4 Keys to Managing Homework for Children with LD

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If you have a child with LD, you probably know that you will have to help her complete her homework.

Many kids are exhausted after the school day. Then, it’s time for homework.

Are you the “educator, cheerleader, and therapist” in your home? Need some strategies for getting homework done?

“There is no magic wand, and no single technique that works for all.”

From Smart Kids with LD, read 4 Keys to Managing Homework for Children with Learning Disabilities by Dawn Matera, M.S., Special Education.

“As curriculum demands increase and classroom teachers are forced to cover more ground, homework assumes a greater role in education.” Find out how to help your child become more successful with homework.

“Some students are able to manage their homework on their own, but more often than not students require parental involvement to get the job done—especially students with learning difficulties.

Children who struggle to keep up with the daily rigors of school often come home exhausted from the physical and cognitive energy it takes to complete their day. By the time homework rolls around they have few resources left to deal with it, leaving their parents to act as the educator, cheerleader, and therapist—whatever it takes to get the job done.

There is no magic wand, and no single technique that works for all. But there are some strategies that if used consistently over time may help your child become more successful with homework.

1. Build meta-cognitive skills (thinking about thinking):

Begin every homework session with a thoughtful review of your child’s day. What did you do in school today? or Do you have homework? are not questions likely to elicit a positive response.

Having a list of questions that you ask every day will help guide your planning of the homework session.

Effective questions include,

  • What did you learn in Science today?
  • Did you take notes?
  • Did you get handouts?
  • Was homework assigned?

These questions will open up a dialogue that will help you understand the context of the assignments.

Reflecting on each class helps your child make connections to her day and helps her recall both homework assignments and the concepts that were covered in class. Remember that the goal is to have your child invested in her learning process and to build a bridge to the daily homework session.

3. Focus on Executive Function Skills

Implement daily planning activities by using calendars and checklists. Visuals enable students to see their plan, as well as reflect on the order in which they will tackle their assignments. Allow your child to draw his plan if he prefers, creating his own visual of the completed work. Many enjoy checking off a task once it is completed.

Some students benefit from getting quick and easy assignments out of the way early, gaining needed confidence. Those that fatigue easily may benefit from tackling a longer, more difficult assignment first. Individualize the plan and offer breaks depending on your child’s learning style and needs. Additionally, by modeling your own planning of your day’s activities, your family vacations, or even your trip to the grocery store, you will be creating important lessons that adults use planners, checklists, and prioritizing every day.

3. Use task analysis

Fatigue, lack of comprehension, attentional difficulties, or even anxiety can make any homework assignment seem overwhelming. Breaking down homework tasks into manageable parts helps to mitigate that problem.

Start by highlighting and reviewing the directions with your child. Discuss strategies for work completion prior to beginning the task, preview difficult words, and model the thinking process for taking things one step at a time.

For the most reluctant workers, divide the assignment into two or three parts, allowing your child to tackle one piece at a time. A little scotch tape and an explanation to the teacher may be warranted, but is well worth the confidence your child will gain. Sticky notes can be used to cover parts of the assignment that may be visually overwhelming. Hints can be written on sticky notes and placed on the assignment as reminders to follow a certain strategy or step.

4. Use Timers

Students often have a false sense of time when tackling homework assignments. Remind your child that for you, ten minutes spent at the beach and ten minutes scrubbing the bathroom are both ten minutes, but certainly feel quite different. Having your child estimate how long she thinks it will take to complete a task, then comparing it to the actual time it takes will help her to become more self-aware and accurate when planning her own homework assignments.

The goal is to have your child tackle homework independently, efficiently, and with confidence. You may need to scaffold your homework support, offering more modeling and strategies early on, before your child’s confidence begins to increase. By slowly removing the supports and allowing him to practice the strategies on his own, you can help guide your child toward independence.”

4 Keys to Managing Homework for Children with Learning Disabilities by Dawn Matera, M.S., Special Education was originally published by SmartKids with LD


The author is the Executive Director of A Way to Learn , a private practice that offers educational support services to students with learning disabilities.

  1. If it were only that easy this website wouldn’t exist. Learning challenges or differences are much more complex than most people know. What works for one kid might not work for another…even if they have the same learning difference. Or something may work for awhile and then need to be adjusted or revisited. Children grow and change. They help their parents and those around them grow and change too. I do agree that focusing on strengths and providing coaching and encouragement in areas that are challenging are the way to go. And, just when you think you have your child figured out, they’ll change and the process starts over in a whole new way. No matter if you’re a stay at home parent or a working one, it’s an individual journey…one that’s always going to fraught with frustrations and joy.

  2. Renee, I question the validity of homework anyway. Homework should not be given for introducing new concepts because the student might not understand it without guidance and it shouldn’t be used for practice because if they don’t have a firm understanding of it, they’ll practice it wrong. And formative assessment should be done in class where the teacher can respond to the assessment. Homework just rewards the kids whose parents are home and willing and able to force them to do it and punishes those whose parents are working second shift jobs or otherwise overburdened–or yes, just don’t care (not the student’s fault!). I recommend “The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children and Limits Learning” (Kralovee and Buell) and “The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing” (Kohn).

  3. My son has 4-5 hours of homework per night. He is a sophomore but it seems in excess? What is recommended as the nightly homework for a high schooler?

  4. Morning, I agree with you. I was helping my daughter with her homework and the teachers thought she was doing fine. It wasn’t until I stopped helping that they received the real picture of what she could actually do. Like you, I also use her homework assignments and other assignments they send home to gauge how she is doing in school, but you can’t always go by the grade received. All too often she makes a 33 (F) on a paper and then they write “with help, 100” divide it out and she makes a 70 (C) which is what is reported in the grade book. Very rarely does she understand the work, even after help. An F would be the appropriate grade. I have learned not to look at the final grade, but the first grade received.

  5. Thanks for the tips. As my child gained more confidence with homework, , I only helped when asked by my child. By stepping back, I was able to better monitor her academic strengths and deficits via her homework. Was she still struggling with the process of writing, math concepts, comprehension, etc.? I was able to use her homework as data at the PPT. For example, I saw little progress in her wiring skills based on homework versus what was written in the IEP. I did not use the information to contradict the staff but to insure that she would get the proper services (writing tutor, write-out loud, etc.) to better help her. Homework can serve as data but some parents may help too much.

  6. I dont have a problem helping my son with his homework, the problem I have is when the special ed teacher sends homework home that my child has not even learned in school yet. Isnt it her job to teach him these things and then send homework that I can practice and help him with. If parents were able to teach their children everything, then there would be no need for teachers.

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