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  • Writer's pictureTy Bailey

The Benefits of Homeschooling a Child with ADHD (or ADD)

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

Having kids always comes with its own set of challenges, but having your child be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD can be a difficult issue to manage. Here's why homeschooling may be your best option.

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactive disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that typically begins in childhood and remains active well into adulthood. Its calmer counterpart, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), has many similarities but functions a bit differently regarding how its symptoms are presented.

ADHD has become one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions in younger children, but when it comes to the specific risk factors or causes that lead to its development, those aspects of the disorder are still unknown aside from genetics playing a notable role in the matter.

What ADHD Can Look Like

Most people hear "ADHD" and think of a child that simply bounces off the walls. Although hyperactivity is definitely a significant component, it's not the only symptom of the disorder.

Kids with ADHD can experience a variety of symptoms, and they may not look at all like what you would expect. Is your kid unable to concentrate, becoming highly irritable and having explosions of rage when interrupted? Are they unable to complete simple tasks from constantly having their mind (and thereby their bodies as well) wander instead of just doing that one simple thing you asked them to do 45 minutes ago? Do they make a lot of careless mistakes that just don't make sense to the average person, or do they struggle with impulsiveness and taking absurd risks? Does your child never stop talking?

All of these traits are what ADHD can look like in a child, and it's easy for them to be simply labeled as reckless, lazy, or aggressive instead of receiving a proper diagnosis and getting the appropriate treatment to help them function in daily life.

Our Experience with ADHD

My oldest has always been a jabber-jaws, and I've joked forever about how she "came out of the womb talking." She literally, pretty much, did. In just her first few months, she was making sounds and trying to talk far more than any baby I've ever seen before or after she came into existence, and it's only amplified over the past decade. Talking all day, talking to anyone at all, talking about anything whatsoever, and even talking in her sleep. The mouth never stops. Even if she's in trouble for something and has been told to be quiet, that mouth just keeps on going.

She's always been relatively smart (the early communication helped a lot with this, I think), and she did well in daycare and pre-K as a toddler and excelled in her first few years of homeschooling. Around the age of 7 though, she started having trouble completing tasks. Kids are notoriously easy to distract, but this was unusual for her. She would go to use the bathroom and disappear for 20 or more minutes at a time. I'd go to check on her and she would be completely spaced out and staring at the wall, almost like she were in a trance. I'd leave her to work on some schoolwork by herself while I did other tasks around the house, and although she used to be able to finish up a few worksheets or a small project and us review it when I was done on my end, I'd pass by and she'd just be staring out the window or staring at the wall again.

I assumed that maybe she was just going through a weird growth spurt and was overly tired or something, but the issues never improved. Even when working with her one-on-one, she wasn't able to pay attention to the work in front of her nor any other daily tasks. We consulted her pediatrician and were referred to mental health specialists that ended up diagnosing her with ADD at the time. She wasn't very hyper or anything, just a space cadet. She got some medication and began play therapy to help work on learning some coping skills, and we carried on.

Within a year, it rapidly escalated. We have some mental health issues in our family's genetics anyway, but this went from 0 to 100 so fast that it was scary. The hyperactivity aspect of her eventual progression to ADHD kicked in, but hers was pure aggression. She was constantly "on the go," irritable, high-strung, and raging about nearly everything. It was what I imagined the horrifying teenager years would be like, but she was only 8, so it was a bit too early for that. Back to the doctor we went, and it's been an ongoing multi-year struggle to find balance ever since. Therapy, medication, the whole works—and she's improving but still struggling a good deal of the time. (The month when transitioning her care to another team occurred and she ran out of meds was one of the most stressful periods of our entire lives.)

However, this is when homeschooling has become a huge blessing in our case and why it may also be a good option if your child is struggling greatly with ADHD or any other mental or physical health concerns.

How Homeschooling Can Help

There may be different rules and requirements for homeschooling depending upon where you're located, but generally, you have a significant amount of freedom when it comes to your schedule and curriculum. With a child who can't simply sit down and do whatever is in front of them at any given hour of the day, this is a huge benefit for parents of kids with ADHD and other concerns.

