I've finally got my head around doing this next post on Our Journey! Took a little Detour and had a bit of a Stopover there for a while! But now we're back on the road and have reached the next Stage of Our Journey....... Homework and Holidays.
"I HATE HOMEWORK........" is yet another favourite refrain in this house! And that's just me! Snuggles not too mad about Homework either! Christ, I DREAD homework every day. That said it is getting a lot easier, now that we're in the middle of the 2nd last school term. It takes most of the year just to get a handle on it.....then you go to a new class and it starts all over again. Ah....the joys!
From the end of Snuggles' 1st year in Special School I was anxious for him to start doing little bits of homework. To prepare him for the Integration I was determined to make happen! I think we started doing Homework the following year. And it was no easy task I can tell you. The hardest part was getting him to accept that it was OK to do work that, in his head, belonged in school only. You know, I never anticipated that that would be so difficult for him. It makes sense though, when you think about it with an ASD hat on your head. You do NOT do stuff at home that you do in school....everything in it's place. His Teacher at the time, made the brilliant suggestion that we put Homework stuff in a "Homework Folder"....so that now "belonged" at home! Voila! He then accepted that.... "this is my work for Home". The problem then, and EVER since, has been getting him to do it!!
The child should be sitting properly.....just like in school. His/her feet should be flat on the floor. Use Phone Books taped together to use as a footrest if necessary. (How do we use the phone books afterwards then?!!) As advised by the O.T. Also, no slouching over the copy books when writing. The move 'n' sit cushion I mention in Stage 3 might help here also.
God.... and all this before you even open a book??!
Huh. That's easy for you to say!
Before you even get to sitting pretty the child has to be calm....and stay calm. Yeah, right.
OK. Been round the houses on this one. Our Trampoline not set up again since we got flooded last August so we can't use it. It is very good though. If you give your child one good 15 min session on it before you tackle homework it's great.
We have a toy box with rice and lentils in. Snuggles sometimes plays with that for a bit before homework time. It's really calming. I hide small things in it like... a small toy, a coin etc..... and he has to feel through the rice to find them. I also "write" a letter or number on his back with my finger, while he's standing in front of me at the rice box. He then has to copy what I wrote, with his finger, in the rice! Good sensory playtime. Really works.... he loves it. Sometimes he writes on my back. It is a nice feeling I must say. I can see why it works.
Sometimes we even use the rice box in the middle of homework. If he has a meltdown, for example. Helps to get him back to the table and stay on task........
Staying on Task
So, when you've dragged your child away from the T.V., Nintendo or PlayStation game (or whatever the obsession!), got him/her sitting pretty and staying calm you then have to keep them on task for the duration!
When they're younger a visual picture schedule is really useful. Those picture schedules really come in handy don't they?! So, when he/she's finished each piece of homework a piece gets removed from the schedule. Also mentioned in Stage 3.
I also give a reward after each piece of homework, even now. So you could tie that in with picture schedule....remove a picture and give a reward after each completed piece of homework. For rewards I sometimes give a Loveheart sweet, a Marshmallow or I feed into whatever the current "collection" obsession is and give a football card or a sticker for a sticker album he's filling up.
We seem to go through phases of using rewards. I revert back to them whenever the going gets tough. Or sometimes I just let him have a piece of chewing gum. Remember the Hand Fidgets I also talked about in Stage 3; Behaviour in the classroom? Well there are also Oral Fidgets and they can come in handy for Homework time too. Think of the sensory input your child might like...crunching a crisp/popcorn or carrot stick for example, which can be dispensed a couple at a time and double up as your reward system. Or maybe he/she would prefer to lick a lollypop or suck a milkshake or smoothie through a straw. These give good sensory inputs. To help your child choose the oral fidgets show him/her a selection of food items and let them choose. Keep pictures, and a selection of his favourites at hand. He/she will then be able to choose a picture for what he wants. For the times he's too stressed to find the words to ask! For us it's chewing..... hence the gum. Of course Hand Fidgets can be used also to keep them sitting still and on task. Hmmm...... my Stage 3 post is coming in very handy for this post isn't it?!! Just goes to show how much of a crossover there is... between home and school. Using the same techniques at home reinforces their purpose. It also gives the child coping skills for life.
