Reader: You are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG to say that parents shouldn't help a child with homework.

As a father of four high-school valedictorians told my mother, "If you help your children with their homework every night through the seventh grade, you don't have to worry about them any more; they make it on their own." g

Neighbors of ours in the country were observed helping their young children in EVERYTHING. They had three, all were outstanding and were state representatives in national 4-H meets. We saw the parents either doing the work for them or supervising them while they did it -- I can provide names -- HELPING THEM AT EVERY STEP. These children won every award at school, and when they got to college it was they who were presidents of student councils, mortar boards, all the honors.

Our mother taught us how to approach a problem, how to think the answer through and when we were stumped, she HELPED us complete the assignment. She taught us to read and drilled us in phonics and spelling skills which made us favorites for first choice in spelling bees.

What you write about respect is true, but it isn't enough at the sixth grade -- not nearly.

A: It is for us. When a parent steps in and does the job of the child, or anxiously hovers over and tells what to do, he is saying 1) that the child isn't smart enough or capable enough to do it alone, and 2) that the reward for learning counts more than the learning itself (to say nothing of the ends justifying the means).

Glittering prizes may be very well, ma'am, but only if the child wants them enough to earn them on his or her own.

This doesn't mean a child won't profit by some old-fashioned parental interest. As you learned at your mother's knee, encouragement is dandy, especially when it helps a child think in an orderly way. It also is appreciated; by school age, a child knows that giving time is a parent's way of giving love.

Of course, it's fine to check over rough drafts, to note spelling errors and listen to the multiplication tables -- if the child feels independent enough to ask for it.

There is also, however, the child who looks for help -- either by asking for it outright or by acting pitiful -- because he or she doesn't have the self-confidence to work alone. For fearful children, there is no answer except cold-turkey withdrawal, giving no help until he/she realizes just how capable they are.

Interference is only necessary with the child who skips homework regularly -- not because it's too hard, but because it's Rebellion No. 17. This is the child who should be required to post assignments on the bulletin board when arriving home and have work checked carefully against it each night to make sure it's done. And that's all the help. It would be foolish to do the homework, or anyone's homework. No one ever grows up by depending on somebody else.

Reader: Our baby is beautiful and beloved -- and handicapped, both physically and mentally. We're going to keep him at home, but there is so much to learn. My husband and I will be swamped if we don't watch out.

A: The stress you worry about is probably the most important concern you can have.

There's no doubt about it, any child adds a strain to marriage, but the handicapped child adds a much greater one. The better you can prepare for this, the better you can cope. Your child doesn't need the extra handicap of a broken home.

This means that you need to use sitters regularly -- even when you're almost too tired to go out -- for time to be alone with each other will energize your marriage. You also need a group of parents whose children share your son's problem, so you can counsel each other, and an excellent new $10 book, worth every penny. It's called "Helping the Severely Handicapped Child," by Phyllis B. Doyle, John F. Goodman, Jeffery N. Grotsky and Lester Mann, published by Crowell. The book is an expansion of a prize-winning publication produced by the state of Pennsylvania with a U.S. government grant.

With no soup or sentiment you'll find how parents and schools encourage the best from these children, some of whom can't talk or walk; others are deaf or autistic, and all are mentally retarded.

You'll find out how to get income tax deductions and public education, as well as how to plan for the future.

The book gives information on braces and helmets, toilet-training chairs and wheelchairs; you name it, it's there. For each area of concern there are lists of helpful books; addresses of support groups and manufacturers of special supplies.

The book is Step 1 on a long journey; it should make the path a little smoother.