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Homework Helpers        < Previous        Next >



The Learning-Disabled Child and Homework


Q. My son has a learning disability, and boy, do we fight about homework. He is so much happier skateboarding with his friends, and I'm a single mom, so I have a hard time making him knuckle down and get the homework done. I've been reduced to tears so many times, and yet I'm so worried that he'll be held back in fifth grade while his friends move on to middle school. I need help, without making him feel even worse about it than he already does.


It's one of those paradoxes in education: the kids who tend to need homework the most, because they need the practice the most, tend to be the same ones who find the homework to be harder, take longer, and make them feel worse about themselves. Isn't that just the way it always goes? But parents and students with learning disabilities have a lot of help available to make the homework battles fewer and farther between, starting with this good article, "25 Top Tips for Handling Homework":


Thoughts for parents of an LD child:


  • Since procrastination and poor organization often sabotage homework sessions for the LD child, be very deliberate about setting up a good homework location, setting up a solid routine, and sticking to a consistent time to do the homework. Avoid distractions, such as TV, music and video games, and phone calls. No friends over. If the parent isn't able to supervise, enlist an older sibling or an in-person or phone tutor. Provide good organizational tools, such as sticky notes, highlighters, index cards, binders, folders and so on.


  • You know your child's tolerance for frustration and ability level better than anyone. So take a look at the assignments with your child, and agree on a "do-able" goal for how much of the assignment the child can get done, and how long to spend on it.


  • Work out a good school-home communication system with your child's teacher or teachers. A big envelope in which the teacher can put a date and jot notes, and the parent can initial and reply, is a good way to keep on task with teamwork. The teacher may develop a special assignment sheet for the child with suggested alternatives for a task that the teacher expects might be too difficult for the child. The parent can suggest creative alternatives, too, and together, you'll find a way.


  • Your child's teacher or the school should be able to help you with Assistive Technology or other forms of accommodations to help your child succeed with homework. Find out how long the school expects a child in that grade to spend on homework, and if your child is spending far longer, it's time to talk and work out a better way.


  • Be strategic in how you interact with your child, to "win" a good attitude about homework. You know your child best: with some, it's smartest to get right on the homework the instant they come home from school. Others need to "explode" with outdoor play and time with friends first. Think about transitions to "woo" that good homework spirit. For instance, after the after-school treat but before the homework session is to begin, give your child two or three household tasks that you know he or she can master - sorting socks, feeding the dog, shucking sweet corn for dinner, whatever. That way, the child is feeling pretty good about himself or herself as homework time rolls around. They call this "behavioral momentum," and it's worth getting, because it works.


  • As you go over the assignment with your child, remember that "scaffolding," or building on skills and knowledge the child already has, is a great way to build confidence that your child CAN master the new skills and knowledge. Be careful to connect the new, challenging material with what your child already knows and can do.


  • As always, praise effort, not the product. Don't say ANYTHING negative. Keep all your criticism and fears to yourself. Your child really, really needs encouragement and praise. That's all he or she should hear, or "pick up," from you.


Homework: There's a good guide for parents of LD kids on:



By Susan Darst Williams Homework 10 2008


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