Homework Interventions for Children with Attention and Learning Problems: Where Is the "Home" in "Homework?"

By Sheridan, Susan M. | School Psychology Review, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Homework Interventions for Children with Attention and Learning Problems: Where Is the "Home" in "Homework?"


Sheridan, Susan M., School Psychology Review


Homework is a reality in the lives of most American school children. For a notable percentage of these children, so are attentional, learning, or behavioral problems. At first blush, this combination seems as though it could present a significant problem to be anticipated with trepidation. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are challenged in many of the skills prerequisite for success at homework. Few would argue that things academic are harder for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than for their nondisabled peers. They have difficulty with attention, persistence, and organization. Behavioral problems, including lack of self-control and emotional/behavioral regulation, often interfere with children's abilities to benefit from academic instruction and productivity. As a result, they tend to earn lower grades, complete fewer years of education, and work in lower level jobs than their peers (Mannuzza, Klein, Bessler, Malloy, & LaPadula, 1993; Weiss & Hechtman, 1993). Thus, it comes as no surprise that homework problems and erratic performance are part of the behavioral repertoire of children with attentional and learning problems (Epstein, Polloway, Foley, & Patton, 1993; Gajria & Salend, 1995).

At its best, homework is a highly useful and appropriate strategy. Among its stated purposes and intents, homework is intended to establish effective study habits and skills; to help children plan and be proactive; to aid in developing time management, self-control, and discipline; to extend the learning environment from the classroom to other out-of-school settings; and to demonstrate responsible behaviors. At its worst, it can wreak havoc in the lives of many children and families who fail to master behavioral and environmental routines that create conditions and patterns conducive for optimal performance. Thus, empirical studies evaluating the efficacy of homework interventions for students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and related disabilities are of prime importance for school psychologists and associated professionals.

Inherent opportunities present themselves in the face of homework challenges for students with ADHD. Among them are opportunities to attend to input variables (e.g., structure and intentionality of assignments, instructional quality); output variables (e.g., quantity and quality of work completed); process variables (e.g., communication between school and home; achievement motivation); and ecological variables (e.g., setting characteristics conducive for homework). The articles in this volume (i.e., Lynch, Theodore, Bray, & Kehle, 2009; Axelrod, Zhe, Haugen, & Klein, 2009) attend to some of these issues.

Research by Power, Werba, Watkins, Angelucci, and Eiraldi (2006) identified two types of homework problems experienced by children with ADHD. The first is inattention/avoidance of homework, which presents issues in home settings, such as working efficiently and independently. The second is poor productivity/nonadherence with homework rules, which refers to issues with inputs and outputs required for accurate homework performance. This includes difficulties knowing about assignments and the action of completing work. These are precisely the things for which children with ADHD need assistance, along with frequent opportunities to learn and practice skills. Focus on antecedents, consequences, and other environmental conditions are necessary to address homework issues, and their related behavioral correlates, fully. Only certain types of homework interventions will produce those effects.

Separately and together, each of the interventions covered in this volume contribute uniquely to the literature on homework for students with attention problems. Testing the efficacy of an intervention such as that developed and evaluated by Axelrod et al. (2009)--focusing on self-management and self-monitoring--is timely. …

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