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Homework Time with ADHD--Shut that Music OFF!

Updated: Jun 14, 2019

By Dr. Sarah Haas *

Scenario: You come home from work, and your child is supposed to be completing their homework. You see your child listening to music, so you walk over to them and turn off their music playlist. Your child says, "Hey! I was listening to that!" and you, the parent say, "No more listening to music; It's homework time".

Did you know that listening to music may actually help your child with ADHD focus better?

Yes, research is siding with your kids on this one! A study by Pelham and colleagues (2011) concludes that:

"Thus, rather than recommending that children with ADHD perform homework in complete silence, our results suggest that listening to music while studying will not hurt most and may help some children with ADHD."

(Pelham et al., 2011; p. 1096)

Of course, listening to music may distract some children with ADHD, so it is important to put your detective skills to work to figure out if your child performs better with or without music. You can do this by comparing your child's productivity and/or length of time to complete work accurately while they listen to music versus when they have a sensory-deprived setting.

Of course, although this study focused on listening to music, it is entirely possible that other environmentally-stimulating activities like having the TV on in the background, may also serve a purpose in helping your child complete their homework. Does this make you wonder if your child is playing a video game or is on their phone while you are talking to them is helping them focus on your conversation or is distracting them? Maybe looks are not always what they seem...

Teachers, these researchers have a potential suggestion for you, too:

"Rather than isolating a child with ADHD in a stimulus-free environment, these findings suggest that providing the child with headphones on which he or she could listen to music while working may enhance the classroom productivity of some children with ADHD."

(Pelham et al., 2011; p. 1096)

It may be something to try as an accommodation for a child with ADHD's Individualized Education Plan if the child does not seem to be responding to well to taking tests or completing work in a distraction-free space!

Pelham, W.E., Waschbusch, D.A., Hoza, B., Gnagy, B.M., Greiner, A.R., Sams, S.E., Vallano, G.,

Majumdar, A., & Carter, R.L. (2011). Music and Video Distractors for Boys with ADHD in the

Classroom: Comparison with Controls, Individual Differences, and Medication Effects. Journal

of Abnormal Child Psychology, 39, 1085-1098.

Disclaimer: The Information provided through this website, including the various pages, blog posts, and emails, are designed for informational purposes only and does not constitute a client/therapist relationship. The information is not intended to replace medical advice or mental health treatment. Every individual person's situation is unique. Please seek out individual care if needed.



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