How to Get Kids Organized for Back To School

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What is executive functioning or organizational skills problems?

Executive functioning describes a set of skills that allows us to plan, attend, remember instructions, and effectively juggle multiple tasks. Just as the conductor of an orchestra uses skills to manage different instruments, timing, volume, and song order, the brain must filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and regulate impulses. When back to school time comes, children with organizational skills deficits can have suffering grades and experience stress and lower self-esteem. Many children with learning and attention problems have difficulty with organizational skills.

Kids’ organizational skills influence the following:

Task management:
– Knowing where to start
– Following through on tasks
– Making adjustments and edits
– Completing in a timely fashion

Writing and comprehension skills:
– Knowing how to organize ideas
– Creating topic sentences and summarizing
– Completing written assignments
– Scanning and finding pertinent information

Homework:
– Using a planner
– Bringing home correct materials
– Getting started
– Creating an agenda
– Managing time
– Making careless errors

Organizational skills and school. Even for children who are bright and motivated, organizational demands can be a challenge. Kids can struggle with remembering homework, using their planners, and managing long-term assignments. As kids move through the grades, organizational demands become more intense. More independence, responsibility, and complex assignments occur. Kids with organizational skills problems may have suffering grades due to missed assignments and forgetting to study for a test.  This can create parent-child tension and poor feelings about school.

Strategies that work. The key to a successful organizational skills program is a partnership between teachers, students, and parents based on open communication and a proactive problem-solving skills-based approach.

Here are some tips:

Elementary School
– Begin to utilize systems such as “to do” and “all done” bins
– Use color-coded folders and baskets
– Spend time each day on planner writing skills
– For younger kids, praise them for using a homework folder effectively
– Use positive reinforcement for good homework behavior

Middle School
– As academic demands increase, so do organizational demands
– Spend time each week on organization
– Color code folders
– Find the “perfect” planner even if you have to design your own
– Create a filing system at home for “overflow”
– Have individualized meetings with teachers to discuss long-term assignments.

High School
– Email assignments—using technology is very helpful!
– Use your smart phone to take a picture of homework if written on the board
– Find out if your school posts homework and assignments on a website
– Meet regularly with teachers, drop in for extra help and to get feedback

Looking to the future. As people become more aware of the importance of organizational skills for success in school, more programs are being offered. There are programs offered at medical and educational centers such as the Child Study Center at NYU Langone and in private outpatient offices. The key is to identify the root of the difficulty and create a positive and skills-based approach. With the proper support, kids can learn skills, improve their grades and feel more successful.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Dana Levy Hyman, PsyD is clinical psychologist and a clinical assistant professor at the NYU Langone’s Child Study Center who specializes in working with children with attention difficulties, behavior problems, autism spectrum disorders, learning disorders, and anxiety and mood difficulties. She has an expertise in taking research-based therapies and tailoring them to meet each child and families needs. She uses practical and skills-based techniques in a supportive and validating environment to help each client improve their experiences at home, school or socially. She works collaboratively with families and schools to create a team approach.

Author: Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone

At Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, we understand that caring for infants, children, and teenagers is a special privilege. That’s why we partner with our young patients and their families to offer expert medical and surgical care. Our specialists treat children with conditions ranging from minor illnesses to complex, more serious issues at locations throughout the New York metropolitan area.