Defiant young people with Aspergers and High Functioning Autism are under the mistaken belief that they are in charge. Their defiance has worked for them in the past, and they have learned to use it to their advantage. Luckily, there are several steps moms and dads can take to get a resistant youngster to do homework. Since no two kids are alike, there is no one-cure-fixes-all method. Mothers and fathers must use what they know about their youngster to determine which course of action works best. Very often, more than one method must be tried before a solution is found.
Whichever steps are taken to get a defiant "Aspie" to do homework, there are some things all moms and dads must keep in mind when managing these difficult homework situations:
1. Be available for help— You don't need to sit with your Aspergers youngster, but you need to be close enough that they don't have to search for you if they require help. If the youngster has to get up from their work to find you it will disrupt their focus and they may become distracted by someone else in the house. You don't want to waste time refocusing them. If the youngster fusses ignore their complaints. You know they have to get this work done and so do they. Keep redirecting their attention to the work at hand. Use statements like, "Show me how you do this." and read the question out loud. Reading the question to your youngster while they sit in front of the page gets them to focus. Use your finger to point to each word; this motion will draw the youngster's eyes to the page. Be interested in what they are doing. Your interest will show the youngster that their home work is important to you.
2. Be calm— Often the frustrations of moms and dads come through to the defiant Aspergers youngster and make the situation worse. It is always best to be calm and if a mother/father feels upset with the youngster it is better to step away and ask the other parent to step in for a while. Another good idea is to decide that one parent will work on English and Social Studies while the other parent works on Science and Math. As a result is varies who is the person enforcing the homework. Also if there is such a push for perfection on the assignments that the youngster feels he or she can't be perfect, it can lead to defiance. It is acceptable for the youngster to get a problem wrong once in awhile. Don't push for perfection.
3. Be flexible— When the Aspergers youngster comes home from school don't pounce on them to get their homework done. Give them several minutes to shake off that school smell, get a snack and relax. Try to keep the time that home work is done standard. If you choose after dinner, then make sure that every night after dinner there is time to complete homework. If there is a disruption in routine, make sure that the youngster is well aware of the change and the reasons for the change.
4. Be steadfast— Under the pressure of defiance, moms and dads sometimes lose their will to enforce good homework practices. There is a temptation to be worn down. Keep in mind if the youngster wins and just doesn't do the homework, it is a long term loss. Will the fact that one assignment doesn't get completed on one night affect a youngster's education? No, but over time the youngster will have missed out on many learning opportunities and eventually it can cause a student to be behind other classmates academically. As the youngster becomes older, there will no doubt be situations that will have more at stake than simply a grade and yet the defiant youngster will have had defiance rewarded in the past. It may lead to more defiant behavior in the future.
5. Clarify— Sit down with your Aspergers youngster to ensure that they know what is expected of them by their teacher and that they have the skills they need to complete the work. Homework is a time for practicing skills they have been taught in the classroom. Many kids who are struggling in the classroom become defiant at home when they are unable to perform the tasks set out in the homework assignment. If your youngster cannot explain the task to you, chances are high that they do not understand it for themselves. At this point, it is crucial that you be able to re-teach the skill, or contact the youngster’s teacher right away for an explanation.
6. Do not argue or threaten— If you argue with a youngster, you have already lost. Threats do not work. Kids are pre-programmed to push the envelope and to call our bluff.
7. Establish a routine— Schedule a time for homework. Start homework at the same time as often as possible. Many dedicated moms and dads feel that kids should start homework the minute they enter the house. However, some kids may need time to play, relax or regroup after a stressful school day. Choose a time that will fit into your schedule and be productive for your youngster. Establishing a stopping time is also important. Add a timer to your homework materials kit and let your youngster know that when the timer goes off, homework is finished. Very few kids can endure more than an hour of homework, but less than thirty minutes will probably not be enough to accomplish much. Consider your youngster's age, needs and frustration level. At first, this structure may seem ineffective. However, your youngster may begin to see defiance as wasted effort once homework becomes an inevitable part of the nightly routine.
8. Establish time and place— Routine is important to Aspergers kids. Homework should become a routine just as bedtime, bath time and brushing teeth. Usually it is best to start the homework as early as possible. Once the youngster is tired, there is a greater likelihood that the youngster will become defiant. If homework is a consistent part of the daily routine then the youngster knows that there is no wiggle room for defiance.
9. Go with a reward system— If the youngster has several sheets of homework or one sheet of a particular subject that causes your youngster stress then break up the homework session. Have the youngster complete some of the homework and then let them take a break by engaging in an activity that relaxes them. Set a timer and make sure the youngster knows how much free time they will have.
10. Hold fast— Do not give up. If the youngster must miss out on something they want because they have not yet finished their homework, then this is what they need to experience.
11. Low traffic area— Make sure the room they do their homework in isn't a major traffic area. If you have to use a high traffic area then make sure everyone in the house is aware that this particular block of time is homework quiet time. Tell any other kids that may not have homework that for a particular period of time you will be off limits, unless there is an emergency. Let the other kids know they will have to be somewhere else until their sibling is finished working.
