Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Autism and the Homework Trap

This is a heart-warming story, but I would like to comment on the line about the child struggling with homework, sometimes taking 20 minutes and sometimes taking two hours. This is where I think we have it all wrong as a society. I advocate strongly for time-bound, rather than content-based homework assignments. If we defined homework as an interval of time, with the standard in the field being ten minutes per night per grade, then the second grader would be 100% successful spending 20 minutes doing homework every night. The teacher could look at what the child did or did not complete and that would provide good information for the teacher in educating that child. In my studies on homework, I find that there are children who, for one reason or another, cannot complete their assignments in a reasonable amount of time. They can socialize and play or they can get their assignments done, but they cannot do both. Typically, these kids fall into two different categories, the acting out kids and the socially isolated ones. The ones who are more social, perhaps athletic, tend to ditch the homework at a loss of grades. The ones who are less social, and often the autism spectrum disorder children, tend to do the work instead of socializing. Although they don’t socialize easily, it is still in their interest to have the freedom to social. In fact, we should look at socialization as an important part of their education. But homework can serve to interfere with that process. Kenneth Goldberg, Ph.D. author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers.

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