Homeschooling Kids with ADHD - Tips from an OT Mom

Summary:  Expert tips for homeschooling your child with ADHD or sensory issues.  Here's how we did that with ours, who now is a college grad.  #homeschooladhd #homeschoolelementary #homeschool2e

Do your kids struggle with attention issues?  

Or are they very active, have difficulty concentrating, or show signs of ADD, or ADHD?

When my daughter was young, she was a very active child who had ADHD tendencies.  (She was also 2e)  She had difficulty concentrating on verbal directions. She also had sensory processing issues, and was a sensory seeking child.  

My husband and I worked to meet her needs as best as we could.  I used my OT background, and experience with special needs kids, to find ways to meet her learning needs.

Homeschooling was ideal for her, as it allowed us to adapt things to the way she learned best.  With her difficulty with auditory processing, ie concentrating on verbal directions, listening to the teacher talk in public school, would have been all wrong for her. We wanted her to have the daily support of learning at home.

We did a number of things to facilitate her learning, and through the years, her issues became less and less of a problem.  How we went about homeschooling her, when she was young... that is what I would like to talk about today, starting with how we set up our days.

How we set up our Days

My little one did better with short learning periods, such as 15 or 20 minutes at a time.  I gave her a break between each session, where she played, watches an educational show on tv, etc....  But when she was on a roll, then, of course, we continue.  And we did a A LOT of hands on projects, too.

Kids with attention issues often do better some structure. My daughter liked that I wrote out our schedule, which she decorated. That way she knew what was to happen next.  This can be a comfort for kids with anxiety issues, too.

She also liked to earn stickers, which she chose each week or two from the book store.  Earning stickers gave her a concrete reward. We always went over her sticker chart at the end of the week, to give her extra attention for her efforts.   Not every child is a sticker kid, but ours sure was.

Next, I'd like to talk about following verbal directions.....

Following Verbal Directions

My daughter struggled with verbal directions.  She tended to have difficulty remembering what was said.  Whenever there are directions to be given, she played with a small toy. This helped to lessen anxiety and improve concentration.

We also used a lot of hands-on activities, and found that handwork was a great way to teach concentration and increase attention span.

When there were more complex directions to be given, I would say the direction first, then ask her to repeat it.  Later, when she was older, she preferred to write down any directions that were given. That technique helped her all the way through middle school.

For her lessons, I set her work up so that she could learn visually. She loved using workbooks, following the written instructions. Oak Meadow was one of our favorite curriculum publishers.

During our days, active breaks were very popular!

Taking Active Breaks 

My daughter loved one to climb all over the couch, and do handstands off of it.  She loved spinning in her dad's desk chair and jumping on our small trampoline.  We even found a nice plastic spinner at a consignment store.  I watched how much spinning was done, so as to stay within her limits.  

During our homeschool day, we built in active breaks often, to meet her sensory needs.... running around the backyard, spinning in our spinner, jumping on a small trampoline, and doing cartwheels across the living room.

These were done in between lessons.  Sometimes we would also use a large exercise ball. Bouncing on the ball was very popular for study breaks.  Great sensory input! 

Experiment with your child, and see what kind of sensory activities are best for them.  If this is hard to figure out, consulting with an OT with experience in Sensory Integration may be a help.

Some kids do well actually sitting on a big ball to do a lessons or two.  Sitting on a ball may help some kids focus and do better  Click here for an article on that.

The important thing for us was to fit in these active breaks, and then help our daughter to move back into the learning activity at hand.

Then, sometimes, there was the opposite need....

Taking Restful Breaks

When there was anxiety of some sort, and a need to calm, my daughter would grab a blanket, and a book.  Sometimes she spent some quiet time with our cat, sometimes it was time for a quiet read together on the couch....for snuggle time.  

We found that providing deep pressure, as explained below, helped our daughter to calm and relax her sensory system.

Blankets and Vests

Blankets can provide deep pressure for your kids, which could be very calming.  That's because it provides deep tactile pressure to the muscles and the joints.  Some kids even benefit from having a favorite weighted blanket,   

We just used a regular blankets, which my kiddo liked to stack up and let them rest on her lap. OT's can help with deciding what kind of weighted blanket to use for your child, if you have any questions.

How to make a DIY weighted blanket has an entire weighted blanket tutorial, by Maryann at Mama Smiles blog.

Other kids may benefit from wearing weighted vests, which also may help for calming.  

