Structure Without Monotony

Countless parents have been told that a key to their child’s success is a more predictable and structured environment.  Research has shown this to be true for students with ADHD, learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and executive functions deficits.  In all honesty, everyone could benefit from a predictable and structured environment.  Does this, however, sentence every family to a life devoid of freedom, spontaneity and fun?

One blogger, diagnosed with ADHD herself, struggled with this same question.  She found the answer when she distinguished the difference between structure and routine.  In her blog article she explains that routine can mean doing the same thing, the same way, all of the time, while structure creates a framework in which to live life.  Structure still allows room for change and novelty, while providing an organized and predictable way to deal with it.

Differentiating between structure and routine can be a difficult job, and creating and sticking to the structure can be even harder.  Here are a few tips for students with executive functions deficits with an academic lens to help lend some structure to an area we at QWERTY know well:  Homework.

  1. Having a designated homework space will ease many a homework stressor.  An area that is quiet, provides ample room to work, and is well-stocked with supplies will allow for a smoother homework time, even on those nights when the soccer game runs late or the family decides to eat out.  This will eliminate distractions and the wasted time of scrambling for a sharpened pencil.
  2. A specific place for completed homework can help to avoid the panicked I-forgot-my-paper-on-the-counter text message.
  3. Designating someone as the ‘homework’ helper can be a great strategy, especially for younger students.  This can be flexible from night to night, can be a different person for different subjects, or can even be a sibling.  As long as the student knows who they should go to if they need help or have a question, this is one less thing they have to figure out.
  4. Students often have trouble remembering to write assignments down, and even when they do, some things still manage to fall through the cracks. Help your student get into the habit of making an ordered list of the assignments they need to complete before they start their homework.  This way, they can proceed through the list in order, and check each thing off as they complete it.  By not bouncing around in their planner (or just their brain) they are more likely to get everything done.
  5. Setting a minimum amount of time that a student must spend on homework helps to avoid the rushed job.  If they know they have to sit for at least an hour, new assignments and tests to study for will often magically appear (a phenomenon often seen in the tutoring environment).

Homework does not need to be done at the same time with the same pencil in the same spot every single day.  It should, however, be structured so that once it comes time to sit down and do homework, the student with executive functions deficits knows what is expected and what tools they have in order to complete the task.  By eliminating the small stressors, all of the focus can be placed on the actual homework.

What are some ways that you maintain structure for your student without making things boring?

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