After a long day in the classroom, homework is the last thing on your child’s mind. A child with special needs may have an even harder time settling down and trying to focus on the task at hand.
Recognize that struggles with homework will not resolve overnight. In order to help homework time run smoothly, parents need to be in tune with their child’s specific challenges and implement strategies based on their strengths and weaknesses.
The following techniques may help reduce your child’s frustrations and make homework time less stressful for everyone in the house.
Unwind and Relax
Unless you are dealing with strict time constraints, allow your child 30 to 45 minutes of downtime before getting to work. Depending on after school activities, you may need to tailor this based on your child’s schedule, but try to carve out a few minutes to allow your child to unwind and decompress. Let them watch a television show, play a game on their tablet, or enjoy a snack while telling you about their day. After they have a chance to relax, have them grab their backpack and start their homework. Once your child gets used to this schedule, they will come to realize what is expected of them. If possible, try to begin homework at the same time each day. Children respond to routine and a structured learning environment.
Move, Move, Move
Some children benefit from some form of physical activity before they pick up a book. Encourage your child to run around outside, swing on a swing, or jump on the trampoline after school. A quick bike or shooting hoops may be all they need to refocus and get down to studying.
Create A Designated Homework Area
By setting aside an area just for homework, your child has a space reserved just for them. Place your child in a quiet location near to where you will be. Create a homework toolbox filled with all the supplies they will need. Refresh the box periodically, replacing worn out crayons and pencils sharpened down to stubs. If your child craves sensory input, you should include a few of your child’s favorite fidget toys. Keep a pack of gum on hand. Sometimes, chewing a piece of gum can also help maintain focus.
Break It Up
If you see your child beginning to get frustrated with an assignment, have them take a five minute break to do something fun. Have them stand up and do jumping jacks or run around the front lawn. Pull out a container of clay or a jump rope and have your child redirect their energy elsewhere. After a few minutes they should be ready to get back to work. Some days, more than one break might be required.
If your child has difficulty with writing, ask their teacher if they can type up their assignments instead. Ask if you can employ a talk to text program or have them video themselves responding to essay questions using an app such as Flipgrid. Once you remove their frustration putting pencil to paper, you may find that they will put more thought and creativity into their writing assignments. There is a wealth of devices and software programs available to help children with special needs learn in a way tailored for them.
Books on tape are a great resource for children with special needs. Your child’s teacher may even be able to access their textbooks on tape as well. You can always request an extra copy of their texts to keep at home so you can help reinforce what was learned in the classroom.
Reward Good Behavior
Some children respond to a rewards system. A sticker chart is a great way to encourage your child to complete their homework each night. Keep the chart prominently displayed on your refrigerator or bulletin board as a reminder of their success. Have your child accumulate stickers to work towards a goal. Ten stickers may equal a trip to pick up something from the dollar store. One hundred stickers may allow them to pick out a toy or game from their wish list. Keep reminding your child of the reward they will receive after they successfully complete their assignments.
Ask For Help
If you are struggling with helping your child succeed, contact their teachers. Never be afraid to reach out to see what tips and tricks they find useful in the classroom. Using all of your available resources, will facilitate a positive learning experience.