One of the most common struggles for students with ADHD or executive function challenges is staying focused on a specific accomplishment during a given time period. These students may have an especially hard time getting started or simply staying on task while other thoughts or external factors pull their attention away. In turn, once they have settled into their task, it may be very difficult to transition to a completely new activity. Preparing these students ahead of time is the best way to get them physically and emotionally ready to focus on any new task at hand.
Initiation and activation are the skills needed to get started on a task. Whether it’s getting started with a routine task, such as unpacking a backpack, or a more difficult task, such as beginning a book report, some students struggle and may give the appearance of being lazy, unmotivated, or resistant. It may appear as if they are trying to procrastinate starting the activity. However, when we dig a little deeper, we may find that these students have difficulty getting started because they simply don’t know how or where to begin.
To do their best work, these students must figure out what the activity will entail, what should be expected of them, and how much time they will have to complete it. Remember that students with ADHD also have a much harder time activating their brain when they are not intrinsically interested or motivated by the task at hand. Prepare them both emotionally and physically—the upfront investment will drastically lessen the teacher’s time for redirection or any additional fallout.
In addition, transitions can be particularly challenging for students with ADHD and executive functioning challenges. When we ask students to transition from one activity to another, we are actually asking them to do three separate (and often individually challenging) steps: (1) stop the activity, (2) move to the next activity, and (3) start the new activity. Transitions can be supported more fully when we break the movement into three parts and address each step separately.
A transition of space, such as going from school to home, can also bring extra challenges. There are often more external factors that can distract or pull attention away from the task at hand. It can be beneficial to build a routine in all aspects of a student’s life, including homework time. Some students just do better when they know what to expect—regardless of whether or not they are diagnosed with ADHD. Preparation, guidance, and connection are the keys to easing transitions. Guide students in developing successful routines with free exercises
from my book: ADHD, Executive Function & Behavioral Challenges in the Classroom.