If you’re a parent of a child with autism, you know that it can be a challenge to motivate them to complete homework assignments. Often during this process, children with ASD will express an array of problem behaviors including tantrums, noncompliance, and aggression. This can be stressful for parents and caregivers who can sometimes feel defeated. There are, however, evidence-based techniques that will encourage the successful completion of assignments.
Ultimately, you do not want to force your child to do homework; you want to incentivize them. With that in mind, here are eleven tips from our Board Certified Behavior Analysts that will start you and your child on the road to success.
11 tips to incentivize your child with autism to successfully complete homework
- Understand the assignment. Often, there are distractions in the classroom when your child writes down their homework. This can cause them to not fully understand what needs to get accomplished. A simple solution would be regular communication with the teacher. Perhaps a quick text message with a picture of the assignment written on the blackboard. Also, having the phone number of another student may be helpful.
- Set a time. For some children, it is best to start homework as soon as they arrive home from school. For other children, however, it is better to allow them a set amount of time to relax and unwind from their day. Remember, school for a child on with ASD can be stressful as they may be struggling to keep up with neuro-typically developing peers both socially and academically.
- Create a regular schedule. Keeping a routine will help to communicate expectations. Individuals on the spectrum generally prefer routines and problem behavior may arise as a result of breaking that routine. Set a time to start homework, a time for breaks, and a regular, distraction-free place in the home where assignments can be completed.
- Remove distractions. A distraction could be a sibling, pets, television, noises, tangibles like toys or lights. Make sure that the table your child sits at is clear of all clutter. The fewer distractions, the more likely your child will maintain focus.
- Be available. Your child may need help with her or his homework. Be in the proximity of their workspace so as to prevent them from getting up and causing further distraction. You don’t have to sit with them the entire time but being within an earshot can be helpful.
- Set the ground rules. The important thing about making rules is that you stick to them. Do not give into a problem behavior just to temporarily make the issue go away. In the long run, it will be more difficult to replace that behavior with one that is acceptable. Some rules may be, “You can play your video games only if you finish your homework,” or “you must stay seated until one page of homework is done.” Also, when prompting your child to start her or his homework, it is important not to do so in the form of a question. Why? Because if you ask your child, “Can you do your homework now?” An appropriate response would be, “No.” So make sure to state this direction in the form of a demand. For example, “Do your homework now please.”
- Reward your child. No one knows what activities and tangibles your child likes more than you. Perhaps your daughter or son likes to play Angry Birds on your iPhone. These sorts of activities can be used to reward good behavior or, in this case, the completion of an assignment. Never provide a reward unless your child has successfully completed what was asked of her or him. Lastly, do not use the reward as bribery. Use, if________ then ________ statements.
- Segment assignments. Sitting down and studying or doing work for an extended period of time can be challenging. For this reason, you can segment homework assignments by specific task or by a length of time. Then, match the successful completion with the reward. For example, “Complete 2 pages of homework then you get to play Angry Birds for 5-minutes.” Or, “Work on your homework for 20-minutes then you get to play Angry Birds for 5-minutes.
- Use a timer. A visual timer is a great way to engage your child and keep her or him on track. If your rule is that your child does homework for 20-minutes, the timer will help enforce this. Before you start the timer make sure that all of your child’s questions are answered so as to avoid distractions.
- Create a visual schedule. A visual schedule will help you stick to the routine. You can take pictures of different activities, print and laminate them, and use Velcro to attach them to a board.
- You’re not alone. Once you have your plan, ask family members or service providers to help. Taking turns can alleviate stress.
These are a few basic tips that would help you and your child successfully complete homework assignments. Every child is unique. Problem behaviors have specific functions. For that reason, as part of your ABA services, a BCBA will observe and assess undesirable behaviors and tailor a behavior intervention plan that is as unique as your child and her or his specific challenges. To compliment this plan, your ABA provider should provide parent training.
What are your biggest challenges in getting your child to do her or his homework? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or connect with