The Psychologist has told me he should now be doing his homework without rewards at this stage, as he's 9 years old. Actually, he was only 8 when she said that! Oops! Sod that.... whatever works I say! Things are hard enough! I suppose she has a point though...... but all in good time. We'll get there!
Of course, if all the above fails you can always sit on them to make them stay on task! Well, that's sometimes what it feels like you have to do. I can't just set him up at the table and leave him to it while I go make the dinner or whatever. I have to stay nearby. He gets sooo fidgety. You know the drill...... keeps getting up from the table....a piece of fluff on the floor is a MAJOR distraction.... suddenly takes off running around the room..... pencil keeps falling on the floor and he keeps lolling all over the table etc, etc, etc. God!
I repeat....I HATE HOMEWORK!!!!
OK... so now we're ready to actually start the Homework ........
How long should you spend doing homework? How long is a piece of string??! That pretty much sums it up.
As anyone reading this can see, it takes so long to just get them to the table in a calm state to even start homework that most of their peers would have nearly completed their homework in that time. Also, the ASD child (or any other Special Needs child) may also have additional homework, like some Resource Reading for example. Or maybe you have an SLT or O.T. programme(s) you're following at home and you need to spend time on that. This all has to be taken into account. The child does actually need to have a break too ya know! And remember Teachers...... playtime with a school pal is like gold dust for an ASD kid. You HAVE to make time for that too. It's part of their Social Skills homework, if you like! This shouldn't be under estimated.
From 1st class on Homework was taking anywhere from 45 mins to 1 hr 15 mins. Crazy stuff. Most of his classmates would have it done in about 30 mins. On average. You should never be afraid to bring it up with class or Resource Teacher. I brought it up at I.E.P. time. The Teachers have been very understanding, I must say. And I don't take that for granted. I know there are plenty of schools out there that are not so understanding.
The agreement we came to was that we stopped homework after 40/45 mins. No matter what. As he had Resource reading also, at that time, he only had to read 1st chapter of English Reader Book. If Teacher was going to ask him to read the next day she'd make sure it was that chapter only. I found it very hard to not complete the homework though! Mad, I know.... I just felt it was unfinished and he'd fall behind. So this year I got them to prioritise and I'd make sure the important work got done. Also this year he was finding spellings difficult.... he'd have 40 of them to remember for spelling tests every Friday. It distressed and angered him SO much if he got them wrong. Teacher thought it would be better for his self esteem if he only did 20 of them every week, but did them well! Working a treat. He's less stressed about them now.
Also, English writing Homework is HUGELY stressful. However bad his fine motor skills are during the day they TOTALLY desert him in the evening when he's tired! His current, very enlightened teacher has said he could use the Mind Maps I talked about in Stage 5 of Our Journey, for this if he wants! He won't though..."it'll take too long" he screams! Nice gesture though. I wonder, if he gets a laptop can he bring it home!!
Has to be said though, there seems to be a HUGE difference in the amount of homework given by different Teachers. Snuggles had an established young Teacher for the first 3 weeks of this school year. I'd say maybe 5 years out of Training College. She gave a lot of homework, I thought. That's why I pushed for the above agreement. Then along came her replacement..... straight out of Training College. Lo and behold, a lot less homework. On a good day takes us less than 30mins (excluding calming time!) Monday to Wednesday that is! They get more on a Thursday. So, I checked with a friend of mine who's also fresh out of Training College and teaching 3rd class children. Thirty minutes of homework is all 3rd class children should get.... so he says! Then why the hell was I pushing poor stressed out Snuggles to do 40/45 minutes in 1st and 2nd class then??!! I tell ya, I'll be checking this again for 4th cApparentlyrantly one of the current 4th class Teachers gives tons of homework.... in excess of 1 hour. There really should be more apparent Guidelines on this. For ALL children. And their stressed out parents!
What's the best time to do homework? Hmmmm........ I still haven't quite figured that one out yet! It's definitely not the minute he comes home. Been there done that.... and have the burst eardrums to prove it! It's also definitely not after dinner because he's just too tired. It's most certainly not just before dinner either because he's hungry! These have all been tried and tested.... believe me! So, it would seem the best time is between about 3.30 and 5.00pm. He has to have a snack and a rest when he comes in. Then you have to make time for a playdate. Or an extra curricular activity. All of which has to fit into that small window of opportunity. Well that's what I've ascertained anyway. I don't let a playdate happen before 4pm so we can at least get most of the homework done by then. I can use it as a bribe.... sorry I mean a reward! He is working for ......... "a play with my best friend". It works, most of the time.
