My 10-year-old son has been recently diagnosed with learning disability. Homework has always been very hard for him although he is a capable boy. He keeps moving around, cannot concentrate, takes a long time to get started and often leaves tasks unfinished. Is there anything we can do to help him with his struggles?
Although it seems like your child exhibits characteristic symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, he might not have a genuine attentional problem but rather acts in this manner because academic tasks are very challenging for him. Observe whether he shows similar traits when engaged in other activities that are mildly challenging for him. If these symptoms are present across activities and settings you need to get a professional evaluation of his attention/ concentration skills. This can be done through a psychologist, psychiatrist or developmental pediatrician. Check whether his home assignments can been modified to adjust for his learning disability and possible attentional challenges. The teacher may modify the content or the amount of work.
In the meantime you need to give him some strategies for maximizing his focus. It is important to recognize that for some kids it’s very hard to sit still especially after a long day at school. Instead of insisting that your son sits still at his desk, allow him to move while doing his homework. Walking around or marching while studying helps maintain a child’s focus. Some children do better with their book in hand as they pace, using it as a reference to check information as they memorize it.
Encourage your son to study in bursts while taking activity breaks in between. Working intensively for short periods of time will be more productive. Supply him with different options for safe active breaks: a basketball loop, Wii sport games, balancing board.
Supply your son with fidget items. Fidget items can provide small, controlled movements that increase attention or calm down, as needed. Wikki Stix, squishy balls, polished rocks are the favourites.
Encourage him to talk out loud while studying. Talking out loud adds auditory support to the information a child is studying. This improves recall. It is easy for students to look at the page and “read” it without focusing seriously on the material. By speaking study material aloud, the student forces his attention to stay on task.
Many children with LD have executive skills deficit. You need to structure their work for them, to help them define what the task is and how they will go about doing it. You can give him a certain amount of time to work on a task and then come back to check. Give feedback and set him to do the next task. Always remember to say something positive about each task he did. It might sound like a lot of work, but these strategies are effective and they will teach the child how to help himself in the future.
My son is very similar to this and he has sensory integration disorder. One thing that really has helped us is to do something physical prior to starting homework. Muscle work, deep pressure work, exercise all tend to calm my son and help him with focus. We have a trampoline that he will go jump on for a while (before that, we put a mattress on the floor and he jumped on that indoors), he'll 'help' me by moving some heavy objects, a kickboxing bag has been awesome, we do some floor work like push ups, planks, and he'll even lift some 3 pound weights (he's 9 years old)--- these things really seem to center him and he can think better, sit longer, etc. after them. He began on a winter competitive swim team last year and I just can't tell you the difference that made in his ability to do homework as well as sit in class! Sign your son up for swim lessons, let him swim or have him join a swim team if he has any interest.
For homework, we have a homework 'station'. There we place items like a hand fidget as well as some oral soothing things. These include bubble gum, licorice, and we have a chewing tool. My son tends to fidget with pencils and will chew them and such. this helps him not do that and stay focused on his work.
In second grade, my son did not do great in school. I, in fact, thought we'd have to find a tutor for third grade in math. In third grade, he exceled and actually tested as gifted in math. His sensory gets in his way so when we are able to manage that, he does beautifully at school.
Sensory causes disorganization of thought at times or inability to think clearly. Motor planning is the culprit. His sensory activities regulate his nervous system, making his motor planning issues much better and hence, allowing him to work to his full potential.
I like the above advice to speak outloud while working on homework for the auditory input as well as bursts of homework. I'm going to try those.
Anyway, just my thoughts on this subject. Lots of luck!
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