From having to explore a new building to meeting new peers, the transition to high school can be both exciting and scary for kids. For teens with ADHD, autism, or other executive function disorders, it can also be a stressful new challenge.
Luckily, with some preparation and skill-building, you can help your child’s transition be less stressful. Below, we outline some strategies for helping your child find their best path forward as they start their new journey.
Set Up a Schedule
It’s easy to get overwhelmed in high school for any student. However, teenagers with ADHD may find it even more difficult. Your child will have a breadth of classes, packed after-school schedules, and potentially participate in sports. One way to help ensure that your child doesn’t miss a task is by helping them set up a schedule. Those who struggle with executive functions can find that schedules restore a sense of calm and confidence, as they can approach tasks one at a time.
What Form of Schedule Should You Use?
Schedules can be utilized in many different formats — calendars on phones, apps that organize tasks, and even an old-fashioned planner. Encourage your child to use at least two forms of a schedule, such as their calendar app on their phone and a highly visible wall calendar or whiteboard above their desk.
What Goes on a Schedule?
An effective schedule includes steps to complete assignments and due dates. For example, if your child has an essay with a one-week turnaround, then they should schedule time early in the week for research. The next day should be dedicated to outlining a draft, while the following day should be dedicated to writing the essay. Make sure that they schedule in time for revisions as well.
Luckily, most assignments will be given a few weeks out, so your child should have even more time to schedule different portions of assignments. Time management can be a hard skill to keep consistent, so remember to talk through assignments with your child to help them understand how much time may be needed for different steps.
Help your teen with their schedule by encouraging routines. Start by sitting down together to complete homework at the same time each day. This will help your child build a routine and carve time out for homework, while also fostering a connection between you and your child.
Improve Study Habits
Everyone has a different style of studying. For those with executive function disorders, it can be especially difficult to form successful study habits. Encourage your child to break down complex assignments into sections of studying and also encourage them to take breaks when they need them.
Study habits, such as the Pomodoro method, can be particularly helpful. In this method, your child studies for a set interval of time, such as 25 minutes, and then takes a short break of 5-10 minutes to focus on a different task. You can also encourage organization techniques as well. If your child is more of a visual learner, aspects like using brightly colored highlighters and post-it notes can be a big help.
Help your child create goals for themselves for the school year. Remember, overarching goals for the year are great, but smaller goals within the larger ones are easier to reach and use as benchmarks of their progress. For example, if their goal is an A in math, then they can set up sub-goals of turning in assignments on time, getting above a certain score on each sequential quiz, and studying for a certain number of hours a week.
You can be your child’s most effective learning partner while they are in high school. Encourage them to follow their interests and to work in a way that they find helpful for their mind.
Communicate With Teachers
Discussing an autism or ADHD diagnosis with your child’s teachers is an excellent step that will set both your child and teachers up for success. Tell their teachers any habits you’ve noticed, such as losing focus quickly. Provide tips that help your child focus at home, such as providing extra time on a test. Additionally, ask teachers to let you know if they notice any other habits your child may have throughout the day to help them improve their learning at home.
Let your child know that you’ve reached out to their teacher or do it alongside your child reaching out on their own. This way, your child will see that you are acting as their partner in learning.
Consider Executive Function Coaching
When we struggle with executive functioning, it can be hard to make a plan and stick to it for ourselves. An executive function coach can work one-on-one with your child to build a schedule, learn organizational tips, and tackle goal-setting.