No one knows what it’s like to accomplish all of the “normal” tasks in a special needs home like…well…a special needs family! For the child with autism, OCD, Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD, or any number of other limitations, homework can be uniquely aggravating and some days downright impossible.
In my own home I can tell you that I have one child who races home to get his homework done as soon as he can so he can “put it behind him” (and he is quite thorough), yet I have another one with whom I have the exact opposite experience. I guess you can say I have counted my blessings many times for the relief this one difference has brought us!
With this son, well let’s just say homework has been a struggle at best, and a nightmare scenario at worst…wreaking havoc on his mental well-being at times.
My colleagues and I often stress to our clients how vital it is that they use their intuition (and prayer) when making decisions for their kids. I had an experience recently that had me thinking about how intuition can be used even with academics and, especially, homework!Free 15 minute discovery call to learn what homeopathy can do for you or your child! Click here to schedule.
This experience really had me questioning my parenting. Here’s what happened:
My son was given an over-the-top assignment which was due in a very short period of time. And this assignment was going to be repeated for many weeks apparently. I could see that just the thought of it was sucking the life out of him. He spent many hours one night attempting to get even 1/3 of this assignment done. He also still had many assignments due in his other classes. The next day he was wiped out mentally and emotionally and he had developed tics for the first time in months.
I knew from experience if I allowed this to continue throughout the week and the weeks to come he was possibly going to shut down and no longer be able to face his school work at all (and/or his tics would become unbearable for him, wiping him out even further). So I made the tough decision of doing the next third of this assignment for him to give him time to regroup…bring him back from the brink, so to speak.
Why was it such a tough decision? Because I was faced with 2 options: 1. Doing the assignment, possibly “enabling” him to be lazy in the future (denying him the opportunity to be “stretched”), or 2. Forcing him to push through and do it himself at the risk of entering an exacerbation that could be hard to come back from.
Well as I said, I did part of it for him and by the next day he was “back” mentally and emotionally (the tics remained, though). And low and behold we got an email from the teacher that she was dropping the last third of the assignment for that week because she realized she was putting her students in a tough spot!
Before receiving that email I was questioning my decision big time. But after that email I felt like I had received confirmation that my judgment was right on par and perhaps I wasn’t the only parent who had stepped in and done the same thing (even for their neurotypical kids).
So this leads to my first bit of advice regarding managing homework hurdles using your intuition:
1. Use your intuition to choose what and how to accommodate your child’s struggles with homework.
Intuition is not necessarily going to match up with society’s expectations. In fact, most of the time it will not! The sooner we stop trying to reconcile the two, the quicker we can get down to managing our homes exactly the way they should be managed.
Intuition is not necessarily going to match up with society’s expectations. In fact, most of the time it will not!
No one is going to understand the unique ebbs and flows of your own child like you do. No one is going to have that mother’s intuition that knows just how much her child can handle on any given night. Society holds a standard that is even well above what many neurotypical kids can handle and still stay energized, thrive, and keep creativity alive. Remember you are the person in charge of knowing and protecting your child from demands that are too high.
Do I condone doing your child’s homework for him/her? No. However, sometimes life backs us into a corner and we have to GO WITH OUR INTUITION. Period!
And sometimes, in fact often, this means going against the grain.
You, moms, know your kids better than anyone. You know how to keep them steady and how to gauge JUST how much challenge is appropriate for any given day. Do our kids need to face challenges in order to develop resiliency for the rest of their lives? Absolutely. But not such a challenge that they break (which would be ultimately counter-productive to teaching resiliency). And you know exactly where the bar should be set on any given day to establish that delicate balance. By keeping that balance I believe this allows our kids to explore their own weaknesses, and develop their own strengths. They will learn their OWN limitations and how to manage and juggle their responsibilities as they grow older. They will learn self-care (an important aspect of life which is mostly frowned upon by society but which is an absolute must for kids with special needs…and their moms ;).
Yup, in order to care for yourself properly in this society, often times you are going to make people around you very unhappy.
So be it.
Flexibility! It’s a game changer. On the hard nights we can put some things off. On the “healthier”, more “with it”, more emotionally balanced, relatively “tic free” or “tic light” nights, we can hunker down and get stuff done.
Do all that you can to build flexibility into your schedule. If you cannot arrange any form of homeschooling (remember that older kids can homeschool online, with online teachers, and can stay home alone while parents work), communicate with school staff to arrange for more time when needed. Often this requires an IEP or 504 plan (relatively easy to acquire). Teachers are required to work with you regarding the accommodations listed on the paperwork. And some teachers will be willing to work even further when a child is having a bad night or a bad week.
3. Prioritize academic subjects
Which subjects are pertinent for making it in the world? Despite the fact that I was at one point a science teacher, and at another point I was a pharmaceutical sales rep (I know…lol), the only academic skills required to make it in this world are reading, writing, and math up to 8th grade. Know those skills and know them well, and you are set for any career and possibly even entrepreneurship. Science and social studies are important but people can make it through life (and quite well) without this knowledge. So if your child can only handle excelling at a couple of subjects (or even one), prioritize which ones you feel are most important for their short term and long term future. Have them work harder on those subjects, and “skim by” on the others (if that is what is necessary for their mental and emotional well being).
4. Plan smart
Plan the week’s assignments based on how your child works best. My younger son likes to front-load all of his assignments. So if something is due on Friday, he likes to get it done by Tuesday or Wed. He just likes to get it out of the way.
My other son needs to have his work spaced out evenly throughout the week (and even into the weekend if allowed), because doing a large workload on any given night could take him days to recover from. And even if he has multiple subjects that he must do on any given night, he works better doing one subject at a time with a long break between.
Furthermore, there may be nights that your child is struggling with emotions, not enough sleep, other obligations outside of school. Consider these things and accommodate accordingly, as well.
Know your child and plan smart.
“Special needs” forces parents outside of the box. Go with that. Know that you may not be able to jump through society’s hoops as well as your neighbors who have all neurotypical kids. And even if you have neurotypical kids, you may find that even they need some accommodations for their unique challenges (we all have them!).
Allowing academics to burn out our kids may snuff out the energy and the opportunity for them to explore the things that they do excel in! Don’t buy into the idea that excelling in academics is the only way to make it in this world. There are many adults thriving in their careers despite or even because of the fact that they didn’t fit the academic mold! Protect their energy and their time and allow your kids to show you what they are made of over time. They just may surprise and shock you!
And since I am a homeopath working with the special needs community, it would only make sense for me to mention that modalities such as homeopathy and others have the potential to increase focus and cognitive functioning so that homework becomes a bit easier for many kids. I often hear that homework struggles are decreased and that teachers report good feedback about performance at school following the start of a homeopathy protocol. This isn’t always the case, though…some kids appear to just not be aligned with academics and naturally start focusing on other endeavors and passions as they heal. Either scenario is a win when viewed through the proper lens! Go to the contact tab of my website or click the link below to inquire about my services!
Bonus content! Flower essences to make homework time a bit smoother:
- Hornbeam: monday morning blues, or procrastination (not wanting to face the work)
- Elm: for overwhelm and “too much to do”
- Larch: lack of confidence or expectation of failure
- Oak or Dandelion: tendency to overwork. learning to receive help from others
- Rabbitbrush or Elm: stress or overwhelm due to demanding nature of work
- Tansy: procrastination or lethargy with work and responsibilities
- California Wild Rose: lack of enthusiasm about work; apathy or indifference
- Fairy Lantern: laziness or irresponsibility
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