Custom Curriculums

Every kid has a different learning style, and one of my favorite benefits of homeschooling has been having the ability to figure out my daughter's learning style and adjust her schoolwork accordingly. Due to her ADHD, she still struggles to focus and fully complete things without constant supervision and prodding, but I've at least been able to choose certain workbooks and materials that fit better with her attention span and reduced ability to retain information.

By being the sole individual that determines what she learns (as long as I simultaneously meet state requirements), I can also add supplementary materials when needed. For example, she reads 24/7 and has read nearly everything in our local library, but when it comes to school-related reading, she's struggled with being able to summarize the content or answer questions about what she's read afterward. For this current year's schoolwork, she now has a bunch of mini-workbooks (just a few extra pages per week) added onto her reading subject that have greatly helped her improve her ability to retain information and use that information as needed to improve her grades and overall schoolwork quality.

In a standard school setting, they may make accommodations for kids who have certain mental or physical issues that impact their ability to learn like their classmates, but an entire year's worth of material can't be altered in a way to fit every single child in the room.

Making Your Own Schedule

Trying to force a child with ADHD to sit still for numerous hours is about like trying to wrestle an anaconda covered in baby oil: it's just not going to go very well.

With homeschooling, you can adjust your daily education schedule to meet your child's needs. Not every kid can function early in the morning, and some kids are too tired to pay attention to very much later in the day. Making your own schedule for learning is a huge benefit when it comes to providing your child with all of the necessary energy-burst breaks and times to decompress before getting back to work.

If my daughter were in public school, she wouldn't have that one-hour break to get a snack and go run in the backyard like a crazy person with the dog. She wouldn't have the opportunity to burn off her energy to be able to calm down and focus on her work upon coming back inside, nor would she be allowed such an opportunity whenever needed. Sometimes she's up early and takes that wild-child break around 10:00 am, and other days, she won't bother until around 1:00 pm. It varies, and we are luckily able to have the freedom to modify her schedule to meet her mental and physical health needs no matter how much they fluctuate on a daily basis.

Accommodating Doctor Appointments

With the scheduling benefit in mind, this is also really great when it comes to medical care. Often, public schools have strict hours, and a child will receive tardies or absences that impact their annual attendance, grades, and more.

With homeschooling, you don't have to worry about rushing after school has let out to somehow make it to a doctor's appointment in time before they close for the day. You'll be able to schedule your appointment whenever works best for you and your family and get your child proper medical care far more quickly than if you were only able to set up appointments after 3 pm during the school months.

With transitioning my daughter's mental health care over to a new team after moving and having to redo all of the testing, intake, and other related appointments that we can't do remotely, it would likely have taken us even longer to get it all set up if our schedule was more restricted. However, homeschooling and adjusting her education schedule as needed to accommodate all of the new appointments has been fantastic for helping us to get them over with quickly and make sure her learning isn't impacted by having to drive all over our part of the state to all of her different doctors.

The convenience of homeschooling and determining our own schedules has also been great when making adjustments to medication. Nausea, stomach cramps, dizziness, or other weird side effects? Those would be rough to manage in a public setting with strict rules and time constraints; but at home, we can just delay her schoolwork schedule by an hour or two until she feels better and still get all of the material completed just fine.

(As another added bonus, when our household managed to catch Covid this past year, my oldest daughter was the only one who didn't really get sick, so she was still able to stay home and stay on top of her scheduled schoolwork while the rest of us were getting whooped by the virus. If she weren't homeschooled during this period, she would have had to miss two weeks or more of school and get very far behind if distance learning wasn't available either.)

Treatment Plans and the Importance of Professional Help

If your child is displaying symptoms of ADD or ADHD, it's important that you seek out the advice of a trusted pediatrician regarding whether they should pursue any testing to rule out the condition or if something else is at play regarding your child's behavior or ability to focus.

For more information regarding ADHD, you can check out the CDC's website here.

If you don't currently have a pediatrician to treat your child, ZocDoc can help you find options close to where you live, and their website lets you narrow down the options based upon your insurance type and what is accepted at various practices.

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