Homework Lab Takes the Bite from the Core Pamela Wiley and her private-practice colleagues seek to ease their clients’ struggles with the Common Core State Standards with a new homework-helpers lab staffed by college students. Features
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Features  |   September 01, 2014
Homework Lab Takes the Bite from the Core
Author Notes
  • Pamela Wiley, PhD, CCC-SLP, is president and founder of Los Angeles Speech and Language Therapy Center, Inc. pswiley@speakla.com
    Pamela Wiley, PhD, CCC-SLP, is president and founder of Los Angeles Speech and Language Therapy Center, Inc. pswiley@speakla.com×
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Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants & Assistive Technology / School-Based Settings / Practice Management / Professional Issues & Training / International & Global / Features
Features   |   September 01, 2014
Homework Lab Takes the Bite from the Core
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR3.19092014.np
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR3.19092014.np
We speech-language pathologists often hear from parents who are frustrated with the challenges of having to do double duty and serve as mom and after-school teacher. Many parents feel ill-equipped or lack confidence in their ability to adequately support their children’s homework needs.
The Common Core State Standards have only added to these pressures, with their increased demands for depth in learning and articulation of understanding—requirements that are especially tough for children with speech and language disorders.
This growing tension spurred our solution: an on-site homework helpers lab, an idea inspired by one of our working moms. Her son, now 17, has received services from our practice, Los Angeles Speech and Language Therapy Center, Inc., since he was 5 years old, most recently participating in our 14-week pre-vocational training program for teens with autism spectrum disorder. Despite the fact that he has grown tremendously and is doing well in his regular education classes, he struggles with his writing. He is a senior and, like many of our students on the spectrum, he strives for perfection.
After his mother suggested we start a homework-support program for him and others in similar straits, we queried other parents to gauge interest levels. All said they would welcome the help.
As SLPs, we know that reading, writing, listening and speaking are often compromised in children with disabilities because of delays in auditory processing, global speech and language delays, short attention spans, behavioral challenges, and sometimes physical and mental fatigue from the demands of a very long day. We also know that reading, writing, listening and speaking are key components of the English Language Arts curriculum of the Common Core State Standards.
In April we celebrated the opening of our new state-of-the-art “HollyRod Homework Helpers” lab, fully equipped with PCs, Macs, iPads and printers in a brightly colored room decorated with kid-friendly artwork. Our vision was to offer homework assistance in a dedicated, stress-free area. Our lab is adjacent to a newly created sibling/recreational area, which includes a pool table, foosball table, large Apple television, chalkboard wall, and old-fashioned popcorn maker. Students work for an agreed-upon period of time, then rotate out to relax and engage with other students in the recreational area. There is no charge for the service.
We staff the lab with college students from a local university disabilities studies program. The students select us as an internship site and dedicate eight to 10 hours per week toward completing a semester-long project. We also include student volunteers who have degrees in related disciplines such as linguistics, special education and psychology.
The intake process is relatively simple. Prior to participation, parents provide their child’s Individualized Education Program, work samples and homework assignments. Parents are responsible for their children’s transportation and must commit to reasonably consistent attendance.
When a child is accepted into the program, our SLPs will meet with the assigned homework helper to review the IEP and provide the helper with pertinent information about the child’s weaknesses, strengths, behavioral needs and preferred method of learning. SLPs are accessible to the helpers throughout the process.
Our program is four months young, so it is too early to measure our effectiveness. However, we will begin to collect data on our progress this school year. Our goal is to make homework helpers a support for our families and to provide our young volunteers with an opportunity to be meaningfully engaged with children with special needs.
The students, who are the most important people in this endeavor, love the new room and enjoy the fun sibling/recreation area. As one of our 8-year-olds remarked, “This is so cool. I could do this every day!” Our 17-year-old declined to give any definitive feedback, but consistent with his age group, shrugged his shoulders, smiled and said, “I’d rather work with my helper than my mom!” We will continue with him during the school year.
As SLPs we play a critical role in ensuring that our students are able to access the Common Core. We believe that our homework helpers will help give our students with disabilities the extra boost sometimes needed to ensure their success in college, the workplace and life.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
September 2014
Volume 19, Issue 9