Children on the Autism Spectrum & Homework Struggles: Learning to Prioritize
The Positve & Negative of Homework
As a special education teacher, this article assumes you already have some prior knowledge of working with children on the autism spectrum, as well as the homework issues which exist for these (and other) children. We often decide that homework is a required part of the teaching and learning process without ever really exploring the implications that our choices can have (both positively and negatively) for our students and their families or caregivers.
Homework can have positive benefits such as:
- alignment with other mainstream students who do homework, and the associated benefit of shared experiences
- continuation of learning at home, particularly in everyday literacy and numeracy and social skills areas
- development of skills
- strengthening of link between home and school
- basis for shared communication between home and school
Homework can also have some negative effects too, and particularly for children on the autism spectrum, homework issues can be a cause of major stress and friction at home:
- a source of arguments and battles
- an additional requirement in a busy schedule
- a challenge for a child who make lack the skills to complete homework tasks without help
- a demand on a parent who also has to attend to other household task
Questions to Help Individualize Your Homework Approach
Try these questions to start you thinking more carefully and deeply about the role homework may or may not play when teaching a child on the autism spectrum who may be struggling with homework to a degree that it is impacting their learning and causing undue friction in their home environment:
- What is the main learning goal for this child for this week / unit / term?
- Does the child have an intellectual disability?
- Does the child have other learning difficulties such as dyspraxia or a hearing impairment?
- Is a homework task the best way of helping achieve the goals for this child?
- What do I know about the child's home situation?
- What challenging behaviors does this child demonstrate in class?
- What do I know of their challenging behaviors at home?
- What tends to occur when this child is fatigued, stressed or placed in a challenging or demanding situation?
- Can I see a way of setting homework tasks which focus on areas of strength for the child?
- Can I see a way of avoiding homework issues and problems before they occur?
- Have I established a communication method for parents and carers which is quick, easy to use and hassle free?
- Does the next stage in the child's learning depend upon successful completion of the homework tasks?
- Have I helped the family / caregivers to use technology tools if desired to help make the learning easier to achieve?
- Can I complement school learning approaches with similar ones at home - for example, can I show families how to use social stories to build specific home based skills for children?
Prioritizing Your Approach
Obviously these questions do not have any right or wrong answers; they simply exist to start you thinking more deeply about homework priroties in the context of teaching children on the autism spectrum as well as in general for any child with special learning needs.
The key focus here is to communicate with and share ideas, stories and tips with families and caregivers so that you are all on the same page. If you don't understand at least a little about how a family is thinking and feeling about their child, how can you help deliver the best possible learning outcomes for that child?