How much homework is reasonable for my dyslexic child?
Homework! This can become a source of nightly rows between you and your dyslexic child. and is a major source of discontent highlighted by many parents of dyslexic children. There are two major reasons for this - the amount of homework and getting your child to sit down and actually do it.
How much homework is reasonable?
This will clearly depend on the age of your child, usually schools set a time that they expect your child to do homework for. At primary school, this maybe 30 minutes each night whilst at secondary school this may go up to 2 -3 hours.
Many dyslexic children take longer to complete the homework tasks, so your child's teacher may have overestimated how much they can do within that time limit. The problem with homework taking longer is that it can start to affect your child's self esteem. Many parents find they have a child on their hands who starts to have meltdowns over this because they have become overwhelmed and stressed out.
It is important to avoid this happening and so I recommend to my students to spend the amount of time they are supposed to on the task or worksheet and then to advise the teacher that this is the amount they could do. Obviously, there has to be trust on both sides - the teacher must trust that your child has worked hard for that amount of time and your child must trust that they won't be in trouble for incomplete homework.
How can you make sure your child concentrates for the required amount of time?
As a rule of thumb, you can concentrate hard on something for about 20 minutes. Now, your child may not be able to do this. They may be able to concentrate fully for 10- 15 minutes, in which case set a timer for this period of time. Your child has to work until the timer goes off. Then they can have a short break and return for another 10-15 minute concentration session until they have worked for the time required by the school.
When is the best time for your child to do homework?
To stop homework becoming a nightly battle, you need to set up homework time as a habit. As I've written before, habits are easier to establish if you 'hang them' on a daily activity like dinner, getting in from school or bedtime. You could decide that your child needs to do homework after a short break from school or it may be better to leave it until after dinner so that your child has a chance to recharge their batteries.
How can you stop their teacher punishing them for incomplete homework?
This is where your teacher must trust that your child is concentrating well for the time the school wants them to do homework. You are really going to need to get involved here. If your child is at primary school, then it is much easier to see your child's teacher and tell them how you are approaching homework. You should be able to get the teacher on board with your efforts and they should be happy for your child to give in incomplete homework, knowing that they have worked hard on it.
If your child is at secondary school then emailing the subject teacher will be the way to approach this issue. In the email I would make the teacher aware of how you are approaching homework so that they can see that your child is not just being lazy. Sometimes it can be hard for your child to show they have done anything in the time allotted if there is a lot of reading involved - but technology such as text to speech software can help speed up this process.
Of course, a skilled teacher will differentiate your child's homework without having to go through all of this. However, in my experience, it is rare for this to happen without some intervention from home. But when a parent has been in honest and open communication with their child's teacher, they have found the experience very positive going forward.
What if your child is too exhausted to do homework?
This can be issue for some dyslexic children - school is simply so exhausting that they need a complete break every night. This is a difficult situation but one which you will need to address so that your child's self esteem is protected. You will need to contact your child's teachers to see what they are willing to do to help this situation. One of my students did get dispensation from doing homework from their school after contact and a meeting from the parents. I do know of others who had to resort to refusing to let their child do homework when a school has been less than cooperative but on the whole schools and teachers do want to work with you.
In summary, your child should do homework for the set amount of time rather than continuing until the task or worksheet is complete. You will need to get your child's teacher on board with what is happening but make it clear that your child is concentrating properly and that is what they can achieve in that time. If your child is too exhausted after a day at school to do homework, then you must liaise with the school about how to go forward from this.
Would you like your child to know how their dyslexia affects them and how they can identify their strengths? My programme ' Smashing dyslexia' aims to do just this - you can find out more about it here.
Is your child having difficulty getting their ideas down on paper? You can read about how to help them here.
Is your child having problems with their concentration? Read about how you can help them here.
and they can become demoralised