By Dr. Reshma Naidoo, Pediatric Neuropscyhologist and
Jacqueline Duperrouzel, Neuropsychology Intern
Children who have transitioned to the home-school or virtual-school setting may experience difficulties focusing. This can be especially true for a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Through structure, tailored behavior management plans, and reinforcement strategies, children with ADHD can thrive in this “new normal.”
Leer en Español
Routine While Social Distancing
The days of parents dropping their children off at school are temporarily on hold. Now, parents are waking to engage their children in virtual school, while simultaneously managing careers, house-hygiene routines, and the mental health of all family members. During this period of transition, parents of children with ADHD are learning how to guide their children during this already difficult time. A few strategies that will help aid the transition within the home setting are provided below.
1. Behavior management: Increase positive behaviors!
- Utilize a reward chart to help reach daily goals.
- Rewards can be quiet time to play games, time to go outside, or even to watch TV.
- Goals should be short term. Having goals that align with daily virtual school tasks will help increase the child’s engagement in school activities.
- Allow the child to choose rewards that will encourage engagement and motivate.
- If goals are not met, withhold rewards and/or provide a consequence.
- If there are consequences for unmet goals, maintain consistency of giving rewards/consequences when appropriate across all tasks.
- Example: Completing a homework assignment will grant 30 minutes of TV/video time. If the assignment is not completed, use a statement such as: “It was your choice to not have video time today.” Follow through by removing the TV/video privileges.
- Use labeled praise and be specific about behaviors you would like to see more of. For example: “I love how quietly you completed your math homework” or “You did a great job listening to the teacher without interrupting her.”
- To correct negative behaviors such as those aimed at avoiding schoolwork or other tasks, parents can try active ignoring and refrain from providing attention to these behaviors. Be consistent.
REMINDER: CONSISTENCY IS KEY!
2. Settings: Create a positive space for virtual school!
- Minimize distractions.
- Choosing the right setting in the home and time for virtual school will help increase success.
- Materials needed for school should be organized and located in a central location for easy access.
- To reduce auditory distractions of background noise, allow your student to wear headphones to muffle distracting sounds.
3. Structured planning: Organize a daily schedule!
- Help your child map out their day.
- Dividing tasks, assignments, breaks, and personal time throughout the day is important for success.
- Breaks should be frequent and structured to help with task engagement.
- Be mindful of a typical school day for your child. Most schools have breaks built into the day through electives, non-academic courses, lunch times and recess.
- Organizing a daily schedule, coupled with daily goals and rewards, can help your child maintain a semi-structured setting within these changing times.
Resource for Parents:
4. Hyperactivity and increased energy: Increase body-healthy behaviors!
- Exercise and physical activity are known to promote body and mind health.
- These activities are also known to release chemicals that help improve mood, sleep and attention.
- Allow your child to participate in web-based yoga and mindfulness activities.
- Engage in outdoor activities if permitted in your neighborhood such as biking, running or walking.
Florida International University’s Center for Children & Families has excellent resources for families in English & Spanish: Visit for more information: https://ccf.fiu.edu/coronavirus-resources/index.html