Over and over I hear desperate parents asking for help with getting their Autistic child to do their homework.
Stories of endless battles over homework, meltdowns, ripping it up and missed play times at school!
So why is homework so much of an issue for these children?
There are usually two main reasons. The first is that generally school is difficult for children with ASD, especially if they also have Sensory Processing Difficulties. They spend all day in an overstimulating environment, trying to hold it together. It takes a lot out of them!
Imagine going to work and it being an exhausting day, you have so much to deal with that day that you can’t wait to go home for your tea. You got up early, perhaps didn’t sleep well, traffic was awful on the way there and everything seems to have been going wrong all day. It gets to half an hour left and you start to finish off for the day, eagerly looking forward to taking off those shoes, grabbing something to eat and chilling out for the evening. Five minutes before you leave you get an email from your boss telling you they need you to stay behind for an hour because there is more work that just needs finishing that day. I expect you aren’t overly enthusiastic about the idea, no one would be!
For a child who has struggled through school all day, that hour of homework you are asking them to do feels just like that!
The other reason many children with Autism struggle with homework is that they tend to compartmentalise their day to make sense of it. They go to school to do their school work and then they go home to do home things like play or watch TV. They can not understand the idea of doing school work, at home, after school is over. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to them and that in itself makes it very hard to do.
I went through years of my son ripping up homework, screwing it up and throwing it across the room, scribbling on it. In fact once he simply wrote on it “I hate homework” and burst into tears.
So how did I sort out the homework problem for my son?
I know what I’m about to say may be a little controversial but I realised one day that I was battling every week for no reason. That he actually couldn’t do it, wouldn’t get used to the idea of it and it most definitely wasn’t helping him either academically or emotionally. He needed to rest. He needed down time after a busy day at school. The last thing he needed was homework.
So from then on I told his teachers that he wasn’t doing it. I wasn’t going to make him do it. I wasn’t even going to entertain getting it out of his school bag if they sent it home! If they wanted him to do it they would have to find time for him to do it at school!
Every year we had a bit of a disagreement with the new teacher who thought perhaps he had outgrown his autism and that all of a sudden homework wouldn’t be a problem. That homework was completely necessary to him learning. Every year they tried to give it to him and every year I explained why and politely but firmly refused to make him do it.
He left primary school last year. His SATs results were above average. He managed that without doing homework and I’m glad I didn’t pick that battle with him. School was difficult enough without bringing it home!
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