Possible reasons for difficulties
- If homework does not meet your child’s level of need, he/she may find it too difficult and may become frustrated and not want to work at home
- Your child may have difficulty understanding why they have to do work for school when they’re at home
- If your child has problems with writing and is not supervised when writing down homework, it may be unclear what work needs to be done when they get home
- After being at school all day your child may be tired and find it difficult to concentrate on other work
- There may be too many distractions at home for your child to concentrate on homework
- Your child may have problems organising themselves to do homework and may spend too long or too little time on it.
Making sure homework is suitable for your child
If your child is having difficulties with homework, it is important that you talk with your child’s class teacher. If the teacher doesn’t have much experience of autism it could also help to give school staff some information about autism spectrum disorders. We have produced a pack for school staff which you can download called: Autism spectrum disorders: a resource pack for school staff.
Ask about the topics that the group is studying and make sure the teacher is planning homework that suits your child’s level. If you feel the homework is too easy or too hard, don’t be frightened to mention it.
If the teacher will not adapt the homework, your next step is to discuss this with the SENCO, head teacher, head of year or head of department – whoever is most appropriate at your child’s school. The school has a duty under the Disability Discrimination Act to make reasonable adjustments for any pupil with a disability.
If your child has a statement of educational needs and you don’t have anything written into the statement about adjustments to be made for homework, you could ask for an annual review to change the statement and get this included.
Motivating your child to work at home
Your child may have difficulty transferring working at school to home. Visual supports can really help children with ASD to be more focused, so ask at school if they could use them. Having a visual timetable at school that extends to show what will be happening at home will prepare your child for doing homework. Ask the teacher to set this up for your child and take them through it. A social story is another useful way to explain to a child about a school day and you can include a part about doing homework. We have written an information sheet about using visual support and social stories.
Try using a motivator - an item or activity that your child really likes - and include a picture/symbol of it on a visual timetable that your child can follow. Showing, for example, homework then computer on a visual timetable may encourage him/her to start homework. The following websites and companies produce picture symbols and blank schedules that can help with visual support:
Widgit Software Ltd
26 Queen Street
Warwickshire CV32 7NA
Tel: 01926 333 680
Fax: 01936 885 293
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Pyramid Educational Consultants UK Ltd
6/7 Old Steine
Brighton BN1 1EJ
Tel: 01273 609 555
31 Firwood Drive
Surrey GU15 3QD
Tel: 01276 61390
Try to alternate what you use as a motivator, for example one day it might be homework then computer and the next day it could be homework then favourite DVD. It also helps to use positive words of encouragement when your child is working well.
If it does become extremely difficult for your child to work at home, some schools have a homework club so it’s worth asking about this. If there isn’t one at the moment, ask the head teacher about the possibility of setting one up in future.
Making sure your child writes homework down clearly
If your child has problems writing their homework down in a homework diary, ask the teacher and/or teaching assistant if they can do this or adapt the way it’s done. For example, if the homework is written up on a white board and all the children have to copy it, ask if the teacher could supervise your child or give them a copy just for themselves to copy out. It may also help if the teacher provides written instructions breaking the homework task down further that your child can take home.
Ask the teacher if they could simplify the way they present homework to your child, by highlighting the important words on a homework sheet, using visual supports or bullet points. If the child has problems writing, could they use a computer to do their homework?
You could also get your child to use a dictaphone to record the teacher’s instructions about homework, or they could record their own notes about the homework tasks and listen to them at home.
Finding the best time for homework
The best time to start homework depends on your child’s needs. You may want to give them some time for a break after the school day before they start their homework, rather than going straight into it. Or you could try starting straight after school. It can help to do homework at the same time each day so it becomes part of a routine. Again, a visual timetable can be useful to show your child what will be happening.
Creating a suitable environment
If possible, keep an area of your home free for your child to do their homework. It might help to set up a desk or table that they can work on. Ideally it should be away from any distractions like the television, radio or computer. It helps if you ask other siblings not to interrupt you child while they are working. Let your child know you are available if they need your help..
If your child finds it difficult to concentrate on work for long amounts of time, you may need to sit with them first of all to help keep them focused. You could start by getting them to work for just a short amount of time and build up gradually to longer amounts of time. It could help to use a timer to show how long they need to spend on the homework.
Ongoing communication with school
It’s a good idea to keep school up to date with how your child is progressing with homework. Ask the school if they can set up a home-school communication book, so can you can keep in touch with them if your child is having any problems at school or home. Keep in contact with the school by talking to the class teacher, SENCO, head teacher or other appropriate member of staff about any homework issues you have.
There may be certain times when your child has more difficulties than usual, finding it particularly hard to concentrate or behaving in a way that affects their ability to do their work. This might happen when there are significant changes in the family, or when your child is ill. If, as a result, doing homework causes extreme problems at home, see if it’s possible for your child not to have homework for a while. You can always go back to trying to get your child to engage in homework by introducing it again gradually.
You may also be interested in:
• Visual supports
• Social stories
Contacts and further reading
Contacts for advice on education issues
Education Rights Service
Tel: 0808 400 4102
Independent Panel for Special Education Advice (IPSEA)
Tel: 0800 018 4016
Attwood, T. (2006). The complete guide to Asperger syndrome. London: Jessica Kingsley, pp228-258
Attwood T. (2000). Should children with an autistic spectrum disorder be exempted from doing homework? Morning News. 12 (2), pp3-6
Ferguson, H., Hagiwara, T. (2007). Using a personal digital assistant to improve the recording of homework assignments by an adolescent with Asperger syndrome. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 22(2), pp96-99
Hodgdon, L.(2000). Homework that doesn't feel like work! Morning News. Vol.12(2), pp10-14
Winner, M.G. (2007). Homework and beyond! Teaching organizational skills to individuals with ASD. Autism Asperger’s Digest, July-August pp40-45
If you need more information, please contact:
Tel: 0808 800 4104 (open 10am-4pm, Monday-Friday)
Minicom: 0845 070 4003
Our Autism Helpline provides impartial, confidential information, advice and support for people with autism spectrum disorders and their families and carers.
Tel: 0207903 3599 (open 10am-4pm, Monday-Friday)
Fax: +44 (0)20 7833 9666
Our Information Centre provides a specialist information service for professionals working with people with autism and their families, and students and researchers studying autism.