Thursday, May 6, 2010


This blog originally appeared in May 2009.

So today I am going to talk about homework. OMG! Anyone with an asperger's child knows what that is all about. After keeping it together all day in a very challenging environment the child then comes home to hours of extra work. Of course, the teacher is not picking on your child. It's the assignment given out to the class. The only difference being your child's decompression takes on a much different look then a neurotypical child's.

Let's talk about getting home. They walk in the door and absolutely let loose. It can be a fit about anything. It's not really the object of their ire but rather the releasing of all that pent up tension that they have felt all day. Finally after sitting quiet, a snack and maybe watching their favorite video or tv show its time to look at the homework. Sometimes its not really that bad. A few math problems even a project to do. In fact in elementary school there was a program whereby the parents had to help their children with the homeowrk. A sort of forced family togetherness, if you will, which actually is good for the aspergers child. Often there are after school activities that the child has to attend first, religious education, therapy, tutor, even a sport program (mine always liked karate, and then working out with a trainer or grymnatics coach).

It was later on in middle school when the work really ratcheted itself up that problems and anxiety began to appear. This is when the IEP has to come into play. In middle school it is good to get modified homework.That is, that the child will do half the math problems assigned, a one page paper instead of a two page paper, etc. In fact, if there is a study hall or resource room time(we call it skills centre in my district) that should be added. Here the child can at least get a start on some homework and if they are having a problem the special education teacher assigned to the class can help clarify things. Sometimes the teacher even helps with study skills for test taking before a big exam.

High school becomes a different matter. There can be no modification of assignments in high school to the point that it directly affects the curriculum. The student if they are in a pre-college program has to follow the guidelines for all students, however there is some wiggle room. (Of course, they continue to get their accommodations such as extra time, alternative location, use of a computer, rereading of directions, even a special explanation of directions. For example, my son had a problem knowing how much to write in a pragraph so on short essays or long essays, the teacher would add the length to the directions, for short essay they would put in parentheses the length such as 5 lines. If it was a long essay they would write 2-3 pages (not a book).)But what can happen is that the teacher can notice that the student needs a little more of a push and will slowly acclimate the student to the longer assignments. The teacher can take time to help them learn to right an organization outline and teach them to create study guides. It is improtant that these children receive special education assistance for these issues for as nice and caring as some regular education teachers are, and no matter how much extra time they may have for a student, these children still need special support services and are entitled to it. Interestingly I have noticed that even when an undesignated student has a problem the high school tries to find a way to help. I hope that is the same where everyone lives, Teachers actually caring about educating their students.

It is important to remember that these children do not only have to have ASD but can have as the psychiatry community likes to call it, a comorbid disability. Whether it is ADHD, dyslexia or another type of reading issue, language processing which can add to writing issues, or math /spatial/ issues and of course the all important higher functional abstract and inferential reasoning issues. All these problems should be addressed by the special education teacher in the high school. In fact these issues should have been addressed all along, the problem is that sometimes they don't rear their ugly heads until later on in the child's education. So reevaluation is a constant necessity.

Now back to homework. What seems to help alot when the child gets home is schedule. Either by him/herself or with you the child needs to set up a study schedule every day. The schedule should also include breaks if the child needs it, time to work out or attend after school activities. The child should also be taught to recognize time realities. Sometimes, when there is alot of homework, they feel overwhelmed and if you can make them understand, after reviewing the assignments, that it is not all that bad, that can help too. Another unrealistic time management issue is that the child writes down too little time, then they have to be helped to learn to readjust their schedule.

One importnat time management skill that seems to have helped here, is knowing beforehand when a test or long-term assignment is due. Teach the child to work on it a little everyday and they will not feel overwhelmed. Regents exams are in one month, so my son is studyng ten-15 minutes for several subjetcs every day,on top of homework. This way he will not cram and feel overwhelmed at the end of the year. The same for a regular test. If the child has a week, then a little time every day before hand is better than the entire night before (it's actually a good strategy for any student).

What I have found that really worked however, throughout the years is directly discussing the issues with the school. Where I live, the teachers, administrators and even the janitors seem to be highy invested in the fact that all children, not just the designated ones succeed. If there is a problem then there is a solution as long as everyone is on the same page, helping the child learn to learn.

One big caveat, it is important that the child do learn to handle a regular courseload of work. Whether they go on to college, vocational training or even when they go out into the working world, what will be expected of them is the same as what is expected of everyone. Noone will accommodate those who cannot produce. A disability does not become an excuse in college for not getting your work done. They can accommodate the child for test purposes, but you must do the work, at the same level as everyone else. The same at a job. You need to do what is expected. It is a gradual process leading up to that moment but it can be done and done well. Again work with the school to help them learn to handle the homework issue. As I said in my opening blog, it is not an overnight accompishment, learning this skill may take the entire of your child's K-12 education and then in college there is the adjustment to independent organization,

Just take it one assignment at a time.

Until next time,