Archive of ‘Academic and Emotional Success’ category

4 Tips for Students with ADHD from a Tutor with ADHD

As a therapist who works with both children and adolescents, one of the many topics that my clients struggle with is the impact school has on their mental health. Simply put, school is a significant part of any young person’s life, but when compounded with the stress of learning challenges, such as ADHD, school can be a predominant source of stress. 

For this blog, I had an extensive discussion with a tutor based out of Austin who has worked with students, ages 5 and above, for the past 4 years.  What I found particularly unique about this conversation was that this tutor not only works with students who have ADHD, but she herself was diagnosed with ADHD during her junior year of high school. This shared experience of ADHD between she and her students provides a unique perspective that helps her connect with them on a more emotional level. During our conversation, I was able to glean 4 helpful tips for students with ADHD that are also utilized by this tutor in her own life. 

1. Utilize a check list

A check list is customized with important information for you that can help you get started on schoolwork. Creating a daily checklist before and after school that you go through every morning can help narrow down what specific tasks you should focus on. This can be especially useful if you tend to get overwhelmed easily by everyday tasks and also struggle with time management. 

Example of a Check List:  

  • Did I go to the bathroom? 
  • Do I have water & snacks easily accessible to me?
  • Do I have my notebooks & pencils/ materials I need for studying?
  • Do I have my timer?
  • Did I turn off all my distractions?
  • Did I check my learning platform for any missing/incomplete assignments?
  • Create a practical & reasonable list of assignments to be completed today 

2. Tackle more than one unfinished assignment

There will be times when you will fall behind on assignments because of stress, extra curricular activities, lack of motivation, or poor time management. When this happens, start by taking a deep breath, realize that you are not a “bad” student for falling behind in school, and feel comforted by the fact that you now have a tip to help you tackle unfinished work: Prioritize assignments from most liked subject to the least liked ones. Then within those assignments, order them from easiest to hardest. Start off with the easiest assignment that will take the least amount of time to give yourself “confidence points.” Confidence points not only instill belief and trust in yourself that you will get through these assignments, but it can also decrease the overall amount of stress you have about the unfinished work. 

Then look at the harder assignments and consider who you can ask for help not only on the work itself, but also who can help you break up these assignments into smaller segments. 

Ideas for asking for help: 

  • Set up a meeting with your teacher
  • Ask your parents for tutoring help
  • Text or call a friend 
  • Go to your older sibling

3. Set timers (that are not on your phone or any other tech device) 

Setting timers for yourself can break up tedious school assignments into manageable chunks. When setting a timer, consider how long it takes you to lose focus on a subject. For example, If it takes you 15 minutes to lose focus, then break the assignment up into 15 minute chunks and then take a break. When trying out this tool; however, start off with a break that is half the amount of the set timer (which would be 7 and 1/2 minutes in this case). Keep yourself accountable and honor the timer to avoid mentally exhausting yourself or fixating on one subject. If you remember that you need to do something else unrelated to the assignment when the timer is already set, write it down on a sticky note and save it for your break time to avoid getting side-tracked. 

Examples of Timers that are Not on your Phone: 

  • Microwave 
  • Stove 
  • Manual kitchen timer (check the link below for reference) : Lux Minute Minder Timer Mechanical White with Black Markings 60 Min : Home & Kitchen

4. Incorporate rewards into your break times 

In Tip #3, you learned how to set timers and alternate studying time with breaks. In Tip #4, we want to show you how your breaks can be used as a way to reward yourself for all the hard work you have been putting into your school assignments. These rewards are a simple and fun way to keep you motivated, but without the use of social media, any type of technology, or screen time. Because as we all know, these devices can be incredibly distracting to our learning processes and invite poor studying habits. But we do not want to deprive you of technology completely, so when you have completed a larger academic goal that you have set for yourself (e.g. making an A on a test or no late assignments for 6 weeks) you can incorporate a bigger reward that does include screens or technology. 

Examples of Fun Rewards:  

  • If you are passionate about fitness, do 5 push ups 
  • If you have a sweet tooth, reward yourself with 2 M&Ms 
  • If you need some love, cuddle with your pet  
  • If you love to draw, sketch your favorite TV character 
  • If you need a brain teaser, solve sudoku 

Note from the tutor: 

Sometimes students can feel shame or embarrassment when they are not fitting into societal academic norms, which can then lead to low self-esteem or a negative self-concept, like “I’m the dumbest student” or “I’m never going to learn.” I fell into the trap of believing that I was not a “good” or capable student because many of my teachers’ and professors’ expectations on students overall created unrealistic expectations for myself, especially as a student with learning difficulties. My advice to students is to be honest with yourself and accept that learning may take longer for you and that is okay. Move away from comparing your academic abilities to societal norms, teachers’ expectations, and even other students’ abilities. And instead ask yourself: How can I set myself up to be successful? 

Ways to Increase Connection with your Child When School Starts

Notice the Good and Encourage 

As you know, the weeks leading up to school and even after school starts can be a rough transition for both you and your kiddo. One way to increase connection with your child is to not only pay attention to the positive things that your child does, but also verbalize them. Yes, the small things too! When people do better they feel better, which is exactly how children feel when their parents notice and affirm their positive actions. 

