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Homework Strategies For Special Needs


5 Homework Strategies For Your Child With Special Needs


By: Suzie Dalien, M.Ed.

Let’s face it – homework can be tough, even without a disability presenting an obstacle to learning success, and it doesn’t get any easier the older your child gets. Parenting a child with special needs is a learning experience for all involved, and can be frustrating without the right tips and tricks at your disposal.

Reading up on your child’s specific disability and needs will give you much-needed insight into what accommodations they will require in order to learn at their own pace, in their own way. There are some definite strategies for dealing with your child’s homework load, and they are both simple and effective.

1. Keep work organized with a homework calendar.

A child with special needs often needs a little more structure and guidance than others, which is why it’s important to keep a visual reminder of your child’s work handy at all times. A homework calendar allows your child to see when work was completed and turned in, when it was completed and forgotten to be turned in, and whether or not the homework was completed but turned in late. Try this simple method to get started:

• Use an existing calendar or print individual pages and keep them next to the area where homework is completed.
• Let your child pick out a few crayons or markers that will represent different areas of homework completion
• Use one color to indicate on the calendar day that homework was incomplete, perhaps a red or black. Another color would indicate homework was done and handed in on time, and two colors together could mean it’s been completed but was turned in late.

This helps your child see their progress and gives them a specific goal to reach that is defined by both of you at home, i.e. 4 out of 5 days complete and turned in, etc. Keep the calendar pages together in a binder so you can track progress as time goes on.

2. Help ensure the assignments are clear and concise.

Communication with the school or educator(s) is vital to your child’s homework success, and needs to be kept up on a weekly basis. Completing school assignments at home should mimic the work performed in the classroom, and should not put any undue stress on the child with special needs. Speak with the teachers to ensure your child’s homework suits their individual abilities, and help define homework goals at home. If your child is given five pages of work to do, set reachable goals such as two pages every 30 minutes or a five-minute break between each project. Breaking the work up into bite-sized, manageable goals can foster an environment of attainable achievement.

3. Define their study skills.

How to study and complete work in a timely manner are two skills that students often tend to leave at the classroom door on their rush to get home at the end of the day. It’s important to make sure your child with special needs knows how to complete their homework in such a way that it translates back into school life, as well. Here are some tips:

• Make sure you have a designated area that’s just for homework, so your child knows where to go every day without question.
• Keep all of your child’s school supplies in the homework area, as well as the homework calendar. Ease of access is one way to ensure work is being completed on a daily basis.
• Implement a system of double-checking and reassurance before allowing your child to turn the work in at school. A fresh set of eyes helps catch any mistakes before they leave the house.
• Show your child with special needs how to take notes, especially if studying for an exam. Make it work to their advantage with a format that’s easy for them to understand and use on their own.

4. Don’t be afraid to employ technological strategies.

Sometimes low-tech tools are the best option for homework success, such as a piece of paper with a hole cut out so your child only sees one problem or word at a time, and other times you might need to pull out the big guns. There is a world of sophisticated technology out there to help your child with special needs learn in their own way, and it can be surprisingly affordable. From special devices such as the AlphaSmart, which is a battery-operated portable word processor, to software programs like Kidspiration that help break down word and number concepts in an easy-to-understand manner.

For a child with special needs who has trouble with motor skills, you can try using raised line paper to give them a visual indicator of where the words go, or you might want to try pencil weights to help a child press a little harder in order to get the desired results. There’s an entire world of technological help waiting for you, should you need it.

5. Have patience.

It can be frustrating explaining the same concepts over and over to a child with special needs, but the key to everyone’s peace of mind is patience. Losing your temper will only hamper homework progress, and might even shut your child down to the process. It’s important to know that they didn’t ask to be different, so just take a deep breath and keep the bigger picture in mind – learning success.

The homework strategies you employ to help your child with special needs complete their work should be tailored to the child’s unique abilities, and will not fit into a standard model. Every accommodation should be made to ensure children are working in a safe, distraction-free environment that’s full of love and support, not to mention the tools they will need on a daily basis. Parenting a child with special needs is a challenge, but one that doesn’t have to be frustrating; with the right tips and tricks up your sleeve, you will be able to help your child achieve more you could ever believe!

Alternatively, many parents are turning to special education tutoring to give their child the tools and assistance needed to maximize academic success. Special Education Resource was created specifically for children with special needs and their parents. All of our tutors are trained in special education and understand how to break down the curriculum your child is learning at school in a way that maximizes their learning potential.

Every little bit helps your child on their path to success. Knowledge and understanding reign in the world of special education.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 at 5:52 pm and is filed under Special Education Tips and tagged as . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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, which she and her husband are launching soon.

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