Steps to Improving Attention in ADHD

1. Medication Management

The inability to focus and concentrate for individuals with ADHD has a neurobiological basis, meaning there are known biological and chemical differences in the brain of an ADHD child than from other children without ADHD.  This brief video offers a good explanation. Therefore, it is so important to find the right medication and dosage. It may take ongoing visits with the psychiatrist to find the right prescription, but it is an important step towards successfully treating the symptoms. If you are not sure about medicating your child, you may find my post on medication helpful.

2. Gradually Improve Skills
Set smaller goals first based on their current functioning levels. For example, if they can successfully follow a one-step direction, set your first goal for following two-step directions. If you expect huge advances in a short period of time, it can lead to frustration, disappointment, and low self-esteem for the child.
3. Games to Make Learning Active
Our teachers reading this article already know this about learning. Active and fun learning is more effective, more memorable, than static learning. For individuals with ADHD,  it takes a lot more stimulus to maintain attention. The more stimulating, or interesting/fun/active, the greater chances you have to maintain their attention! Here is a great site with some fun ideas for attention-improving games. One of my favorite games to improve attention is Stare!.
4. Set Clear Goals and Expectations
Setting clear goals and expectations is important for all areas of the child’s life. This includes chores, routines, and grades.  “Clear” is an important factor here. If you tell your child they must be “good,” that can mean different things to different people. What does “good’ mean to you? When establishing expectations for a clean room, be specific. What are your expectations for a clean room- bed made and dirty clothes put away? Giving some thought about your expectations and communicating these clearly will improve likelihood that everyone is more successful.
5. Reward Good Performance
As much as we would like to believe that people will be motivated by a sheer internal motivation for self-improvement, this is not often the case, especially when it comes to kids and adolescents. Growing up, I was rewarded with $5 per “B” and $10 per “A” and remember how good it felt to meet goals. You don’t have to limit rewards to money though. Time for video gaming or a trip to a favorite restaurant is also a good motivator. Talk it over with you child and come to an agreement that works for your family. Sandbox Learning has some good ideas in this article.
6. Keep a Structured Routine
Routines are important for all kids, but especially for individuals with ADHD. Daily and weekly routines establish consistency and sets clear expectations. Check out this article on for some more information on establishing routines.
8. Homework/Work Habits
Practicing good homework habits is so important to success as an individual with ADHD. I’ve listed a few tips below, but there are more good homework tips here.
  • Schedule regular breaks. Set a timer for every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or 45 minutes, depending on the person.
  • Set short term goals, such as completing 10 out of 20 questions, then taking a break, and completing the next 10 questions.
  • Find an environment with little to no distractions. Even the desk space should be tidy, not cluttered.
  • Play background music. This goes against what many people believe to be non-distracting, but many people find that certain music actually enhances attention.
  • Have fidgeting items handy.
9. Find Appropriate Fidgeting Tasks
Fidgeting can actually be helpful to maintaining attention, but it’s important to find appropriate outlets.
  • Chewing gum while reading
  • Pacing back and forth while memorizing flashcards
  • Rubbing a smooth stone or doodling while in class

For more ideas on fidgeting activities, visit and!

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Author: Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT

Kim is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, and Registered Play Therapist in Dallas, Texas.

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