Help! My kid can't concentrate

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
Dear Mrs. James,

My son does his homework (I know because I help him with it), but he never turns it in. He tries really hard - even his teachers say that. But he has ADHD and has trouble staying organized. He's in sixth grade and getting really low grades. When I asked him about it, he said that he just forgets to turn it in. He forgets everything! Any suggestions?

We enjoy your advice,

Libby and Kellen Wilson


Hey guys,

Thanks for writing in! It sounds like your son is having organizational issues. This is typically the problem when children do their homework but don't turn it in. It's not even close to uncommon!

Let's work on his organizational skills. Since he has ADHD, I suggest color coding. It works wonders. Each class should have its own color. Social studies, for example, could be red. Science could be blue. Buy a red folder and a red spiral-bound notebook for social studies, and a blue folder and a blue spiral-bound notebook for science.

He can take all of his notes, complete bookwork, homework, vocabulary, etc., in his notebooks (instead of loose-leaf paper) and keep all of his worksheets in the properly colored folder. Do the same for every other class. Be sure that the folders and spiral-bound notebooks match.

He also should keep some sort of a planner. Encourage him to write down all of his homework assignments in the homework log or planner. You could take it a step further and require him to get his teachers to initial what he writes, confirming that what he has written down as homework is correct.

Once he completes homework, you initial the planner next to the teacher's initials, and be sure his homework is in the correct folder. Then immediately put it in his book bag. Put the book bag by the door or throw it in the car so he doesn't forget it. Let me know how everything turns out! I hope this helps!

Keep up the good work!


Mrs. James

Dear Mrs. James,

My two older kids have been diagnosed with ADHD. The teachers asked me to work on concentration with them, but I was too embarrassed to ask her what that meant (she said it like I was supposed to know it, but of course I didn't, so I just pretended like I knew). I saw your article and thought I'd ask Mrs. James! So, what things can I do to help my ADHD third and fifth graders with concentration?


Maureen Petersburg



I totally LOL-ed when I read your question. Glad to know I am not the only one who pretends to know what someone else is talking about when actually I'm clueless. Don't be embarrassed, honey. I've got tons of info for you.

First things first. Practicing concentration skills can be extremely beneficial for a child with ADHD. The essence of the disorder is the polar opposite of concentration. Imagine that you are living inside of a video game, where everything is coming at you at once and every sight, sound and sensation is a distraction. For a child with ADHD, getting through a typical day is something like that.

The more you work on concentration strategies with your children, the better they are able to cope with their ADHD. There are a host of exercises that help kids with ADHD improve their concentration, but here are just a few to get you started.

I am a fan of games. They can be tons of fun and a great way for you to connect with your children. Games like Memory and Simon are awesome. Memory motivates the child to remember the location of picture squares and Simon helps them memorize sequences of visual and auditory stimuli.

Crossword puzzles also are effective. Think sequence, memory and focus. The Coin Game is also a favorite of mine. All you need is a small pile of assorted coins, a folder or something else to cover them, and a watch. Choose five coins from the pile and put them into sequence (i.e. two pennies and three nickels). Now tell your child to look carefully at the coins and how they're arranged on the table. Once they've had a second to look them over, cover the coins with the folder.

While timing your child, ask him to make the same pattern using the coins from the pile. When he finishes, write down the amount of time it took him to complete the pattern (correctly or not) and remove the folder. If it's not correct, try again. Make it fun! I also like this game because you can increase the difficulty by adding in dimes, quarters and half dollars. Let me know how it works!

E-mail me if you need more ideas! Until then ...

Keep up the good work,


Mrs. James

Rashaun James is the founder and owner of Mrs. James' Learning Club. As a successful and innovative middle school teacher, one of her many professional achievements includes the OCTELA Teacher of the Year Award. She lives in Columbus with her husband.

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Rashaun James says the sooner you start working on a learning problem, the sooner it gets resolved. What are you waiting for? If you have a question, e-mail ColumbusParent@