by: DeAnn Hyatt-Foley, MEd,
Matt Foley, MEd, LPC & Ryan Foley
Our son Ryan detests homework. He says that the school is trying to take control over his home life. To a certain extent, we share his feelings. I asked several of my friends with typical children how they feel about homework. They all began their response to this question with rolled eyes, then a sigh that I interpreted as a sign of exasperation. I have also talked with several parents of kids with AS about homework. Their response was the same but with a note of frustration and concern. I hear stories of parents and children spending literally hours on homework after a full day of school and therapies.
We did not allow homework for Ryan while he was in elementary school. We felt that he had enough after school activities such as speech, OT, etc. that homework was just too much to ask of him. We accept that homework is necessary for junior high school students, but with limits.
One the one hand, after a full day of school Ryan’s and my evenings are filled with going to therapies, running errands and doing household chores. By the time we settle in to complete his homework it can be quite late. When Ryan tells me he has homework, with frustration in his voice, I can feel the tension work itself into my shoulders. Ryan is very vocal about his need for what he calls “down time.” On some nights, homework is just too much for Ryan after he has struggled all day with academics and social interactions.
On the other hand, my husband Matt and I feel that homework does help students develop good study skills. It also helps develop initiative and responsibility. Homework is defined as out-of-class tasks assigned to students. These assignments are either an extension of the classroom, or an elaboration of classroom work. Homework helps students learn study skills that will benefit them if they go on to college. Matt and I want our child to develop these skills because we feel they are also important skills for Ryan’s life as an adult. I will share with you how we managed to take control over the homework blues.
At the beginning of the school year, after several nights of angry outburst, we requested an Individual Education Program (IEP) meeting to remedy the problem. After much debate, the IEP committee finally came up with a plan that works for Ryan and is acceptable to us and the educators.
1. Study Hall Time. I was shocked to learn that in our school district, we no longer have study hall. Our IEP committee scheduled a period each day so that Ryan can do his homework at school. This limits the amount of schoolwork that comes home.
2. Ryan has a Teaching Assistant (TA). The TA works with Ryan one-on-one during the study period. We have found that students with NLD/AS have a difficult time organizing their materials and knowing where to begin with their school work. The TA helps Ryan with both.
3. Establishing parameters on homework. We established some parameters with the school on how schoolwork will be handled at home and that we, the parents, decide how much time will be spent completing it. Matt and I had a frank discussion with the educators at the IEP meeting where we expressed our feelings about homework. We told them that we support their efforts to work with Ryan, but we will continue to set the limits on how much homework will be completed at home. When we feel that Ryan is at the point of diminishing return with his homework, we tell Ryan that he can complete it at another time (extended time for assignments is a modification on Ryan’s IEP). The IEP committee agreed that this modification applies to homework. The IEP committee decided that Matt or I will send a note to the teacher requesting “extended time” for Ryan’s homework. We also made an agreement with the educators that Ryan’s grades will not be affected when more time is needed.
4. Limiting the amount of time spent on homework. We limit the amount of time Ryan has to spend on homework to around one hour each evening. If Ryan is having a particularly good day, we may choose to spend more time than an hour. It is our opinion that homework is not productive when Ryan is upset and/or fatigued.
5. An assignment notebook. The TA works with Ryan in making sure that his assignments are written down. This helps on many levels. First, it helps Ryan document that he understands what needs to be done. Second, it helps him learn organizational skills. Third, it is a way for us to communicate with the teachers about homework.
6. Share concerns about amount and type of homework. Periodically, it has been necessary to discuss how much homework and the type of homework that is coming home. We have requested that no new learning assignments come home, only work that reinforces what has already been covered in the classroom. Additionally, we asked that class notes come home for subjects such as science. We have found it to be very difficult to work on worksheets when neither Matt nor I have had the benefit of receiving instruction on how to fill them out. The solution was to have Ryan’s TA work with him at school on the worksheets, since she was present in class when the assignment was explained.
7. The parent who knows the subject matter is the one who works with Ryan. It’s no secret that I am not good with math. I’ve always struggled with it. Science is the other area I avoid like the plague. I am, however, very good with English, literature, etc. When it comes to math and science, Matt assists Ryan. Fortunately, the TA takes care of a lot of Ryan’s science homework. Dividing up Ryan’s homework by subject matter has reduced my stress when it comes to homework assignments.
I am aware that we may have taken a somewhat different approach to homework, but we have managed to find a system that works for our family and the school. Open and honest communication between the school staff and ourselves has been the key to effectively dealing with the issue of homework. Ryan still complains about having to do homework, but it is no longer an unproductive time, filled with tension and anger. The modifications we have made to homework assignments has allowed Ryan to learn at his own pace and develop good study skills. For the time being, we are not singing the homework blues.
Copyright: DeAnn Hyatt-Foley, MEd, Matt Foley, MEd, LPC & Ryan Foley
This article is posted on NLD on the Web! with permission of the authors, who retain the rights to this article.