With a daughter in high school I am now faced with the horrors of homework on a daily basis. It has been without a doubt difficult and stressful. Sometimes, before we even start, the mention of homework causes anxiety to rise. For someone with learning difficulties and slow processing speed saying “finish it for homework” inevitably sets the most homework for the child that is the least capable of getting it done.
In primary school I had an arrangement with teachers that her tutor and I would set her homework. This allowed us the freedom to assess her mental health before attempting any homework and focusing on remediation in areas that she desperately needed. My daughter is absolutely exhausted after a day at school. Homework can be extremely challenging to complete. We still have it in her adjustments that homework is at my discretion. So I decide whether it is worthwhile. Something I can do after working with my daughter for 6 years and as a former high school teacher. Often concepts have to be retaught by me before she can attempt homework as children with learning difficulties need repetition. Often concepts are either not understood or forgotten.
We have attempted most assessment task so far without adjustment but this has taken its toll and the latest extensive assessment task we have asked to be adjusted to meet her learning needs. If a child can not complete an assessment task or homework without significant help than that task needs to be adjusted. Parents you have already been to school and it is not your homework.
Assessment tasks and homework need to be adjusted to meet the learning needs of students with dyslexia. Modifications need to be made in format, content and amount. Failure to adequately adjust homework tasks and assignments may lead to increased stress on the child with dyslexia. This is an important consideration when secondary issues such as low self esteem, anxiety and depression are common. Not making adjustments to homework may see school’s in breach of the DDA and Disability Standards for Education.
Homework needs to be adequately explained to students with dyslexia. Teachers should check that the child understands the task. Organisational and memory difficulties are characteristics of dyslexia. Students should be encouraged to adequately record and keep track of homework through the use of assignment books, homework planners and written or digital calendars. Parents of younger students should be informed of assignments and homework tasks.
“It is generally agreed that teachers should assign homework that takes into account the needs of the students. This is especially the case of children with learning disabilities in mainstream schools. Research has shown that tasks which may be simple for some students may take a student with a learning disability a considerable amount of time to comprehend and complete.” Education and Training Committee, Inquiry into the approaches to homework in Victorian schools (2014)
Priority must be given to the remediation of a student’s weaknesses. This should include focusing on individualised homework set by dyslexia specialists and learning support teachers. The amount of homework set for students with dyslexia or other learning difficulties needs to be set with the consultation of the teacher, parent and student. Students with dyslexia require extra time to complete the same amount of work. Students with dyslexia are often extremely mentally and physically tired at the end of a school day due to the additional cognitive load required to produce the same work as their peers.
It is far more valuable for the student to be given less homework that can be completed well than to burden a student with excessive homework. Consideration must also be given to the fact that students with dyslexia will require assistance from an adult to complete homework thus affecting the harmony of the parent child relationship. Parents with children with dyslexia often report concerns about the anxiety, stress and battles that homework creates in the house.
It is important that homework priority is given to reading for students with dyslexia. Students should read 10 minutes out loud to a parent and 20 minutes of silent reading. Reading should also be modelled to the child by an adult. Daily reading is essential.
“Homework can be effective in supporting learning if it:
-Is varied and differentiated to individual learning needs
-Allows time for family, recreational, community and cultural activities and employment pursuits relevant to the student’s age, development and educational aspirations
-Is balanced across learning areas to avoid stress and overload
-Is achievable and leads to an increase in students’ self-confidence
-Is disassociated from any form of punishing students or a means of discipline
-Refrains from requiring dependence on unreasonable levels of parental assistance or resources that are not readily available to the student (e.g. when assigning homework which may have a computer component, where appropriate a suitable alternative should be made available)”
Tasmanian Department of Education Homework guidelines (2012)
Adjustments need to be made for children with learning difficulties in the setting of homework and assessment tasks. Often even the task itself has such a high literacy requirement that the child may not even understand what they are suppose to do. Homework that is set at a too difficult standard that substantial parental involvement is required not only destroys family harmony but is against the fundamental principle that homework should be a revision of class work. Take some time to adjust or discuss with parents the setting of homework for kids with learning difficulties.