Homework Tips for Children with Special Needs

Getting your child to do his or her homework is tough, especially after a long summer break. However, for children struggling with executive functioning (planning, multi-tasking, and self-regulating) and those with difficulties focusing, sitting still, or engaging in a task for a certain period of time, it may be even more difficult to do homework. As parents, we want to assist our children while helping them build their toolbox of coping skills and independence. So how can we do both? We decided to provide you with a few tips to learn just that and help your child (and yourself) during the school year.

1.       Create a fun and welcoming homework space. Set aside a space that is designated for homework. Make it fun with notepads, colored pens, sharpened pencils, and a great desk to make your child comfortable. Add some pictures to make it homier but not too distracting.

2.       Plan, plan, plan. Take a big calendar and plan ahead with your child. Color code assignments due for certain subjects, test dates, and fun activities planned.  Use the calendar to designate days for test studying and figuring out how to approach the new school year in an organized manner.

3.       Set up goals before each study session. Prioritize and decide together what is the most important thing, what needs to be addressed first, and how you want to spend those homework hours today. Make sure it is in line with the calendar and you are showing your child how you refer to the calendar to make sure you are not missing anything.

4.       Take breaks (either sensory, snack, or simply rewarding breaks). Sitting with your child for hours while he or she is doing homework and losing his or her concentration every five minutes is not only frustrating but also unproductive. Designate in advance breaks to break up the study time and give your child that extra boost he or she may need. If you notice that your child’s attention span is short, start by adding sensory breaks every ten or twenty minutes and gradually increase the time in between to develop stamina and focus.

5.       Get active. If you are testing your child you can incorporate an active activity such as passing a ball while answering questions or writing things on a white board rather than on a pen and paper. This change in atmosphere may help your child concentrate more and make studying more fun.

6.       When homework is done, make sure to organize your child’s backpack for the next day. Together sort through the notebooks and books your child will need, take out old papers from the backpack, and make sure it is clean and ready for tomorrow. Gradually you can let your child organize his or her backpack while you watch and eventually your child can do it by himself/herself (depending on age and independence).

7.       Reward your child. Give your child a reward for completing everything in an organized and timely manner. This does not necessarily mean ice cream or T.V. time but can be rewarding things such as cooking dinner together or going on a nice walk together. Try to encourage activities together that will help build your bond while providing your child with attention and fun.

We hope these tips were helpful and wish you all a wonderful and successful school year from FOCUS!