Fall into Homework in General Education and Home

What does fall mean to you? For some, it is the changing colors of the leaves, bright orange pumpkins, sweet pumpkin cookies, crisp morning air, and Friday night football games. For others, it means that school is finally in full swing. Daily work has transitioned from an easy review of last year’s material to new, more challenging content. Along with this transition, comes the daily grind of homework.

Unfortunately, homework, for students with disabilities, can sometimes mean challenging behaviors at home and school. Visual supports and strategies that are successful throughout the day are often forgotten when homework assignments are given.  This can lead to long hours at home with minimal work completed, missed assignments, frustrated parents, frustrated teachers, and ultimately... failing students.  Homework can be so daunting that many parents and educators would rather avoid the entire struggle. But instead of avoiding the antecedent (homework), consider providing general education teachers and parents visual supports and strategies that can be used to turn homework time into an enjoyable part of the day.

Although all students with disabilities may be given homework, this is especially true for students receiving instruction in the general education classroom.  Consider establishing a Departure Routine with the general education teacher which includes an organization system of homework to be completed.Teachers could begin by creating a sequence strip of assignments that need to be completed, visuals of How to do My Work Task Strip (see below) or an Independent Work System Folder (see picture below).  In addition to task organization systems, help the teacher establish a set place in the general education classroom where the student can gather their materials during the Departure Routine, and turn in materials from their Independent Work System Folder during the Arrival Routine.

Once you have established routines, brainstorm with the general education teacher possible options for positive reinforcement after homework is completed.  With some routine systems in place, students will know exactly what to do, when the work is considered done, what to do next, and what will happen when they have completed the steps correctly.  After establishing consistent routines, organization systems, and positive reinforcement, students will begin to see that homework is just another part of their daily routine.

Because the ultimate goal is to help students increase their independence outside of school, parents are an essential part of establishing a positive homework routine. Start by communicating with parents the strategies the student use at school to be more independent.  Many items in the Routine Essentials section of the STAR Media Center include visual supports that can easily be implemented at home.  For level one and level two students, this could include sending home an Independent Work Task Strip or First/Then Visual (see below) with a simple task that can be completed together with their parents.  For a level three student, this can include an Independent Work System Folder clearly organizing the homework for the day.  All these visual supports help a student and parent know exactly what to do and define when the task is done. Just as important as establishing a work system, parents can also implement a reinforcement system as part of the homework routine. Helping parents learn how to use task strips and positive reinforcement will strengthen the good work you are doing every day and decrease challenging behaviors at home. Parents and students will no longer be dreading homework and will have additional time to enjoy everything that fall has to offer.