Helping Your Autistic/Learning Disabled Child Get a Great Start in High School

Helping Your Autistic/Learning Disabled Child Get a Great Start in High School

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It’s been awhile since I posted anything about Asperger’s/Autism or Learning Disabilities, and since my Asperger’s/LD diagnosed son is just starting high school this year, I thought I’d share some tips with you to help you get started.

Making the change from one school to another is difficult enough, but when your child has Asperger’s, Autism, Anxiety, or an LD (or all of the above) it can be terrifying for both the child and the parents. My son has Learning Disabilities in writing and math, and luckily, I was a teacher, and spent a lot of years in my youth teaching kids and adults with Learning Disabilities. Unfortunately, the focus in my work was with reading and writing issues; I’m not the greatest math mind in the world, so when he started coming home with 2 pages of math homework a day that took him about 2 hours to complete, I knew I had to do something. Here is my list of the top 6 ways I’ve been able to help him get a great start in grade 9.
Check out Khan Academy

Khan Academy offers FREE, easy-to-follow online tutorials in a wide variety of subjects including math, calculus, sciences, engineering, arts, and more. One thing it doesn’t have is much in the way of writing or reading comprehension tutorials, however, it does have grammar lessons. You can search specifically for what your child is working on (for example, order of operations) or go by grade/type of math. Not only is there a video tutorial for the various topics, there are also practice questions that you can do.

Stay in Touch With the School & Teachers

One thing I’ve learned with 4 sons that have learning disabilities is to make contact with the school and teachers as soon as possible each year. While my grade 9 student is coming to me with his homework for help, my other 3 rarely, if ever, asked for help, preferring to hide or ignore their homework until they were in too deep. Google classroom is used widely in our school board, so if your child’s teacher uses it, get signed up and check it daily. You can also send messages this way to their teachers. Also get in touch with the Guidance Counsellor/Student Services, or whatever it’s called in your school to be sure that your student is not only identified, but that the school and teachers are following whatever plan has been recommended for your child’s special needs. In my son’s case, his math teacher now only has him complete key questions in his homework that will help him learn without overwhelming him. Keep in mind that there is a fine line between minimizing homework to help them get through it, and minimizing it too much, to the detriment of their learning. As a parent, you will have to decide if your child is grasping the concepts being taught.

Get a Tutor 

There are lots of places to look for a tutor; start by enquiring as to whether the school has a teacher-supervised ‘homework club,’ which is usually held after school. For my son, he really needs one-on-one assistance when he’s struggling with a concept, so I found him a tutor online. You can enquire with the school to see if any of the teachers do tutoring after hours, or search online for a tutor who can cater to your child’s special needs. We were fortunate enough to find someone who can do it on Saturdays for just $30/hr in our home, and he has a Doctorate in Mathematics! You may be surprised by who’s out there offering tutoring!

Teach Your Child How to Plan and Get Organized

One of the issues all of my sons had was planning and anxiety. I’ve set out an after-school schedule that allows us to sit down, go over every assignment, and use my son’s school agenda to plan out how to complete longer-term assignments and projects. For example, if he has a Geography project coming up in 2 weeks, we sit down together and discuss what needs to happen to finish it on time. Then, we plan it out in his agenda: i.e, day 1, research. Day 2, look up images/maps he needs. Day 3, rough outline. Day 4, begin to create slideshow. Day 5, complete slideshow. Day 6, review slideshow with me. Day 7, make corrections. Day 8, review slideshow & assignment again, make sure all components have been covered properly.  Set deadlines for each task. By breaking it down, or ‘chunking’ the larger assignment into smaller, easily achieved tasks, he is able to remain calm and get the work done in a reasonable, organized manner, and learn how to start planning out assignments on his own.

Refining Homework Skills

All kids want to blast through their homework and move onto free time as quickly as possible, which can mean their homework isn’t being completed neatly or properly. After my son has completed his homework, he comes to me to review it together. Whether it’s a geography map that he’s colored in and then labeled with pencil, making it hard to read, or a writing assignment that needs to be corrected, we go over it together. We identify corrections that are needed, and then he goes back and makes those corrections. Afterwards, we go over it again, checking to make sure everything is properly completed. Give lots of praise for good efforts, and use positive reinforcement, avoiding negative comments. For example, if going over a geography map, you may find the coloring is sparse and sloppy. You could say, ‘is there anything that you think could be changed to improve this before you hand it in?’ rather than saying ‘you need to color it in better, it looks sloppy.’ In writing, I have him read his work to me aloud, so that he has a chance to spot the errors he’s made; it’s not unusual for him to pick up on missing words, misplaced or missing punctuation, or unfinished thoughts when he reads it aloud. Reviewing their homework also brings more responsibility to the amount of effort your child puts in – if they know that Mom or Dad are going to check it, they’re more likely to try a little harder so they won’t have as many corrections to make.

Scribing

My son is very good at verbally presenting what he’s learned, but it gets lost when he tries to write it down. So when he’s struggling (not all the time) he will tell me what he wants me to write down. I’ll type it out word-for-word for him, and add in a note at the top that says ‘scribed by Mom’ in these cases. In math, sometimes he gets tired of writing out the equations (especially algebra) so I do the writing on his scrap paper, and he dictates to me which step is next. This helps him focus on the math equation without worrying about writing the equation out properly.

There’s no doubt that homework creates a lot of work for parents, even when their child does not have special needs. But with a good routine, some outside help, and loads of praise, they can more easily reach their full potential.

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