Parents often find that dealing with their child who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, can be frustrating, tiring, and confusing – but it’s worth the effort. Patience, understanding, and communication are the tools needed to help your child move from struggle to success. 

Feeling the frustration 

“Will you please pay attention?” 

If you’re a parent of a child with ADHD, that’s a question you probably have asked countless times, with various levels of exasperation. Maybe that was enough to pull the child’s focus back to the task at hand – for a few minutes, or seconds. Then the cycle resumes. 

“People get frustrated,” says Lawrence Kloth, co-founder of Reading Success Plus.  

“Sometimes we have a situation in tutoring where they’re being a space cadet, not really paying attention. You’re like, ‘Wake up! Where are you?’ Then they are, ‘Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.’ 

“That’s just the nature of having ADHD. They get lost in their own little world sometimes. They don’t mean to do it. But I found out, having ADHD myself, that it’s tough to focus, especially on things you don’t like to do. It’s like a light switch, going on and off.” 

The flip side of this inattention is hyperfocus, when someone with ADHD becomes really interested in something. Extremely interested. 

“They become really focused in, and then the world is tuned out. They might work on something for six or seven hours at a time, becoming so locked in that they get lost in it and forget about everything else.” 

Lawrence likens this to driving a sports car. ”You’re missing first, second, third gears, then you jump right to fourth or fifth. It’s 100 percent or nothing. 

“On one hand, this can be annoying to you as a parent if the child is tuning out what they need to be doing. But if you can harness that hyperfocus and the talent that goes with it, what they do is going to be incredible. It’s an example of the tremendous gifts that can go along with ADHD.” 

Patience, please 

People with ADHD, especially when they are younger, often don’t have the patience to work through a task. “If it doesn’t come easily, they don’t want to do it,” Lawrence says, “They tend to get frustrated easily, and that makes them very animated sometimes.” 

For example, if the student has a math project for homework, they might barely get started before they say, “I’m done. I can’t do this.” 

“Wait a minute,” the parent will reply. “You worked two minutes on this. It’s supposed to take a half-hour. You are not done.”  

Too often, frustration, conflict and anger then wallow everyone involved. That’s understandable, Lawrence says, but this is the time to cool down, take your time and help the student plow through the work. Regular breaks, turning on music, and using a fidget all may relax the student and make the assignment less stressful for parent and child alike. 

Encourage your child’s learning style 

There are students who, when given a reading assignment, will pick up the book, sit down, and quietly read until the work is complete. If your child has ADHD, they might not fit that description. That doesn’t mean they won’t do the work, and it doesn’t mean they won’t do the work well. It just means that their style of learning – a kinetic, active process – is different and probably unfamiliar.  That kid with their nose quietly buried in a book might be learning, but the one bouncing on an exercise ball with music blaring through headphones — that child might be learning, too. 

Every student is different, ADHD or not. But here are some things parents can try to help their students both at home and school. 

Turn on the tunes: Music often helps people with ADHD keep their focus. Let your student play their favorite tunes and you’ll probably see a higher level of concentration. Listening through headphones may have another benefit: noise-canceling headphones may eliminate some other distractions. If the child doesn’t like headphones, find background music or sounds that appeal to them.  

“When I was in high school, there was a teacher who allowed us to have music (on headphones) when we were working,” Lawrence says. “This classroom was silent – people just worked to get things done. It was amazing to see. The music allowed the kids to focus on what they needed to focus on.” 

No need to sit still: Kids with ADHD aren’t going to sit quietly. Fidget devices, bouncy balls to sit on, and frequent breaks to move around all will help the student focus. 

“ADHD kids are kinesthetic learners,” Lawrence says. “They have to move to learn, especially when they’re young. Our tutors use balls and fidgets, and they’re great tools for our kids because it allows them to focus a little bit.  

“It’s multisensory. They’re moving around and using their hands and they work, which engages their brain more.” 

Also, frequent, scheduled, consistent breaks keep the mind nimble. “Concentration takes a lot of energy for kids with ADHD, according to the website ADDitude.  

