Homework for Students with Learning Disabilities: Guidelines for Teachers and Parents

Homework for students with learning disabilities is increasingly problematic for three main reasons. First a call for increased academic standards across the nation has resulted in the development of curriculum and assessment standards for most content area classes. In addition to those standards, localities are implementing mandatory homework policies at the school and district level. Finally, with the move towards more inclusive service delivery, students with disabilities may be included, for all or a major part of the school day, in general education classrooms. These factors along with the nature of learning disabilities may make homework a troubling and frustrating experience for students with disabilities.

The following recommendations are suggested as guidelines to help make homework a productive experience for students with disabilities and their teachers and parents.

Homework Management Strategies for Teachers
  • Create a homework policy that meets the needs of all students. Communicate this policy to students and parents.

  • Coordinate homework with other teachers.

  • Create routines for collecting homework, providing assignments to absent students.

  • Assign only as much homework as you can respond to in a timely and specific manner.

  • Allow students to begin homework in class.

  • Adapt homework as needed for students with disabilities.

Developing Effective Homework Assignments

Homework assignments may need to be modified for students with learning disabilities. These modifications might include the number of problems, response format (oral instead of written) or alternative assignments based on IEP goals.

Homework assignments should be viewed by the students as appropriately challenging. students may not attempt an assignment that seems overwhelming.

Help students understand the purpose for completing homework..

Communicating with Parents

Parents are often effected by the amount and type of homework assigned to a student with learning disabilities. Homework assignments that are complex, lengthy or unfamiliar to the student may create difficulties for the parent as well. The parent may attempt to teach the content, thus further confusing the student. The parent may overcorrect the assignment, creating frustration for the student. The parent and teacher should agree at the beginning of the school year on a process for communication if the homework assignments seem too difficulty or too easy for the student. This communication may be through notes, telephone calls, fax, e-mail messages or conferences.

Teacher suggestions

Provide a written copy of your homework policy at the beginning of the school year so that parents know when to expect homework and how much to expect.

Seek input from parents on the amount and level of homework. This might be accomplished through occasional phone calls, letters, or informal surveys included in the classroom newsletter.

Suggest alternative strategies for parents if their child is uncertain about homework; call a classmate or a homework hotline.

If a homework problem arises, invite parent to participate in a problem solving process. Emphasize the importance of a home-school team in solving homework problems.

Parent Suggestions

Provide support and encouragement to your child in completing homework.

If your child seems to be having difficulty with homework, contact the teacher to discuss the problems.

Share comments with teachers about homework that is especially beneficial to your child. Don't wait until there is a problem to communicate with the school.

Provide a space for your child to complete homework. Some students work best away from all distractions, others need the comfort of knowing a parent is nearby offering encouragement.

Consider establishing a drawer or box designated for homework supplies that will always be available.

Set aside an appropriate time for completing homework. For some students that may be soon after school dismisses, for others it might be first thing in the morning.

By working together parents and teachers can help students with disabilities benefit from homework and avoid frustration.

References

Canter, L. (1988). Homework without tears for teachers. Santa Monica, CA: Lee Canter and Associates.

Cooper, H., & Nye, B., (1994) Homework for students with learning disabilities; The implications of research for policy and practice. Journal of Learning Disabilities 27(8), 470-479.

Kay, P.J., Fitzgerald, M., Paradee, C., & Mellencamp, A., (1994) Making homework work at home: The parent's perspective. Journal of Learning Disabilities 27(9), 550-561.

Margolis, H., & McCabe, P.P., (1997) Homework challenges for students with reading and writing problems: Suggestions for effective practice. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 8(1) 41-74.

Patton, J.R., (1994). Practical recommendations for using homework with students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities 27(9), 570-578.