"Weighted vests provide constant even, deep pressure input to your child when his body is craving this important calming and organizing proprioceptive input."  (www.sensory 

And finally, here are some ways that we were able to activities that helped to....

Turn Limitations into Strengths 

Since my daughter was so active, we started kid gymnastics classes when she was young.  It was a super great fit!  This helped us to turn her need for physical activity into a strength, and she loved it.  She continued with gymnastics for many years, building self esteem, physical strength and friendships along the way.

Then she tried an irish dance class...She loved learning the irish dance steps.  This became a great way for her to she develop direction following and listening skills. Since it involved physical activity, she was more comfortable, so following verbal directions was easier for her in this setting.  

And her listening skills improved, while she enjoyed participating and learning irish step dancing.  This is just one example of this.

Our daughter is now in college, and has no trouble following the teacher's verbal directions and lectures.  This has improved over the years, but if it doesn't....

Some kids benefit from the adaptations available for learning issues at their college, through the American Disabilities Act.  They are entitled to accommodations to allow them to succeed in college, if they have a diagnosed learning disability or learning issue.  

Most colleges have ADA or accommodations counselors who can be a great help or at least can be negotiated with, to get the needed note-taking help, tape recorders, extra time for testing, etc. 

While homeschooling, we can provide those arrangements for our kids/teens...

Isn't that one of the reasons that many of us with gifted/e2 kids, or kids with ADHD decide to try homeschooling?

I was recently asked to write for the top special education site on this topic.  I invite you to click 8 Tips for Homeschooling a Twice Exceptional Student for more ideas and encouragement.

Thanks for stopping by BJ's Homeschool,


Betsy is retired O.T, homeschool blogger, and most importantly is mom to her 2e college grad, whom she homeschooled through high school.  She blogs at BJ's Homeschool, about the early yearshigh schoolcollege and 2e 

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  1. Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Phyllis, for your kind comment and for stopping by!

  2. I have never been diagnosed with anything but the idea of the weighted blanket really appeals to me!! Thanks for linking up with us! #parentteachermeetup

    1. Me, too, Branson Merrill! I have been away, setting up a house remodeling project, and the idea of weighted blankets is so appealing the me right now! I will head over next week to share on the #parentteachermeetup. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Very interesting! I like the idea of active breaks. We do that too!!

    Thank you for linking up with #made4kids. We hope you share another fantastic post with us next week!

    1. Thanks for you kind comments, Deanna Hershberger! Active breaks really helped my kiddo, too. I will be heading over the the Made for Kids Link Party soon!

  4. Thanks for sharing your struggles and solutions. So many aren't willing to work "outside the box" to find what works best in their own child's situation. When a child struggles, we are quick to put a 'label" on it. Glad you persisted with your daughter. Thanks for sharing with #What to Read Wednesday. We hope you will be back again next week.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Trena Balakrishnan. It is my pleasure to share ideas re ADHD, and other learning issues, with other families. I plan to head over to #What to Read Wednesday right after this! I enjoy linking up there.

  5. Thanks for sharing. My 6 year old has ADHD tendencies, usually snacking gets him through his lessons, but I need some more ideas. He needs to be more active to keep his focus. The exercise ball looks promising. Thanks

    1. Thanks for sharing, Heart of Wisdom Academy. My daughter loved bouncing on the big exercise ball. Sometimes she liked to work on it also, but not so much. I would love to hear how that idea works in your homeschool. You are welcome to stop by and share here again, if you like. That could help other families, too. Thanks again for stopping by!

  6. That's one of my favourite things about homeschooling, that we can tailor our child's education to their needs and unique way of learning.

  7. I agree, Melanie Thomas. I think that lots of our kids benefit so much from that, and the 1 on 1 attention they can get in homeschool, versus what they would get in a ps classroom. I am so glad that we homeschooled. I see the benefits now, with my kiddo in college, and now able to handle her studies successfully there. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Excellent! We can relate to some things you wrote. Thanks for sharing!!
    I wonder, with all the breaks, did you have to also homeschool at night in order to meet the requirements for high school credits and graduation?

  9. Yes, that is a great question. We did need to do some evening homeschool studies, and even worked that into our routine. For example, my teen would read her social studies or lit reading in the evenings before going to bed, then would work on the related assignments the next day. Thanks, Robincp for stopping by, and I appreciate your comments, too!


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