"Getting my Aspergers son to do his homework has become a nightly battle. We are at the point of arguing constantly, which clearly is making a bad problem worse. Is there a way I can help him understand the importance of education and to develop some interest in following through with schoolwork?"
Homework can be very difficult for kids with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism to understand for the following reasons:
· they do not understand why they are expected to do schoolwork at home
· they find school stressful and do not want any reminders of it at home
· they might have difficulty with organization skills
· they find it difficult to remember to write down all the homework and remember deadlines
However, there are a number of tips that can help these young people in the future:
1. Allow Aspergers kids to make choices about homework and related issues. They could choose to do study time before or after dinner. They could do it immediately after they get home or wake up early in the morning to do it. Invite them to choose the kitchen table or a spot in their own room. One choice kids do not have is whether or not to study.
2. Doing homework can suck on its own. It’s even worse when your youngster is hunched over the books alone thinking that the rest of the family is having a party in the other room. Sit with your youngster, review the work, encourage and help (but don’t you dare do the homework yourself!). If you must get things done, at least park your youngster in the same room so you can answer questions as you make dinner, pay bills, or post of Facebook.
3. Eliminate the word “homework” from your vocabulary. Replace it with the word “study.” Have a study time instead of a homework time. Have a study table instead of a homework table. This word change alone will go a long way towards eliminating the problem of your youngster saying, "I don't have any homework." Study time is about studying, even if you don't have any homework. It's amazing how much more homework Aspergers children have when they have to study regardless of whether they have homework or not.
4. Only help if your youngster asks for it. Don’t do problems or assignments for kids. When your youngster says, "I can't do it," suggest they act as if they can. Tell them to pretend like they know and see what happens. Then leave the immediate area and let them see if they can handle it from there. If they keep telling you they don't know how and you decide to offer help, concentrate on asking than on telling. Ask: "What do you get?" … "What parts do you understand?" … "Can you give me an example?" … "What do you think the answer is?" … or "How could you find out?"
5. Disorganization is a problem for most Aspergers kids. If you want them to be organized, you have to invest the time to help them learn an organizational system. Your job is to teach them the system. Their job is to use it. Check occasionally to see if the system is being used. Check more often at first. Provide direction and correction where necessary. If your youngster needs help with time management, teach them time management skills. Help them learn what it means to prioritize by the importance and due date of each task. Teach them to create an agenda each time they sit down to study. Help them experience the value of getting the important things done first.
6. If your child can’t do his homework at school, he might need to unwind and relax when he first comes home, instead of launching straight into work. Giving him time to reduce his stress levels may mean that he then finds it easier to focus on the work later on. Some kids may also benefit from using either a reward system or a behavior contract. If he successfully completes his homework every day for a week, could he get a reward at the weekend? Alternatively a behavior contract could be drawn-up with everyone in the family, with everyone agreeing to do one task every day - and it could be agreed that completing his homework will be the thing that your child will do.
7. If your child finds it difficult to understand why he does homework at home, could he do it at school instead? Some kids find break and lunchtime very hard and they may find it preferable to sit in the library or a quiet place in the school and do their work. Some schools also have after-school clubs or homework clubs, which your child may find of use.
8. If your child has more than one piece of homework, it may be useful to ask the teachers in each lesson to either make sure your child has written down the homework in his diary, or write it in for him. They may also need to provide written instructions to take home which breaks the task down further as well.
9. Keep the routine predictable and simple. One possibility includes a five minute warning that study time is approaching, bringing their current activity to an end, clearing the study table, emptying their back pack of books and supplies, then beginning.
10. Replace monetary and external rewards with encouraging verbal responses. End the practice of paying for grades and going on a special trip for ice cream. This style of bribery has only short term gains and does little to encourage kids to develop a lifetime love of learning. Instead make positive verbal comments that concentrate on describing the behavior you wish to encourage.
11. If homework is something your children have to squeeze in between karate, piano lessons and soccer practice, they’re not going to think of it as important. And, unless you really enjoy over-dramatic tears and hearing every excuse in the book, avoid doing homework right before bedtime at all costs.
12. Time slams to a crawl for many Aspergers children when faced with a stack of papers and a #2 pencil. Set a timer for 15 minutes and, when it dings, tell your youngster to take a quick break to stretch, get a drink of water or collapse on the floor and moan “I hate doing homework” over and over again. Really active children may need to run around the house before they get back to the books.
13. Use study time to get some of your own responsibilities handled. Do the dishes, fold laundry, or write thank you notes. Keep the TV off! If you engage in fun or noisy activities during that time kids will naturally be distracted. Study time is a family commitment. If you won't commit to it, don't expect that you kids will.
14. You need to use leverage to get some children to do anything. Do they love television? Computer games? Guitar Hero? Unplug it all until homework is done. You can even exchange homework time for something they love: 15 minutes of effective homework time = 15 minutes with their beloved plugged-in whatnot.
15. There comes a time when your Aspergers child has to accept that homework is his responsibility. So, if you’re really tearing your hair out and aging prematurely due to the nightly fighting, it may be time to let your little bird fly on its own. Let your youngster go to school with an unfinished assignment and accept the consequences. Collaborating with the teacher ahead of time may insure an appropriate response to “the dog ate my homework”.