Examples of Encouragement: 

“I appreciate how you put your backpack up when you walked into the house.”

You are such a kind friend for holding the door for your classmate.” 

“Thank you for helping me set the table.” 

“You must be so proud of yourself for figuring out your math homework.”

Make Agreements 

A common struggle I hear when working with parents is “how do I get my child to do what I want.” A parent that decides for their child what they want their child to do directly reduces the opportunity for collaboration or discussion, which can create more distance between them. With this authoritarian approach, the child may feel discouraged that they cannot express their feelings leaving the parent defeated as to how to fix the issue.  

However, involving your child in the process of creating agreements can increase direct involvement from them, which can lead them to keep their agreements. Children feel respected when they are given an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings on an issue. 

Follow these 5 Steps for how to create Agreements: 

  1. Sit down together when everyone is calm and have a respectful discussion about an issue that requires an agreement 
  2. Brainstorm Solutions. Let everyone share their thoughts and feelings about the issue.
  3. Choose a solution that everyone can agree on and agree on a specific time deadline 
  4. If agreement is not followed, refrain from using judgment or criticism. Instead say, “What was our agreement?” 
  5. If agreement is still not followed, start again with Step 1.

Validate Feelings 

The first few weeks of school can elicit a range of emotions from your child. Some children might be excited about making new friends or entering a new grade, while others may feel nervous and retreat from these new experiences. Whatever your child may be feeling during these first few weeks of school, you will be a source of grounding for them. They will come to you seeking guidance or support and the most important way you can help them is to validate their feelings. 

Validation is all about providing children the space to simply feel without you trying to rescue, fix, or deny their feelings. When you directly acknowledge your child’s feelings through a question or statement, it models to them: I am significant and it is okay to feel what I feel. Through validation, you show them that their feelings provide crucial information about themselves in that very moment. And when children experience their feelings and are actively able to work through them, it can lead to self-regulation, and then later to appropriate problem solving. 

Examples of Validation: 

“You sound angry.” 

“I can see that makes you very frustrated.” 

“Can you tell me more about what you are feeling?”

“Do you need a hug?” 

Transitioning out of summer and into the school year can be hectic and overwhelming as the entire household juggles waking up on time, carpools, bus rides, packing lunches, after school activities, completing homework, and the list goes on. And as a parent, the responsibility falls on you to manage, problem solve, and fix things along the way. However, I would like to remind you that you deserve to give yourself compassion and patience during this time because you may not meet every expectation you have for yourself as a parent. And that is okay. 

The creator of Positive Discipline, Jane Nelson says, “the first step in learning to be the best (but not perfect) parent you can be is to create a roadmap to guide you to your destination.” My hope is that by implementing and practicing these three techniques it will serve as a path to more meaningful moments with your child. 

Written By: Geetha Pokala, M.S., LPC

Routine Charts for Getting Out the Door on Time

It’s back to school time! Soon families will be adjusting to a different schedule, and mornings can feel early, short, and frustrating to get everyone and all of their things packed up and out the door. Back to school can also serve as an excellent opportunity to revisit or create a morning routine that works. To help ease the transition from summer to school, your family can use a routine chart to support and guide the morning. Routine charts are meant to be collaborative and encourage children to take responsibility for their things and time. Here are tips for creating a routine that helps get everyone out the door and on time!

“The more children do for themselves, the more capable and encouraged they feel.” (Nelsen)

Nelsen, J. (1987). Positive discipline. 1st Ballantine Books ed. New York: Ballantine Books.


Create a routine chart with your child. The goal is to help the child feel involved and part of the routine. When children are involved in the process, this helps them feel a sense of pride and ownership. Collaborating and getting their help is a great way to teach and build time management and life management skills. This can be something added to the Family Meeting agenda!


Working together, brainstorm all the steps and tasks needed for a successful morning. We want children to feel encouraged, so all ideas are welcome! Ask them to tell a story about their morning, share tasks they can do, and what they need your help with. This is the time to look at all of the parts of the morning and then decide what key things are needed each day and in which order.

Make it Creative!

To help children feel ownership in the routine, ask them to help decorate, write, and color the chart. You can use stickers, pictures of them doing each task, or whatever will help the child recognize key steps and see their contribution to the list. This is meant to be their work! Then, find a spot in the household where everyone can see it on display.

Take Time for Teaching.

It is important that every child feels informed and capable of how to move through each step of the routine. Spend the first week doing the routine together so that you can teach the skills. This can help the child feel like the routine is a team effort and help start the school year positively.

Let the Chart do the Work.

Now that the tasks are outlined, the chart is made, and the family has discussed each element, it’s time for the chart to “be the boss.” This helps take the parental “nagging” out of the situation and gives a clear visual and reminder for what is next. It is normal to experience resistance and for kids to test boundaries to see if you really plan on sticking to this new plan. When you hear pushback, gently remind the child of the routine in a Kind and Firm way, “I know you are tired, AND I appreciate your help packing up your backpack.” Remember to encourage, encourage, encourage! Take time to acknowledge their cooperation and completion of tasks.

Written By: Janet Mize, LMSW Supervised by Kirby Sandlin Schroeder LPC-S LMFT-S

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