I know the above seems very analytical of me. It's the only way I know how to handle it though. And I'm not that bad these days! Now that things are a lot better for us and he gets through Homework with less stresses than before. We do play around with the times and juggle things round to fit in last minute playdates etc. But it is stressful, isn't it? It's like this horrible Homework Cloud that descends everyday at 2.3opm! It's mist surrounds everything you do from that time on, until the Dreaded Homework is finally completed! No doubt they sense how you're feeling too so that doesn't help.
Difficulty surrounding Homework is not restricted to the ASD (or ADD, ADHD etc) child, that's for sure! You'll probably know this if you've other, older children. I don't, so I'm going on what other parents tell me about their "typical" children. It's usually the boys that have the difficulty staying focused and on task. And screaming tantrums are not restricted to the ASD child either! As far as I can figure out ALL parents hate homework time! That said, I honestly believe it is harder for the ASD, ADD or ADHD child. They've a lot more to process during the schoolday, sensory issues to deal with and background noises to block out so they can even hear what the Teacher is saying. Then when they can hear what's being said they have to process and sort out what Teacher is actually saying. Head wrecking stuff indeed. And then they come home and they're expected to do Homework??? No wonder they're so tired in the evenings. God love them.
So, that's kind of where we are to date on this. Homework is difficult. No doubt about it. But with picture schedules and rewards we can ride the screaming tantrum storms and, over time, arrive in a place where homework is not quite so hard and doesn't take as long to complete.
Still though.......... I really, really do HATE HOMEWORK!!!
I don't have a lot to say about this but I think it's important enough to mention it, so I'll tag it on here. Well, it does begin with a "H"!!
So, Holidays, as in when to take them!! Now I am NOT advocating ANYTHING here. I'm just sharing with you what we do....and why!
I don't need to tell any of you that Holidays with a child on the Autistic Spectrum are extremely difficult. We, no more than yourselves, have had some horrendous experiences on holidays. But, I have to say, like everything I've talked about in this series the same techniques apply. Picture schedules, Reward Charts etc and repetition, repetition, repetition. Our last few holidays have been hugely successful as a result. Of course, the same techniques are helpful if you're staying at home for the Holidays. It helps give structure to their day, when they're missing their daily school routine that's so vital to them.
I honestly believe that holidays are important for the child on the spectrum. They are important learning opportunities to improve their Social Skills. Especially for the more high functioning child. They learn to cope with change of routine, new surroundings, making friends, queueing etc. Again, repetition is the key. Also, I have found, going to the same place helps too. We're making our 4th trip to the same complex again this year! Even Snuggles is tiring of it but we did take a break from it last year when we braved Orlando! We also go the same time of year........ in May/June, EVERY year.
Now, I know we're taking him out of school, but they have some time off around that time anyway and we don't have any other children. It's less crowded and not as hot as in July/August. I really don't think he could cope with that. And lets face it, it's a damn sight cheaper! Other reasons
So, there ya go... that's what we do. For what it's worth.
The last thing I'll mention here is preparing the child for going back to school in September. To a higher class, more homework or maybe they're also making the transition from the "baby" yard to the big yard where there's loads of children. Good old Social Story in late August is just the thing. Gosh, Social Stories ..... where would we be without them??? !! Speaking of which I'd do well to follow my own advice (if I dare call it that!) and go do a quick Social Story myself! Haven't done one in a while but he's using his "bad" words to excess and I'm SICK of it. Willy, willy....boobies, boobies...CONSTANTLY...it's driving me mad!! And it was noted in Communication Diary today... He kept saying "willy" to the girls! God, what am I going to do with him! I'm telling SNA to IMMEDIATELY dole out the orange warning cards followed by Red. OK, better prepare for a rocky ride for rest of week!!
So, that's another Post put to bed in this series! I'll be back, soon with the final Post. Extra-Curricular Activities and Conclusion...............
Until then....take care. xx Jazzy