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  • Writer's pictureKaren Lee Mah

Q: What are some STRATEGIES to help neurodivergent students with homework? (part 1 of 2)

Q: My son was just diagnosed with autism/ADHD. What are some STRATEGIES to help neurodivergent students with homework? (part 1 of 2)

A: Nowadays, homework can be challenging enough for any student, but for those with autism or special needs it can seem like an insurmountable task. In addition to challenges with social skills, and language, children with autism oftentimes have symptoms similar to ADHD where their executive functioning abilities are weaker - focus, attention span, organization, and planning.

Here are some tips.

While a mainstream child needs assistance in learning new concepts, a neurodivergent child first needs to maintain focus and interest in order to learn new concepts.

Strategies to increase focus include:

1. Establish a location

  • Neurodivergent students are often on sensory overload. Set up a calm and quiet location - perhaps a corner in a room that is away from distractions.

2. Provide supplemental items

  • Such as a yoga ball to sit on as a chair or a yoga ball chair, a fidget toy, a favorite stuffed animal.

3. Create structure and routine. Set a schedule.

  • Create a motivation chart which breaks down learning time. Use a “motivation” activity (see #4 below) to sustain focus to work towards drawing, art, movement breaks etc.

  • Create a progress flow chart and use it as a visual schedule - cross off items on the list (i.e. first math then spelling). Even adults like to cross off items on their “to do” list.

  • Break tasks down into smaller segments. Use a timer if helpful to keep the student on track.

4. Know your child’s Interests/ know what motivates them.

  • Such as what do they like to play with or do they like to draw? Offer these activities after x number of minutes of learning.

In short, establishing a place in your home for learning, allowing your student to bring supplemental items to do homework, and creating structure will assist your child to focus and learn. A key part to this strategy is motivation. You want to create internal motivation so know what interests them and allow them to engage in that activity (whether playing or drawing etc.) after x amount of homework time!

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