Welcome to the 2015-16 academic school year!
The number of children and youth ages 3–21 receiving special education services was 6.4 million, or about 13 percent of all public school students, in 2012–13. Some 35 percent of students receiving special education services had specific learning disabilities. (nces.ed.gov)
What exactly is one to glean from these statistics? For teachers in public school it means that at least 2-3 children in the typical classroom will have more than the ordinary challenges with completing work without assistance or special programing. And, while the public schools may have experts to assist children with learning disabilities the true challenge comes when the child arrives home and is faced with a backpack full of homework. Where are the experts to help with the homework? What are parents or caregivers to do?
First, I want to go on record that as a parent and School Psychologist I am not a fan of homework. Who wants to complete hours of work after just finishing hours of work? I have a few exceptions as I do believe in long term projects that integrate multiple skills or daily recreational reading for an hour each day. But, I understand that I am in the minority and every day millions of children come home with tons of homework. So, with that said what is the parent of child with learning disabilities to do to make this often overwhelming situation better and maybe even painless. Here are some tips that hopefully be helpful and abate any “homework wars”. And, feel free to share with all parents as they are not exclusive to those with special challenges.
Tip 1: Feed your child a nutritious snack before you begin any structured homework time. Don’t throw a lot of sugar in to them, but give them something with substance, such as a slice of pizza, peanut butter on crackers or apples. If they are in the mood for sweets be sure to make it a healthier option. If it comes in a sealed bag it is doubtful that it is very healthy. (See this link for ideas of healthy snacks from Pinterest.)
Tip 2: Allow your child at least 30 minutes of exercise before settling down for homework. Play with your child and use this time to ask about their day and share about yours!
Tip 3: Have a homework box ready. Include in the homework box the following items:
Highlight pens – use highlighters of different colors. Spotlight words that are unfamiliar and underline content that is confusing. Use different colors to help with denoting math operations by highlighting the math symbol.
Sticky Notes for a student to write questions on or use as scratch paper.
Electronic reader – such as a Kindle, iPad or Nook. The highlighting of words and sentences for grammar and vocabulary checks are very helpful for children who have reading challenges. Reading can be made fun with the “zillion” of options for books and magazine that are available.
Folders that are different colors and/or designs. These can be purchased for cheap. Each subject should be placed in different colored folders. Organization is key when a child has learning difficulties. Or just about anyone!
Voice recorder – or phone with recording feature. A child who reads a loud or explains why they are completing problem the way they are can help for instruction or correction.
Dark piece of poster board to cover material not being worked on and too distracting for some students.
Magnifying lens bar to amplify a section of print. – Click here for a sample product
Organizers to help with task identification and completion. There are many organizers available. Please see our Signing Families resource page for suggestions.
Tip 4: Switch roles – have your student teach you.
It often is helpful to learn a concept by switching your approach from learner to teacher. Have your child make up lessons to teach you the concepts that they are learning. Complete the homework they developed and let them grade it. This will help them understand new concepts from a different perspective. Once they have more confidence with tasks they may be more willing to tackle homework assignments.
Tip 5- Use multimodal techniques to learn.
Spelling an issue? Use the sign language alphabet to remember how to spell words.
Sign language also can help with math fact learning, too!
Create a song to remember information that is lengthy such as for social studies or science.
Draw pictures to remember tougher concepts. Silly drawings use kinesthetic and visual memory skills.
Community question: What strategies would you recommend to help students with learning challenges with homework?