Thursday 4 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. 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

  2. Oh, we have SUCH a battle with homework! Big just hates it, and we will both end up in tears most weekends. These tips are so useful, I'm going to try those that fit with us, thank you to Victoria and thanks for allowing her to share on your blog! #TheMMLinky

  3. Our 10 year old girl has probably done only a couple of pieces of homework in her life... I don't think it's hampered her development, in fact it's probably helped her remain in school for as long as she did. Great tips here though #TheMMLinky

  4. This is really good advice. It’s better at Joseph’s (mainstream) school now as they do everything whilst at school and recognise that he does enough in the day. It used to be a constant battle though.


  5. I'm not big on homework either. I'm fine about the reading - a couple coming home during the week. And I also like the holiday projects that my son is given as it gives him focus during a break but general day to day homework is a no from me #coolmumclub

  6. i love the idea of the school running a homework club, it would truly help with so many issues. Thank you so much for sharing this with us for #ablogginggoodtime Just to let you know that sadly Catie (Spectrum Mum) will no longer be a co-host for #ablooginggoodtime, we will have a new co-host this Thursday and you can still link up through Katie or myself Thanks, love Mackenzie

  7. Hm, I thought I'd left a comment here a while ago, but can't see it now, so I'll try again �� Just wanted to say that I think these suggestions are really great, and clearly coming from a person who understands both sides (the school's perspective as well as the parents'). And I hope that you'll find a positive way forward for Anthony, in regards to these homework troubles. x

  8. I'm really lucky in that both my kids quite enjoy homework! Strange I know - in fact there have been times when I have had to find extra work for them to do because their schools haven't set any!
    Their difficulty is very much of a physical nature. Because of their CP they need a reader and a scribe each, which was difficult to juggle when there was only me to help because the hubby was either at work or working on our house. There is 7 years between them and Nathan is more academic anyway so I would have to keep 'switching heads'. It is much better now they have their own care teams who are willing to help them achieve in homework.
    My only tip, if a child is reluctant, is that with Cerys, because she is so creative, we would make 'vision boards' on the topic she was studying and she loved searching for all the different pictures, etc. She was learning without even realising it!

  9. These sound like great tips!
    My oldest is at a special school so she doesn't have homework and my youngest (NT kiddo) is still in preschool, but I can see that some hints for managing the structure around homework will be really helpful for all of the family in the future, as it's hard to find time to focus when everyone has differing needs!
    Thank you so much for linking up to #accesslinky !

  10. Thankfully my eldest's school doesn't do homework, so we don't have to currently deal with this however I know that we will need to think about this when he starts high school in a few years time. I remember being dreadful at doing homework and always seemed to being doing it at the last minute. I like the suggestion of seeing if they can do it in the library, I wish I had thought of that when I was at school.



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