Ann Dolin: Hi! I am Ann Dolin. Today we are talking about how to best help your child with homework. Let's discuss the Fidgetor. The child who is very restless during homework has a hard time sustaining a tension and is often up-and-out of his seat throughout the process.
Kids fidget during homework time for a multitude of reasons. For younger kids, it's just age appropriate. They cant quite yet sustain focus for an extended period of time. However, other kids focus because they have underlying attentional issues. They may have attention deficit disorder or even if they don't have a formal diagnosis, they may have symptoms in that, they are restless, they have a hard time sitting still.
Even when they are forced to sit quietly, they will tap their pencil, move about their chair, wiggle, tap their foot and grab for other objects. They do these things mainly because their body seeks stimulation. It used to be, we thought that kids that fidget just needed to be in a very quiet room and needed to sit still for an extended period of time. If they could just do that, that they would be able to then focus and get their work done.
But more and more research has shown that these kids actually need stimulation. So instead of the expectation of having them rigidly sit in one place for a long period of time, it's better if we give them that stimulation. So that they can focus on other things in order to get their work done. There are many tools you can use to help the Fidgetor, but probably the easiest thing to do is to give your child an object that they can hold on to while doing homework. This will enable them to, instead of fidgeting, focus on squeezing the object while they work on homework. It gives them that sensory input they need to then focus on getting the work done. A fidget toy can be something like a stress ball, or it could be a Wiki stick, or even a coffee straw that they can chew on or manipulate in their hands. Also, a Lap Pad is a great idea. A Lap Pad is a waded pad that goes on the child's lap. It doesn't weigh them down heavily, but it does provide sensory input, so that they can then focus on other aspects. Also, other fidget toys could be something as simple as two-sided tape with Velcro on one side. As a teacher, I always had kids in my class who were more interested in playing with the pencils and erasers on their desk than they were paying attention to me.
So for those kids even at homework time, putting something underneath their desk or under the table at which they do their homework will again give them that stimulation. They will be able to touch that while they do their homework, so that they are not going to be focused on getting up and moving around. They have that stimulation literally at their finger tips.
For fidgety kids, they should be allowed to do homework in unconventional ways. It's okay for a Fidgetor to stand-up while doing homework, to sit on the floor, to lay on his back, or to even use a Desk Pad on his lap and sit on the couch while doing homework. Sometimes they respond better to doing homework in those ways than sitting rigidly at a table or in a chair.
Rule of thumb is that kids can focus for about 10-20 minutes of time depending on their age. So a younger child in the primary grades, even a Fidgetor, you may only get 10 minutes out of them of sustained focus. After that period and you see that they are loosing interest, it's okay to give them a break, but again, use the timer. Let them run around outside, let them shoot a couple of hoops, but then they have to come back and get started again.
Again depending on the age, older students, generally middle and high school kids, should be able to sit for about a half hour and work continuously on their work. However, if they feel that they are restless, they can do a couple of things to help them get through the work. These kids often do better instead of taking breaks at designated times, say every 20 minutes, to take a break after an assignment is done. That way they are going to work harder to get through, say their math assignment, so that they can take a break when it's completed. As opposed to giving them 20 minutes on a timer, they may dawdle that time away and even after the 20 minute period may not even have a portion of their math assignment done.
So for little kids, they can certainly work in incremental time blocks, but for older kids, the time needs to be broken up into assignments. Hopefully, the tips I shared with you help decrease fidgeting during home work time. Next, we are going to be talking about the student who is emotional during homework.