 “A five-minute break every 20 minutes helps them recharge.”  

Be organized and consistent: Organization is not a strength of ADHD students, so it may be up to you to provide it. Have a place set aside for homework. It should be as free from distraction as possible, but also comfortable. If the bouncy ball works, use it. Maybe a bean bag chair. Check that the student has all the supplies, paper, books and whatever is necessary for the lesson. Make it clear that it’s their responsibility, but you may have to be the enforcer. 

Also, be consistent with homework time. Find what works for your child – some are ready to start after a quick snack, others need some play time to decompress and burn off energy. Pick a schedule and stick with it as best as you can. The structure is comforting.  

Get the school on board 

Just as your child needs accommodations at home, they need them at school. 

“If you do it at home, they’re going to need it in the classroom, too,” Lawrence says. “Parents have to make sure those accommodations are available at school because this type of kid needs a different classroom atmosphere to make schooling easier.” 

In some cases, these accommodations may be part of an IEP or a 504 plan. But even if the student doesn’t have a formal, written plan, teachers can take their needs into consideration. 

“Parents have to work to get the understanding of the teachers and the administration,” Lawrence says. “You need to make people aware that your child has needs that must be met.” 

Share your experiences and concerns with the teacher, who may not be as in tune with your child’s needs as you are. 

“For example, the teacher might misconstrue your child’s restlessness as misbehavior when it is just their need to move around. The teacher is telling the child to sit down because they don’t understand that the child works best when they move around, or that they need a fidget, or they need that ball to sit on during class. 

“Things of that sort will make all of the difference.” 

Communication is key 

Other things parents should remember: 

Let them follow their passions. The hyperfocus of a person with ADHD can seem obsessive, and it is important for parents to try to create balance in their child’s life. But if a youngster is absorbed by history, or music, or whatever has captured their attention, it’s OK. 

“Let them do it,” Lawrence says. “Let them have fun doing it. That’s going to build up their passions and make them the complete human beings that you want them to become. 

Makre sure there aren’t other underlying issues. At Reading Success Plus, we often see students with dyslexia who also have ADHD – in fact, it’s common. About 60 percent of all people with ADHD have a learning disorder, most commonly dyslexia, while the International Dyslexia Association estimates that 30 percent of all people with dyslexia also have ADHD. A genetic link between ADHD and dyslexia also is likely. But because ADHD is the better-known and better-understood disorder, it’s often blamed for learning difficulties that really have their roots in dyslexia, dyscalculia, or other difficulties. Don’t blame all learning issues on ADHD – there may be other causes that need to be addressed. 

Communicate with your child. The impulse to attribute ADHD behavior to laziness or defiance is strong, but often unfair. Instead of assuming the worst, ask the child what’s wrong. 

“You have to understand where they’re coming from,” Lawrence says. “Kids have a really tough time explaining it, so asking good questions will make a huge difference with them. And it builds a bond, because if you show sincere interest and caring, they’ll trust you. 

“They’ll try to be more engaged with you. If they’re having a bad day ‘or ‘feeling a little more ADHD than usual,’ they’ll tell you. Things usually go smoother that way. 

Take your child as they are. “Understand that they’re going to be a little different from other kids,” Lawrence says.  “They may drift off, or be less socially adept, or generally frustrated. 

“Just keep working with them, be patient and try to communicate with them. That will make all the difference in the world for you as a parent, and it will make all the difference for your child.” 

For more information 

Follow these links to learn more about ADHD. 

An overview of ADHD, including definitions, signs and symptoms, and treatments, from the National Institute of Mental Health. 

An overview of ADHD from the Mayo Clinic. 

The website for Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), an education and advocacy group. 

ADDitude, an online resource for families and adults living with ADHD and related conditions, and for the professionals who work with them. 

A guide to ADHD from 

Reading Success Plus has offices in Grand Rapids and Troy and offers one-on-one tutoring online or in person in reading, math and writing. You can get more information at To contact us, call 833-229-1112 or go online to