Homework Strategies for Children with Learning Disabilities

by: Lindsay Hutton
Picture this — you are sitting at the kitchen table helping your child with LD do her homework. You try your best to keep her focused, but even something as minor as sharpening a pencil can make her concentration go down the drain. Sound familiar? Getting a child with LD to do her homework can be tough. These tips and ideas from our readers might help.
Team Effort
Meet with your child's teacher to discuss his homework habits. Talk about how much time he spends on his homework, and what distracts him from doing his work, such as television or video games. Find out what the teacher's expectations are, and agree on a homework plan to help your child resolve his homework issues.
Five Minute Fun Break
If your child is getting frustrated with an assignment, one reader suggests taking a break to do something fun together. Taking five minutes to go for a walk, listen to a favorite song, or have a snack can help break up the frustration he is feeling so he can return to his homework with a fresh perspective.
Homework Completion Chart
Print off and hang a homework completion chart on your refrigerator or anywhere else your child can easily see it. Make your own, or use this printable homework chart. Mark an "X" whenever your child completes a homework assignment.

Some of our readers reward their child with a small prize when he completes the chart, while others simply allow bragging rights. Whichever way you choose, be sure to recognize his accomplishment.

Share the Reading
A whole chapter in a book can be overwhelming for some children with LD. Have your child read the first paragraph, or sentence if she is a new reader, then you read the rest of the page.

Make the information or story as interesting as possible, pausing to reinforce the concepts presented. This will help keep your child engaged and interested in the assignment.

Soft Music
One reader suggests using music while your child is doing schoolwork. Playing soft, instrumental music during your child's homework time can help block out distracting noises. Use earphones if the music is distracting to other family members.
Test Me
Instead of quizzing your child on the material he is studying, have him quiz you. Reading the question and hearing the answer from you can help boost his memory skills.

This strategy also helps to take the focus off your child, and puts it on you, the parent, instead. Your child may feel a sense of authority in correcting you, and you'll be happy knowing he is learning the material.

Scented Strategy
For many children, a certain scent can help them remember a specific time or memory. While your child is studying for a particularly hard or stressful test, have her wear a certain scent, such as a specific lotion or perfume.

When test day comes, have her wear the same scent she wore when studying — it could help her remember the material.

Homework Box
Keep any supplies your child needs for homework in a special box. Some supplies our readers suggest having include scissors, several kinds of paper, sharpened pencils, and a calculator. Reserve it only for your child, and only for homework time, so you'll know it is always fully stocked.

When homework time comes, your child won't be able to use missing supplies as an excuse to get off track. To make it extra special, put a little treat in his homework box, just to let him know you're thinking of him.

Book Report Helper
Writing book reports can be challenging, especially for children with special needs. This strategy can help your child from becoming overwhelmed with a book, by having him remember it chapter by chapter.

Get several sheets of lined paper and staple them together to make a booklet.

Each time your child finishes reading a chapter, ask him to write one or two sentences to describe what happened in that chapter. Have him read what he wrote about previous chapters before beginning a new one. This will help him to remember what is happening in the story.

When your child finishes the last chapter, have him write a few sentences to describe how the book ended. He'll end up with a full summary of the book to help him write his book report.

Homework Behavior Plan
Talk to your child about the main issues that arise when he sits down to do homework. What is his most difficult subject? What distracts him? How can he find ways to stop the distractions?

Once you have brainstormed ideas to make homework time more productive, write up a contract with your child that implements the agreed-upon strategies. Every time a strategy is used successfully, award points towards a reward.