Homework Wars

Most youngsters, including those with autism, balk when they hear that dreaded question, “Have you finished your homework yet?” If we look at ourselves from the child’s perspective, we usually stand like an impatient guard or hang like a big boulder that will fall on their heads if they don’t finish their work on time. A friend once said evenings at their home seemed to turn into wrestling matches where she played the part of the mean, nagging mom and her pre-teen daughter played the part of the hot-tempered, stubborn student. No one wins in the homework battle that wages in many homes on school nights. How can we get out of the war mentality?

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It is up to parents to call a truce, to change the whole approach to homework, and to create a calm, enjoyable atmosphere every night. Things won’t be perfect around your house, but you can take steps to change things around the house. Here are some ideas to help your family accomplish that seemingly impossible feat.

1. Rather than sending everyone off to their rooms with a threat, gather everyone around the kitchen table every night with a snack and books and calculators. 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, or if their teachers don’t assign homework, play educational games, write in a diary, or color a picture for grandma.

2. 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.

3. Take time every evening to read to your children, even if they can read independently. Read to them even if they don’t seem to pay attention. Read even if you are too busy – three minutes is better than nothing. 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 seems to be paying attention or if he understands everything. Just read!

Granted, all these strategies are easier said than done. But, if we don’t make changes, this homework battle will continue for many, many years, and no one will win the war. Feel free to share your experiences or frustrations or ideas. Just click on the comments button or send an e-mail to talk@FAQautism.com.

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: 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. Feel free to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. Send email to talk@FAQautism.com And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com

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