by Thomas J. Power, PhD
First, family involvement in education clearly has been shown to have a positive effect on children’s performance in school. Homework provides an opportunity for families to be involved in their children’s education and to help their children to do well in school. Second, the quality of the family-school relationship is critical for school success. Homework is a natural means of family-school collaboration and provides ongoing opportunities for parents and teachers to connect with each other. Third, when students transition into high school and college, they generally need good work habits to be able to work effectively on their own. Homework provides an opportunity for students to develop independent study skills.
The most important question is not whether to assign homework but how to support families with homework. The following are a few points to consider:
• It is critical for homework assignments to be adjusted so that students experience high rates of success. Parents have an important role in negotiating with teachers the right amount and type of homework.
• Homework can be a battleground that has negative effects on student motivation to learn and the quality of the parent-child relationship. Many parents need training to design a homework routine and use positive reinforcement strategies that will be effective. School guidance counselors and your child’s doctor may be able to offer referrals to a professional who can offer this service.
• Homework assignments can be overwhelming to children and their parents. It is usually a good idea to break up homework into manageable chunks or units and to set goals for completion and accuracy for each unit. Subsequently, children can earn positive reinforcement for being able to achieve established goals.
Thomas J. Power, PhD, is professor of pediatrics and education at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Center for Management of ADHD at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He is a former member of CHADD's professional advisory board. He is one of the coauthors of Homework Success for Children with ADHD: A Family-School Intervention Program (Guilford Press, 2001).
COMMUNICATE ABOUT STRUGGLES
by Courtney Calio, MSEd
Students with ADHD feel overwhelmed with the idea of homework. Work outside of the school day requires time management, focus, and self-regulation—all skills that do not come easily for those fighting ADHD. Not to mention that the required task could be difficult, in a content area of little interest, or seen by the child as pointless. These possible culprits are at the core of the all-too-familiar scene: fighting and crying over homework with your child at the kitchen table, plugging through one spelling word or math fact at a time.
The reality is that all children of this generation are required to sustain a daily routine that requires intense academic rigor. Eligible content and high-stakes standardized testing leave little room in the school day to release extra energy or engage in self-selected learning activities. Unfortunately, there is little reprieve from this routine for many children at dismissal time. The transition from school to home, usually with well-deserved extracurricular activities jammed in between, creates a difficult dilemma. How do you explain to your child who has ADHD that he or she must be focused all day at school to do his or her best work, but then must also refocus at home to do more schoolwork?
As an elementary educator, I have come to realize that only so much can be expected at home from all children, that the smallest modifications can reap huge rewards, and that without communication (from teacher, parent and child) the battle is never won. My advice to parents of children with ADHD:
• You must communicate with your child's teacher about homework. Determine the exact purpose of the homework. Is the teacher open to differentiating the assignment to meet the strengths of your student? Your child's teacher will not understand any struggles going on at home unless you communicate them and work together to develop possible alternatives.
• Consider your child's learning style. Is your child a great artist, musician, or athlete? Does your child love technology? Seek out ways to complete a reading log or memorize spelling words and math facts that involve your child's natural strengths, known as multiple intelligences in the world of education. Find activities that are enjoyable but meaningful and produce the same results.
• Stay positive and involve your child in open dialogue. Involve your child in discussions with the teacher and demonstrate how to communicate and voice struggles. Your child knows he or she has ADHD and it will always present challenges in life. There will be many times when modifications can't be made and when one just has to get the job done. Explain this, each and every time. Show your child that you are advocating for him or her, that you understand, and that learning how to cope and overcome will make him or her stronger.
Courtney Calio, MSEd, teaches fifth grade in the Kennett Consolidated School District in Pennsylvania.
Earlier versions appeared in Attention magazine. Join CHADD and receive every issue!