Thursday, August 30, 2012

Practicality: Homework......


I know its that time of year again and beyond IEPs, paras, therapies and teacher/classroom/support issues you have to help your child deal with homework. Honestly, CM2 is in college and we still have problems getting him to do his homework. Oh he ends up doing it, but not without screaming(dad), yelling(me) and snide nastiness (CM2)...and yes we have tried the gentle approach and the cajoling approach and the comfort talk no, I don't need a lecture about using a calm voice with your child. CM2 now almost 19, likes to remind us that he is NOT a child but a young adult, so we decided that we are going to treat him like a young adult and hold him responsible for himself and get mad when he doesn't follow through.

Oh he will learn if you let him fail people say. That's really nice for someone else to come up with that idea..but have you seen how much college costs? Yep, we should just let him fail and throw our money down the toilet. Or better yet, according to these so called parenting experts, let him fail and loose his financial aid and scholarship. That would so teach him a lesson that it would now cost me more money for his education(sarcasm). Oh let him pay for his own education these experts say....yeah right...

Your responsibility to your child doesn't really end when they turn 18. College and graduate school education is included in the parenting manual and so is letting them come home after college until they can pay for a descent place to live. (OK my boys never went away to school so they don't need to come back since they never left.) What I like best about those that give parenting advice, is that most of them never had any children of their own. But they know everything about raising children especially a child with special needs.

The truth  of the matter is that CM2 is capable of pulling off a solid B average with a minimal amount of work. Hubby tries to explain to him that B is all well and good and not something to be ashamed of, but into day's world, where 50% of college graduates do not have jobs, Bs are not good enough. Honestly if he spent half the time on schoolwork that he did on gameplay he would be a straight A student. Life is about not just getting by, we try to explain to him. Life is about thinking outside the box and taking initiative. No one wants to hire someone who plods along. They want thinkers and doers. Graduate schools want to see potential too. Hopefully he will learn that lesson before he loses out on something that is very important to him.

Meanwhile, back to the homework dilemma...

For many children homework is the bane of their existence. Having spent the day holding it together in school, they need lots of down time to recoup. On top of that our children probably are going from school to one therapy or tother, to umpteen number of doctors to educational consultants, to tutors and if there is any time left, maybe something a typical child would do after a sport or attend religious school or scouts.

So the trick is to organize their time and their day so that some homework gets done. One other thing to keep in mind as well is that if your child has a processing problem, like mine do, they need extra time to do their homework. Something that might take a typical child 30 minutes will take your child hours. Under these circumstances, you can actually have the IEP accommodations include modified homework. If the students have to do 20 math problems your child should do half or even a third. If the class has to write a two page essay your child should write a one-page essay or even a paragraph. Of course this all depends on your child's learning issues and without a doubt the special  educators need to be consulted.

Now the trick here is to slowly get your child used to doing the requisite homework. While in elementary school through middle school homework modification is fine and can be used as a tool to help your child develop the necessary homework skills. In some states, New York for example, there is limited modification on homework in high school because there is a strict guidelines as to what is expected of students due to the Regents Board. By high school, if they are receiving an academic diploma, your child needs to be ready to do homework  like every other student at this point.

These requirements are not a bad thing. If done properly it does prepare a student for college and higher education. In college you can rest assured there is no homework modification at all. You can have test accommodations and even classroom accommodations but the work is the work and if you cannot do it, you do not belong at that school.Now what are those skills that can help your child preform their homework tasks?...Why our favorite good old executive functioning skills of course:

Executive functioning is learning how to organize, prioritize and time your work properly. It is knowing what needs to be done and having the proper tools to do it. It is knowing that you should have paper and pencil, computer, text book and dictionary and/or calculator handy. It is knowing when to take breaks, when to ask for help and when to even ask for extensions on projects. It is understanding yourself and how to function effectively.

No, this is not easy for our children. But it is a skill that can be taught. But you must begin in elementary school. Help your child learn to figure out their schedule. Brainstorm with them when they think they will need breaks. Figure out what they can do on that break. Figure out how they will keep track of time (we used a kitchen timer). Put it all down on paper, keep it in front of them so they have a tactile reality of their afternoon. Teach them too, that if they get off schedule its no big deal, you learn to readjust when necessary.

Remember as they age , their responsibilities grow. It is never too late to start teaching them this skill, but the earlier you start the better. This way they will become used to age appropriate responsibilities and each year they can add to their functionality.

Also the truth is that when your child learns to handle the homework and course load depends greatly on the student. While you read about CM2s issues, CM1 has never really had homework problems. Well he never lacked the drive to complete his homework, he just needed the tutors and the study skills to make his life easier. Again as with everything concerning our children, successes greatly depend on the individual and you cannot judge your child's success by the actions or reactions of others in the autism community.

The trick to successful homework is IEP modifications, study skills, scheduling and organization. And yes, some very astute and supportive parenting helps too...

Here are some past posts bout homework. Hopefully something in one of these articles may help:

Scheduling Homework and the Urge to Battle Mutant Zombies
Homework Hydra Strikes Again
Schedules, Oasis, Rules and Love
Triggers, Charts, Schedules and Perspective
The Big Bang, Organization and Executive Functioning
Fried Hard Drives and Fried Nerves (Mine)

Sorry,  no, it really does  Never End. Honestly I think that's OK. My aunt used to say about parenting in general...."from the time they come out to the time you go under, you worry {care and think} about them constantly..." Someone should write a real book about parenting someday....don't you think?

Until next time,