Tag Archives: organizational skills

Organization Frustration: Tips to Help Your Child Stay on Top of Schoolwork

Child with learning difficulties. Tired boy doing homework.
Many parents of school-aged children complain that their kids lack basic organizational skills—they forget to complete assignments, leave important materials for homework at school, have messy backpacks, take too long (or not long enough) to complete homework each evening, and fail to plan ahead for projects and tests. Organization is not an innate skill; some children easily organize their materials and juggle multiple tasks while others struggle to keep up with school-related demands. If your child shows problems with organization, time management, and planning skills, consider these concrete strategies and routines for helping children stay on top of schoolwork.

Does your child have a clear, organized method for keeping track of assignments?
Help your child develop the habit of using a planner to record assignments. Even if teachers post some or all of the assignments on a class website, keeping a personal record will help your child stay organized. Look for a planner that is broken down by subject, has enough space to write details, and has an easily accessible monthly calendar for recording long-term assignments. A space to check off items that need to come home and return to school can help kids who often forget needed materials.

Does your child often lose papers, books, and other important items?
Think about where your child runs into trouble. Is he constantly misplacing one folder? Does she stuff papers into her bag because punching holes and finding the right section in a three-ring binder takes too long? Think about how you can step it down, or simplify the routine. We have found that an accordion file works well for many children; there are no holes to punch, and papers for different subjects are easily filed within one manageable tool.

Help your child develop a routine for checking that all important items are in the bag when packing up in school and at home. A visual checklist pinned to the inside of the backpack can be a helpful cue so your child doesn’t forget critical items.

Does your child struggle to complete tasks in an appropriate amount of time?
You can help your child gain control over his or her schedule by teaching critical time estimation and planning skills. Set aside five minutes each day to review what work needs to be done (consider what is due tomorrow as well as longer-term assignments), how long each assignment should take, what other events are on the schedule (e.g., extracurricular activities), and what your child would like to do to relax. You may find it helpful to create a written schedule, where your child can map out the evening’s activities in 15-minute time increments.

Does your child have difficulty planning ahead for more complex tasks?
If your child is unsure of how to start working on multi-step tasks or if he or she struggles to produce neat, complete work in advance of deadlines, you may need to work on task planning skills. Start by helping your child state the goal for the specific task, break the task down into steps, order the steps, think about materials that are needed, consider how long each step will take, and fit the steps into the schedule. You can write down the individual steps on a calendar so your child can clearly keep track of what to do and when.

Organizational Skills Training at the NYU Child Study Center
If your child has significant difficulties with organization, time management, and planning, he or she may require more intensive intervention to get on track with schoolwork. Organizational Skills Training (OST) is a manualized, empirically supported treatment that has been proven to improve the organizational skills and academic performance of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders. For more information on OST, click here.

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

Elana Spira, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center. She is co-author of the treatment manual for OST, Organizational Skills Training for Children with ADHD.

How to Get Kids Organized for Back To School

junge in der grundschule hält sich den kopf
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.