Thursday, 11 January 2018

Navigating the sea of homework

Kids with autism can find some things difficult.  An autistic boy tries to walk in the water at a beach.

Out of our three school-age kids, two of them get homework. Young Jane is excited to do hers. She loves learning and practising and getting better. Anthony though finds it difficult.

He has problems with generalising skills at school and just the idea of doing something he's not interested in at home. It's understandable. Like his younger brother, David, he has autism. Except David attends a specialist autism unit and doesn't get homework. So how can we help kids who don't like their homework like Anthony?

Lucky for me, Victoria who runs Starlight and Stories, teaches students who find this difficult and sent this advice as a guest post.

If there is one thing that I hate equally as a teacher and a parent, it would have to be homework. In my humble opinion it causes far more stress than it is often worth.

Many children including those with autism often find the cross over between home and school particularly difficult. They simply don’t understand why we would expect them to carry on with what they have started at school, at home.

I get the argument that homework promotes independent learning and prepares children for the future. But the reality is that for many autism families, that isn’t the case. Homework in actual fact often needs to be closely structured by parents, causes unnecessary meltdowns and places an added burden on parents who are often already doing too much.

If your child struggles with homework there are several routes you could take:

1) Ask the school if they have a homework club

Often doing homework at school rather than home is less stressful as children think that that is where the work belongs. It also means that it is easier for them to access the member of staff who has set the work when confusions about the task arise. In addition homework clubs have the added advantage of being well staffed by people who understand what the teachers’ expectations about work are.

2) Find out if there is a classroom/ library where your child would be able to do their homework at break or lunch times

As above, doing homework within the school building has several advantages. Doing it during the day rather than after school often alleviates some of the anger students feel about having to do the task. And therefore this can be preferable for some students to an after school homework club.

3) Ask the SENCO or Autism Specialist Teacher at your child’s school to speak to subject staff about rationalising the tasks which they send home

With my teacher head on, homework is a no win situation for staff. Some parents always want more and others less. It is virtually impossible to keep everyone happy. That said most staff are willing to try. There will be some tasks that are unavoidable - especially as children go further in the system - but there will be others that teachers will agree can be left uncompleted if needed.

4) Find out if it is possible for someone to monitor what your child is writing down when the task is set

This can help avoid both confusion and frustration when trying to help accomplish the task at home. The clearer the direction that both you and they are given, the less stressful the situation usually is. No one wants to have to redo a piece of work which they haven’t completed in the correct way the first time.

5) Find out from your child what it is about homework they find so stressful and speak to the teacher about it

Things like using different equipment at home and at school, redrafting work (because they have already done it once), and insecurities about not being able complete it perfectly often all play a part. Reassurance from the teacher, the loaning of school equipment or slight adaptations to the task can all make a massive difference.

I hope these help a little. If there was a magic wand I would gladly share it, but unfortunately none of these are a failsafe. If homework remains a problem, please do remember though that a teacher’s door is always open and ask for their help.

If you have any ideas, Victoria and I would love to hear them.
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1 comment:

  1. I agree entirely - what is the point of homework if all that happens is a huge meltdown and increased anxiety? My son hated outdoor play at primary school and was allowed to do computer work in school during some lunch breaks. He was permitted to read without filling in his reading record because this acted as a deterrent when it came to reading - he'd rather not have read (which he loved) if it generated more written work (which he hated). Now he's at high school and due to timetabling he has a few free periods a week and he prefers to try and do his homework in these periods at school. #spectrumsunday


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What is Autism?
It's so much I couldn't possibly try and explain. For us it's wonderful and heart-breaking. Joyous and truthful. But as far as diagnosis is concerned, why not have a look at the National Autistic Society for their definition of Autism.
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