Homework Tips for Children with Autism

Homework Tips for Children with Autism

Does it take your child forever to complete his homework every night?

Do you get so frustrated that you end up doing it for him? Does your child frequently complain about his homework being too hard? Does your child exhibit challenging behaviors when asked to do his homework? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then this article is for you.

Many kids, especially children with autism, ADHD, or other learning/developmental disabilities dread doing academic work because in all honesty, it’s difficult for them!

To make homework time less stressful, consider the following tips:

Decide whether or not the task is appropriate for your child’s abilities. Sometimes, teachers will assign work that the child does not have the prerequisite skills to complete. For example, it will be very difficult for a child to do multiplication if he has not yet mastered addition and subtraction. Likewise, if your child cannot read, then reading comprehension assignments are not appropriate. So first assess whether or not your child has the prerequisite skills to complete his assignments. If not, then modifications may need to be made to your child’s homework assignments and focus should be placed on teaching basic skills.

Change the work environment. Create a quiet space for your child to complete homework. If possible, allow your child to help create their very own “office” space. Make sure all of the materials they need are at hand.Items that are distracting to your child should not be present.

Provide specific instructions. Individuals with autism are usually very concrete (black and white) in their thinking. Therefore it helps to explain precisely what needs to be done. Have your child repeat the instructions to ensure that he understands the assignment.  

Break the task down into smaller parts. This is a very common behavior change method employed by applied behavior analysts. Basically, whatever the child can do (or is willing to do!), start there. Your child may be able to tolerate five minutes of reading before needing a break. Or he may be able to complete three math problems independently before he starts losing focus. Set goals that your child can actually achieve. Over time, you can gradually require him to do more work in order to earn a break or other kind of reinforcement. 

Reinforcement. If homework is a very difficult task for your child, you may need to offer some heavy duty reinforcement to get him to stay on task. In general, the more non-preferred the task is, the more reinforcement you will need to use. Computer time, video games, playing outside, TV, and books are all examples of rewards that can be given after the child completes his homework. Another option is to give your child points or stickers towards a very large reward, such as a trip to the mall during the weekend. 

Structure. Most kids with autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, or other related special needs respond well to structure. Have a set homework time everyday as part of his daily routine. Choose a homework time that coincides with when your child is well fed and most alert.

Moral Support. If you have ever had a workout buddy, you know that sometimes just having someone do something with you makes the job so much easier. Initially, you may need to sit at the table and help your child with most, or all of his homework. But over time, try to reduce your presence. Offer lots of encouragement and reinforcement for independent work.