Homework Tips for Helping Children with Executive Functioning Problems

Updated: Mar 29

By Shawna Audet

In their article, “Helping Children with Executive Functioning Problems Turn in Their Homework,” Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Laurie Dietzel provide four useful strategies. The strategies can be grouped into the following categories: process, procedures, and accommodations.

The first suggestion is that when a child is not handing in homework, we need to gain an understanding the child’s process for homework completion. This means that we should ask the child to walk us through their process from the moment when they are assigned homework so that we can identify the sticking point. For example, if the homework is being lost, we want to identify where it is being lost. Once we know this critical piece of information, we can work with the child to consider what changes needs to take place to resolve the problem. In her article, “Enabling Disorganized Students to Succeed,” Suzanne Stevens suggests that it is useful to teach students to follow a set step-by step process when dealing with homework. She suggests teaching the child that "homework is not done until your homework is in its proper folder or notebook, the folders and notebooks are packed into your backpack, and your backpack is on its launching pad" (Stevens).

In my classes, I explicitly teach students the homework process. On the first day of class, I have all my students divide their notebooks into sections. The first section is called “Homework.” I don’t give a lot of homework, but when I do, students write the assignment details and due date on a page in their “homework” section. I put the same information on the board and provide a visual count down to the day that it is due. For students who have executive functioning problems, it can take a while for the process to work smoothly. For those who need extra support, I provide frequent check-ins and add little tweaks to the system. One tweak is that some students need to attach the idea of homework completion to an already established habit. For example, if a student loves basketball and brings basketball shoes to school everyday, then he could make a ritual of putting the shoes and then binder with the homework in it into the backpack before bed.

The next suggestion provided by Kahn and Dietzel is that it is useful to “develop templates of repetitive procedures.” They suggest creating checklists of things that need to be done when entering a classroom. Another suggestion is that parents can use checklists with their children to help to make sure that their morning routine goes smoothly. In my classes, I am a big fan of checklists. I try to provide them for every major assignment so that the students can check off each part as they proceed through the work. It is a great way to keep them organized and it also helps with their time management because I attach completion dates to the different tasks. As the students complete each part of the assignment, the