by Eve Dufour, M. Ed.
Homework can be a daunting task for children with learning disabilities (LDs) and their parents. After working and learning all day, spending more time practicing algorithms and perfecting prose is not what many of us envision as quality family time. In fact, homework can be quite frustrating and challenging for parents and children with LDs. LD@home has listed general advice as a starting point to help alleviate some of the stress and challenges families face during homework.
- Parents’ role
Parents should aim to motivate and monitor their child’s progress during homework (Kids Health, 2015), and provide additional support to accommodate their child’s specific learning needs, where required. To achieve this, it is important to understand your child’s LD and familiarize yourself with their IEP, if they have one. For example, you may help them break a task into manageable chunks if they struggle with retaining information (working memory), or write their ideas down for them if they struggle with hand-eye coordination (visual-motor skills). The idea is not to do the homework for your child, but rather be available, supportive and accommodating. Also, remember to be kind to yourself. Sometimes homework is not going to go as planned, it’s ok to revise your goals for that evening and call it quits if needed. Worry less about the immediate results; focus on your child’s progress overtime.
Children with LDs may require specific environmental strategies to facilitate their learning. These may be found in their IEP, if they have one. You may also speak with your child’s teacher about environmental strategies that could be adapted at home. Also, involve your child in creating their work space. Let them decide where they feel most comfortable doing their homework and what they may need to achieve the task at hand. Ensure that the works space is well-lit, supplies are within reach and there are few distractions (Kids Health, 2015).
- Time management
Coming up with a consistent homework schedule with your child may also alleviate some of the stress and set clear expectations. With your child, decide on a time that will be committed to homework everyday after school. This may be right when they get home, or after a snack and break. Also, set a time limit. Homework should not eat up your entire evening. It is important to decide when homework no longer adds value. On weekends, you may select a day or two as homework free. Do what works for your child!
When it comes to school projects that require more time and organisation, take the opportunity to teach you child some time management skills. Set a timeline, break up the task into manageable chunks, set weekly goals and work towards the due date together. This may also be an opportunity for parents to set an example for their child. Perhaps, demonstrate how you apply time management skills in your daily life (e.g. paying bills on time, planning home renovations, etc.). In the end, your child may develop their executive functions and acquire some valuable life skills.
- Parent-teacher communication
An open and continuous communication with teachers is important in understanding expectations and setting realistic goals for the child during homework. For children who are older, you may also keep them involved during these communications (e.g. copy them in an email communication), allowing their self-advocacy skills to flourish and giving them a sense of responsibility. This may also be an opportunity to explore some of the accommodations used in the classroom and how they may be useful at home. Perhaps, if homework has become too stressful, it is time to consider foregoing the practice entirely. Talk to your child’s teacher about your experience at home. They will surely provide you with the support you need to help you child during homework and may even share a tip or two!
Homework should be a time to practice new skills and review concepts that were learned at school. Consider homework a time where you touch base with your child’s learning and witness their progress. Take the opportunity to celebrate the small victories and empower them to acknowledge their abilities.
“Top 10 Homework Tips“. KidsHealth. Nemours, January 2015. Web. 30 May 2017. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/homework.html
Relevant Resources on LD@home
For more tips on helping you child with homework and other information, click here to accesss “LD@home’s Survival Guide for Parents”.
To learn some of the vocabulary used in this article, click here to refer to the LD@home’s glossary.
For more information about learning disabilities and strategies that could help your child’s learning needs, click here to access the York Waterfall Chart: “Understanding Learning Disabilities: How Processing Affects learning”.