Saturday, June 2, 2012

Homework Trap and Learning Disabilities

Over the summer, I plan to place a greater emphasis on the homework trap and learning disabilities. My model highlights the notion of under-the-radar learning disabilities, and I also place specific emphasis on homework problems associated with ADHD. I'll have more comments and add some video comments as well (this is a getaway weekend for my wife and me so I'm not in a good setting to make a video for the next couple of days). I'll also intermix my posts with posts about the petition for the National PTA to take up homework reform. There has been a call for personal homework story videos and I will be making mine next week. Follow this link for more information about that petition.

For today's comment, I will direct you to an article I read on the cost of literacy. The article reports on the success these parents had sending their child who has learning disabilities to a high priced school. They found the school well worth the price. Obviously, this is not a solution that is accessible for every student and even if school districts identified all of these kids, you would get a lot of resistance in these times of fiscal austerity getting schools to agree to pay for such a plan. Perhaps, you could fight under federal disabilities law and win.

I think there is an important back story to this story, and it is found in two lines written in the article. They are:

"The first year I’d have to sit w him to do his homework we had to have these incentives. He was often crying. Not because it was so hard but because he was scared of doing it," and (referring to his new, private school)

"Basically, school starts at 8:15 and finishes at 2:30...He sees the occupational therapist there. They also have a social worker who does a type of group therapy there so they have a class that they take that is getting them used to having a learning disability and some of the other issues that might go along with that. Also she’s available for one on one for kids who are frustrated, sad, angry. We’ve availed ourselves of all those services."

If we combine those two comments, we see that the child is capable of thriving in a time bound setting, but was struggling before because of the homework demands. If we eliminated homework, or at least capped it by time, as we do for the school day, the child will begin to thrive. Note that the special services this child is getting in his special school are being given within the boundaries of his school day, not as an add-on at a learning center on top of homework assignments, and the result is predictable.  Both his learning and his sense of well-being have improved. There is no reason why public schools cannot let children, in far more cost effective ways than sending them to private schools, successfully learn by simply using time containers, assessing rather than punishing the problems, and providing reasonable instructional strategies and interventions during those specified times, and then letting the child relax, refuel, and play.

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg is a clinical psychologist with 35 years of professional experience in dealing with many different psychological issues. He is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers and currently works in his own private practice.

Visit the The Homework Trap website

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