Homework has a way of slowly burying kids with special needs as the school year progresses. Thankfully, before that can happen this year, new Different Dream guest blogger Esther Leung offers 8 tips to make doing schoolwork at home enjoyable for both child and parent.
Homework: 8 Tips to Make it More Enjoyable for You and Your Special Needs Child
by Esther Leung
Part of adjusting back to the school routine includes adding homework to the long list of activities your child will need to get used to. Going back to school can be hard on any child, but typically takes longer for a child with special needs.
Completing homework, for example, can be a time where power struggles and tantrums take place. Parents and children can both get frustrated from the work. Children may not want to work after a day at school, especially if it is a difficult subject. Parents are tired from work, the commute, and caring for their other children – just to name a few of many things you need to do. Both of you want the opportunity to unwind and relax at home. To ease into the schoolwork routine, here are some tips to make this time more successful for everyone:
- Set a schedule that makes sense for both of you: A schedule helps everyone stay on track. What is your normal routine after getting home at the end of the day? Do you prepare meals and eat dinner at the same time every night? Are there extracurricular activities that you have to schedule in? Use a daily and weekly calendar to help your child anticipate when homework is going to happen.
- Build opportunities for “learning time”: If your child is younger or does not receive homework from school, there is still a way to build in opportunities for some “learning time.” Start with a short sequence of 2-3 activities – for example, a puzzle, coloring sheet and reading a book. This helps to create a routine of sitting down together and learning a new skill.
- Be considerate of downtime after school: Just like those of us who work all day, children want to come home and unwind after being at school all day. It is likely that many children with special needs work very hard to participate and follow the expectations of their teachers and interacting with their peers. Children are tired at the end of the day and likely want a familiar activity that they are successful at. A snack and some rest time can be helpful before sitting down to study. If you are concerned that your child might have difficulty transitioning out of an activity, use a timer. Also save the more motivating activity for after homework is complete.
- Know your child’s learning style and optimal working environment: Is your child sensitive to lighting and noise? Too much stimulation may be a distraction, particularly during difficult subjects. On the opposite end, some children need movement to help them concentrate and may be fidgety while trying to complete a task. Regardless, schedule in movement breaks if there are a few items that need to be completed.
- Encourage your child to plan: As your child gets older and has more work to do after school, encourage him/her to be a part of the planning process for when and what subjects will be done. Have them decide when homework and breaks will take place. Write it out on a white board, on a piece of paper or an organizational app.
- Chunk large projects, assignments and studying for tests into manageable blocks: Some work assignments are not meant to be done in one night. Some students have difficulties understanding this and become anxious thinking that a big project is due the next day. Help your child figure out natural stopping points and break it down into manageable chunks.
- Know your child’s limits: There is a limit to how much homework can be done each night. If you notice your child or teenager expressing frustration or anxiety about the difficulty of work, it is okay to stop if you feel they are not able to complete the work. As parents, we are not teachers expected to give the lessons from school, so do not feel that you need to help your child stay up and complete the task at hand. You know your child best and if they are genuinely having a difficult time. Encourage your child to talk to their teacher the next day or speak with the teacher on their behalf.
- Ask your child’s teacher for help: Always take the option to approach the teacher and special education department about a more specific plan and additional supports to make study time more successful and positive for your child and you.
Remember, homework is an opportunity to increase and reinforce learning that your child has at school. We want to support and encourage their success. Taking some time to plan can make this time more pleasant for both of you!
What Homework Tips Work for You?
Esther’s 8 tips are a good reminder of the importance of knowing your child and planning for success. What tricks and tips make study time more enjoyable at your house? Leave a comment or ask a question. And check out Esther’s new company, www.senseandcalm.com which she and her husband are launching soon.