My son is in 1st grade. It was recommended that we hold him back in Kindergarten. We didn't. He was out two weeks after having his tonsils out. We have about 2 1/2 months of school left. During a recent IEP meeting (yes, disabilities are involved), the Principal announced that he will probably be recommended for hold back this year (he is currently failing reading and spelling).
Homework is such a struggle and none of us seems to be in the same page. Can we let homework go until the Fall?
“Dear “Mom of 1st Grader”,
Homework is a struggle for many children, whether there is a learning disability involved or not. Problems with homework are only intensified when a child suffers from a health condition such as a learning disability or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Homework takes concentration, discipline, attention and patience. Some children naturally develop these attributes with age and maturity while others need special help. It can be quite frustrating for both the parent and the child when the process does not come naturally.
Be assured that you are not alone, many parents and children struggle with learning. Approximately 20% of school-aged children have academic performance problems.(1) Since your child is in the IEP, a leaning evaluation must have been performed and the type of learning disability should have been identified. Your son's school should provide him with the tools that he needs to help him with his struggles. In some cases a child may need in classroom support with an aide or other modalities. In other cases, additional tutoring outside of school may be recommended.
If you have not been informed regarding which type of learning disability that your child has, or you do not see an improvement with the interventions implemented, it may benefit your son to have a second opinion. If this is the case, a consultation with a Developmental Pediatrician or Neurodevelopmental specialist can provide you with the guidance that you need. Your Pediatrician can direct you regarding how to find a Developmental Pediatrician, or you can locate one at your local Children’s Hospital.
I can understand your point of view regarding your son’s homework. If your son is going to repeat 1st grade anyway, why suffer through two and a half more months of homework? On the other hand, the more review he receives this year, the smoother next year will go. I suggest asking his teacher how long each assignment is expected to take and then have your son only spend that amount of time on his assignments. On average, most 1st grade teachers will agree that the total homework time should not exceed a total of 45 minutes.
If your son’s teacher tells you that math homework is expected to take 15 minutes to complete then you can make an agreement with her based on this information. It would be reasonable to agree to have your son spend only 15 minutes on Math and finish as much as he can without any penalty for not finishing.
Choosing the time and place that homework is done is half the battle. If homework occurs late in the evening, children may be too tired or hungry to perform successfully. They can become distracted by the household activities such as dinner time and clean up. This is not a good time to do homework, especially if your child has a learning disability. A child with a learning disability requires an organized and structured environment. (2) For example, have your son do his homework in his bedroom or in the dining room, away from the other household noise and distractions. Provide a spacious area with all of the proper equipment available and organized.(2)
When approaching homework, start with a subject that comes easiest for your child. This can prevent him from becoming too frustrated and disappointed in the beginning of the homework period. It will also be helpful to have your son go to the bathroom and eat a snack before starting his homework. This will prevent interruptions that can set him off track.
Another important tool in helping homework time run smoothly is the egg timer. An egg timer can be used to time each part of your son’s homework assignment. If math homework is expected to take 15 minutes, put the timer on for fifteen minutes. Inform him that he is not to get up before the bell goes off. Once the bell rings your son is finished with his math. You can offer incentives, such as 15 minutes playing his favorite video game, if he finishes within the allotted time. It is also a good idea to space out the homework by giving him a 10 minute break between assignments.
Whether or not your son finishes all of his homework and gets every answer correct is not important. As long as he attempts his homework and does the best that he can, he will learn the skills that he needs to discipline himself for next year.
Having a child with a learning disability can be very physically and emotionally draining on a parent. It can also cause a child to experience a lot of stress, feelings of hopelessness and low self esteem. Children with learning disabilities may believe that they cannot learn, that school tasks are too difficult and not worth the effort. (2) As a parent, you are in the position to encourage your child and provide a positive attitude about learning. It is also very important to foster self-esteem and point out areas that your child is successful. Therefore giving your son frequent praise will not only give him encouragement but can help improve his self esteem.
It is important to remember that children do not only learn at school or from doing homework. They also learn from talking, listening, reading with their parents, telling stories and playing games.(2) A good way to reinforce lessons is to have your son play games with cards using numbers and sequences. Playing board games that involve waiting for your turn, counting, reading, matching and finishing the task will also help your son with learning and prepare him for next year. Playing Charades using spelling words or incorporating words and letters into artwork are other fun ways to reinforce school work. Playing games can help your son learn in a relaxed environment and take away the pressure to produce.
I hope these pointers help homework time go a little smoother for the both of you.
For Information About Learning Disabilities contact the following Agencies and Organizations:
Directory of Facilities and Services for the Learning Disabilities, 16th ed. Novato, CA: Academic Therapy; 1998.
Phone 1-800-422-7249 (outside California) or (415)883-3314 (in California)
Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA)
4156 Library Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15234
Phone: (412)341-1515 or 1(888)300-6710
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web site: http://ldanatl.org
National Center for Learning Disabilities
381 Park Avenue South, Suite 1401
New York, New York 10016
Phone: (212)545-7510 or 1(888)575-7373
Web site: http://www.ncld.org
If you are interested in reading other Pediatric Advice Stories covering topics discussed:
Attention Deficit Disorder
(1)Kelly D, Aylward G. Identifying School Performance Problems in the Pediatric Office. Pediatric Annals. 2005. 34(4):289-298.
(2)Lambros k, Leslie L. Mangement of the Child with a Learning Disorder. Pediatric Annals. 2005. 34(4):275-287.
Lisa-ann Kelly R.N., P.N.P.,C.
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Pediatric Advice on The Web