Taking the Pain out of Homework for Children with Autism, ADHD, and Other Disorders

by Emily Graham, MightyMoms.net

Research has shown that children perform better in school when parents take an interest in homework. It’s important parental behavior because it shows kids that homework is important and that it should be a priority. It is especially important for children with cognitive disorders such as anxiety, autism, and ADHD, as parental involvement is one of the best ways to help children succeed in school.

But taking an interest does not mean nagging without helping, doing your kids’ homework for them, or hovering over assignments together for hours every evening. Homework should be a process that begins with preparation and concludes with kids who are prepared to do well on tests, learn the material, and succeed in their academic career. Time spent on homework should help further the coping skills your children have developed to manage their disadvantages.

Here are some strategies to help your children get maximum benefit from the work.

Get to know their teachers

Take the time to meet with your kids’ teachers. Have a conversation about homework schedules, turn-in policies, and how you as a parent can help make it a positive experience. Discuss your child’s disability and make them aware of issues that may trigger undesirable behavior, such as an emotional outburst. The more prepared your child’s teacher is, the better chance they will have making a meaningful connection with your learning-different student.

Establish “homework central”

One way to get your children accustomed to doing homework each night is to set aside a dedicated area, a “homework central,” which is free of distractions. This space should have enough room for all the books and materials they need. There should be plenty of light and a comfortable chair. The kitchen table or the family room floor are highly trafficked parts of the house and won’t be conducive to effective studying. Your child workspace should also include items that help them concentrate and feel comfortable based on their specific personality. For instance, a student with autism may be able to focus more if they have access to a stress ball, fidget spinner, or some other small items to channel energy. If you’re short on space, look into getting a corner desk, which fits better in small spaces, yet still provides a specific study area for your child.

Establish “homework time”

Now that you’ve identified homework central, you’ll need to work out “homework time.” This is the daily schedule, which will be a set-in-stone routine. This is important for students with learning disabilities and cognitive disorders as they learn what to expect and will have less trouble adapting to each new school year if a routine is in place. Stick to whatever time you establish, and work in at least one 15-minute break, which should be observed every night. It’s tough for kids to concentrate if they have to go to the bathroom or need a moment to clear their head after studying advanced physics.

Be an encourager and a motivator

Students with learning disabilities need encouragement more than anything when they’re having trouble grasping material. While you can’t do the work for them, be there to answer questions and to help explain concepts they’ve covered in class. It’s okay if your children ask you to quiz them on something. Just don’t help with the answers too much. As a parent, it’s also your job to motivate your kids, but not with threats or disdainful comments. Don’t be afraid to offer a small reward when you notice your child has self-regulated or overcome an obstacle without intervention. For instance, if your dyslexic student completes a chapter of a book or your ASD child makes a connection to materials away from class, reward them with a hug (or icecream, which is always welcome!).

Reach out for help

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you’re unable to help your child with a tough assignment. And don’t be ashamed if you don’t understand the material. The teachers are there to be a resource, so take full advantage of their knowledge when necessary.

The more you can do to set homework as an expectation, the less painful it’ll be. It’s all part of introducing good work and study habits into a child’s routine. Children benefit when they learn these habits early on.

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