12. Make it visual— Consider a visual way for the Aspergers youngster to see accomplishment on homework. For younger kids it may mean taking a link off of a paper chain or putting jelly beans in a container. It can be a marker board or calendar to mark off the items completed. When the tasks are made visible to the student, the student develops a stronger sense of accomplishment. For older kids, it can be as simple as having an in-box and an out-box. Don't put everything in the in-box at first.
13. New person of authority— Sometimes a great tool is to bring in a new person to be the authority for awhile. Many students improve by having a relative or a tutor come in to work with them on homework for awhile. Kids tend to think that moms and dads don't know anything, but when someone else tells them the exact same thing, the student begins to respond. Another factor in this is when kids see the negative attention from a mother/father as attention. Bringing in someone that does not have that emotional tie can help with a change in behavior.
14. No rewards before completion— A common mistake is to allow students to watch a little television or play a few video games before tackling homework. It must be established early on that completion of the homework comes before pleasure. If it is the other way around, a defiant youngster will continue to be defiant because of the desire to continue the pleasurable activity.
15. Offer win-win options— Offer options that get everything done, such as allowing the youngster which thing they do first, math or writing.
16. Praise— Once the youngster has completed their homework praise them for doing their work. Acknowledge that they completed it nicely. If you make the youngster aware that you noticed their good work habits, they are likely to repeat them.
17. Proper working conditions— For some Aspergers kids, an improper working environment can cause them to be defiant. Students are hungry and thirsty when they come home from school. A few minutes for a snack are certainly appropriate. Consider having the youngster sit at the counter while preparing meals so the mother/father is available for supervision and questions and yet it is not overbearingly looking over the youngster's shoulder. Make sure that the student has appropriate supplies and that the study area is clean and neat. Cluttered desks, tables or other study areas are not conducive to studying for many students. Do consider playing music lightly in the background or allow an MP3 player as it can help some students to focus and then the homework is a little more pleasurable. Finding the proper working conditions may require a little experimentation.
18. Provide reinforcement— Show your youngster that refusing to do homework has negative consequences while making a true effort has rewards. Choose two or three behavioral goals for your youngster and write them on a chart that your youngster can understand. For example, if your youngster's screaming is the worst part of homework time, you could include "Speak in a calm voice" on your chart. Other goals may relate to staying seated, following directions, or reading aloud. Try to phrase them positively; most students will not respond well to a list of items that all begin with "Do not __________". At the end of each homework session, discuss your youngster's behavior. If the youngster has met the goal, record that under the date. You can use stickers, stars or a certain color. If the youngster has not met the goal, record that with a different mark, such a minus sign or a frown.
19. Ground rules— Set down ground rules, such as no television, computer games, friends, or other entertainments until their homework is done.
20. Show interest in their work— Homework does not need to be painful or a power struggle. Stay positive, use rewards and read the work over with our youngster. Showing an interest in your youngster's' work helps to create a positive feeling in your youngster and home work will not seem like such a chore.
21. Small successes— It may be necessary to begin with small steps with rewards. The defiant youngster can rebel because homework seems daunting and overwhelming. Break the assignments down and then take a small break or have a snack. Often times when the student knows that a break is coming after one task, it will be tackled with more gusto. Eventually the student may indicate the desire to do a little more before taking a break. To start the goal may be finish five math problems or read one page in the book. The small goals make kids feel like it is a surmountable task.
22. State your expectations— Habits take time to develop and are difficult to break. This is as true for good habits as it is for bad habits. Good study habits take time to develop and bad study habits are difficult to overcome. By remaining firm and calm, and providing clear explanations when they are needed, your defiant youngster will learn that some battles simply are not worth the effort. In surprisingly little time, your defiant youngster will learn better study habits, if only so that they can have more time to do the fun things that they want to do.
23. Stay calm— Getting angry simply tells the youngster that they have won; they control you when you lose control of your emotions.
24. Stay positive— Your positive approach will help your youngster maintain their good mood when completing their tasks.
25. Work with the School— Talking to and enlisting suggestions from the youngster's teachers is a valuable step. Do not keep the youngster out of the discussions. The teacher, administrators and counselors can be there to reinforce the expectations. It helps to make it clear to the student that everyone is united. Do not see the professionals as enemies. They are able to look at the youngster objectively and not emotionally.
- Be available for help.
- Be consistent about what time of day the work will be done.
- Be patient when they make the same mistakes over and over again. Maybe they need to be taught using a different approach.
- Be realistic in your expectations on how much time it will take. Remember this is all new for your youngster and they are just beginning to build their logic and knowledge base.
- Have everything the youngster will need ready before they start.
- If the youngster has lots of work, ask them what they would like to start with. This small gesture helps the youngster gain some control over an activity they don't like.
- Keep the work time as quiet as you can.
- Use a rewards system.
With these tools in mind, parents can help the strong-willed Aspergers youngster to take ownership of his/her homework.
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