Homework Battles

“Our evenings seem to just turn into wrestling matches,” wrote a mom of three kids, including a pre-teen diagnosed with Asperger’s. “I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle trying to get the kids to finish homework. I’ve made a desk space in their rooms, but my daughter with Asperger’s never gets any work done unless I just nag her minute by minute. Then she just loses her temper, night after night. I need some ideas to help make the homework process easier.”

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SOME SUGGESTIONS. Although homework can be challenging for all parents, families of children with autism face even more challenges because these youngsters often resist changes in routine, because they may need some help comprehending and completing the assignments, because they may need some encouragement to focus on and complete a task, and because they seem to “melt-down” at the most inopportune times. It is up to us to set the tone for homework each evening. So, here are three steps that you might want to consider when setting up your regular evening routine.

Step #1: TURN OFF THE TELEVISION. All kids, especially those functioning on the spectrum of autism, are easily distracted by television. Your children are far more important than your favorite television stars. Television shows rerun. Children’s lives do not.

Step #2: TABLE TIME. Treat homework like an adventure, not a punishment. Gather around the table every evening for everyone in the family to do “homework.” Parents can write letters, pay bills, or read the newspaper. If your youngsters don’t have much homework, play an educational game, write in a diary, or color a picture for grandma.

Step #3. READ! Take time every evening to read to your children, even if they can read independently. Read the funny papers. Read classic children’s stories – my grown boys still love O. Henry’s Ransom of Red Chief. Read a chapter a night of books like Tom Sawyer, My Side of the Mountain, or The Velveteen Rabbit. Read the sports pages. Read poems or nursery rhymes. Read Popular Science magazine or Ranger Rick. Don’t worry if your child understands everything. Just read!

Finally, the key to decreasing the stress and increasing the adventure of homework is to avoid the question all kids dread, “Have you finished your homework yet?” Instead, gather around the kitchen table every night with a snack and books and enjoy the nightly routine.

NOTE TO LISTENERS AND READERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. You can click on a button to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solutions. Check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. www.FAQautism.com

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