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Homework: When and How to Ask for Help, Completion and Rewards - Organizational Skills Part 5
Homework: When and How to Ask for Help, Completion and Rewards – Organizational Skills Part 5

Homework: When and How to Ask for Help, Completion and Rewards is part 5, the last part, of  Marcia Garcia Winner‘s article on Teaching Organizational Skills to Individuals with autism spectrum disorder  (ASD). Her article benefits all students who lack this much needed skill not only students with autism spectrum disorder, therefore teachers, parents, and all who live or work with an individual who needs a boost in their organizational skills will benefit greatly from Garcia’s sound and sage advice.

This article appeared in an Autism and Asperger’s Digest entitled Homework & Organizational Strategies.  Reprinted with permission of publisher. We have added the photos.

Part 1 (here) What is Executive Functioning (EF) by Marcia Garcia Winner (photo)Marcia Garcia Winner

Part 2 (here) dealt with the following three steps:

  • Step 1. Clearly Define What Needs to be Done
  • Step 2. Move It with Motivation
  • Step 3. Prepare the Environment

Part 3 (here) Break Homework in Doable Tasks

  • Step 4. Chunk and Time It
  • Step 5. Use Visual Structure

Part 4 (here) Know What Is Important Have a Plan

  • Step 6. Prioritize and Plan Daily
  • Step 7. Hunt and Gather
  • Step 8. Consider Perspective

Part 5 When and How to Ask for Help,

Completion and Rewards

  •  Step 9. Communicate and Then Communicate Some More
  • Step 10. Completion and Reward

Step 9. Communication and Then Communicate Some More

Homework assignments often result in students needing help from others. Knowing when and how to ask for help can be challenging for students with social learning and organizational weaknesses. Avoid assuming students – especially “bright” students – should intuitively know how to ask for help, clarification or even how to collaborate with others on assignments. These skills are not nearly as simple as they seem and may need to be explicitly taught by the special education teacher or speech language pathologist at your school. Tip: as students age into middle school and beyond, most are turning to their peer group rather than their teacher for help. This fosters peer support networks desperately needed for success in college and later life.

Step 10. Completion and Reward

Having a clearly defined “end” to a task is important for the concrete thinking minds of students with ASD. Be sure the child knows what “finished” means, both at school and at home. For instance, a homework assignment is not truly “done” until it is turned in to the teacher at school. While homework turn-in boxes (static) are commonly found in elementary school, they all but vanish during middle and high school years when even the act of turning in homework becomes dynamic.

Make sure your students know where to turn in homework. Also, parents should save big celebrations for completed projects until the assignments are actually turned in. Some students may need reminder systems set up to make sure work is turned in on time.

  • Visual notes
  • PDA ( Personal Digital Assistant) messages
  •  Watch timers

At home, “finished” homework yields its own rewards when students can engage in more personally pleasing activities, such as a computer game, watching TV, reading for pleasure, etc. Even our favorite activities have a finite time frame attached to them before it is time to go to bed. Many of these organizational strategies can be used to help a student learn to shut down a favorite activity and get his brain ready for bed.

Planning Takes Time!

Parents and Teachers Must Work Together!

Planning takes time!” This is a message we need to constantly reinforce with our spectrum students. “Teaching organizational skills takes time, across months and even years!” This is a message we need to reinforce to parents and teachers. Whether students are using organizational skills for homework, doing chores, preparing for a weekend activity or something as simple as getting a snack, as children grow and develop, tasks become increasingly complex and dynamic with each passing year.

hand holding apple Teachers and parents need to work togetherTeachers and parents need to work together, while children are still in elementary school, to identify and teach any or all of the 10 steps mentioned in this article that are problematic for the spectrum child. In doing so, we give children the tools not just to handle homework, but to be successful in all areas of life.

Allen, D. (2001). Getting Things Done. The art of stress free productivity. Penguin Books: New York.(recommended by an adult with AS)

Dawson, P. and Guare. R. (2004). Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents: A Practical Guide to Assessment and Intervention. The Guilford Press: New York.

Giles-Brown, C. (1993). Practical Time, Language Living Series. Imaginart. Hyerle, D. (1996). Visual Tools for Construting Knowledge. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: Virginia.

Myles, B. & Adreon, D. (2001). Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence: Practical Solutions for School Success. AAPC: Kansas.

Soper, M. (1993). Crash Course for Study Skills. Linguisystems: Illinois. (highly recommended for building a curriculum!)

Winner, M. (2005). “Strategies for Organization:Preparing for Homework and the Real World.”The Gray Center: Grand Rapids, Michigan. (

Winner, M. (2007). Social Behavior Mapping. Think Social Publishing, Inc.: San Jose, California.

See Also reviews by Special Needs Book Review on books dealing with Social Skills and Social Thinking. 

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