up on coursework is vital. But establishing loving, caring relationships trumps everything.
If getting your teenager to engage in online lessons is causing hassle, then something has to change. Shouting, punishments, fighting will not help.
The stress of getting Home Learning done may be taking its toll on your child. I have heard of children who, in these passed few weeks, have developed severe symptoms of anxiety.
So keep talking about their and your feelings. We all feel scared, unsure and uncertain. These emotions are okay.
But if your child is staying in bed, shutting down, developing new unusual behaviours, then step back. Check what is going on. Totally take off the pressure.
The only way you are going to get through this period of lockdown and Home Learning is to look after yourself. Whatever that means for you. Take time out. Go for a walk. Dance. Listen to music. Exercise with Joe. Read. Cuddle the dog. Whatever it takes.