A Parent’s Guide to Getting Your ADHD Student to Start School On Time

The key to starting school on time starts the night before. Since kids with ADHD may have sleep issues, a solid sleep routine can help your child be successful with their morning routine.

Begin the sleep ritual early. Turn off any electronic devices well ahead of bedtime, if possible. We know this is tough when kids’ laptops and netbooks are their a major point of connection to their learning environment. It’s also challenging if your student is up late studying, but aim for an early bedtime as much as you can. Try a non-electronic ritual—like reading together or setting out the next day’s outfit—to help ease your child’s transition towards bedtime.

Taking a hot shower or bath before bed can help the body get into sleep mode.

Some kids with ADHD like to settle down with a book on tape or on Audible, but if that is too stimulating a white noise machine can help your child tune out noise and settle into sleep easier.

If possible, try to avoid evening sports or lessons as these may overstimulate your child, making it more difficult for them to fall asleep. Try different strategies until you come up with a sleep routine that works well for your child.

Waking up can be a challenge for those with ADHD. Some recommend using two alarm clocks, one positioned out of arms’ reach. If the first alarm clock fails to rouse your child, they will need to get out of bed to turn off the second alarm.

Prevent morning stumbling blocks by getting ready the night before. Write up a checklist and go through it with your student each night until it becomes second nature. For younger children include a photo of the task you would like them to perform. Post the checklist where your child performs the task. Here is a sample:

  • Homework complete?
  • Forms signed?
  • What other activities or appointments are on the calendar the next day?
  • Showered, teeth brushed?
  • Phone plugged in? (not in bedroom)

ADHD specialist Leslie Josel has a brilliant way to help your child get a sense of when certain morning tasks need to be completed. Shown in this short video-tip, Leslie Josel describes “billboarding for time management.” In each room where your child needs to complete a morning task, next to an analog clock, post a large sign which says what time your child needs to be done in that room.

It may help to write up a simple morning checklist and review it with your student every morning until it becomes second nature. You can include what time each task needs to be complete or set a timer to help your child know when it is time to move to the next task. Here is a sample:

  • Dressed?
  • Bed made?
  • Teeth brushed?
  • Breakfast eaten?
  • Medicine taken?

A healthy protein breakfast is critical, but if you are running late, keep some good protein bars or shakes on hand for a quick breakfast.

Keep the mornings very simple. Keep the TV off—it’s distracting and it’s also additional, unnecessary screen time in the morning. The same goes for video or phone games; it’s difficult to pull children away when they are playing games.

Lastly, attempt to be completely ready to head out the door 5 minutes earlier than you need to. This extra bit of time will give you a little wiggle room for last minute hiccups like missing headphones.


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