Question: My son, a fourth grader, does a terrible job of bringing his books and assignments back and forth between home and school. His bedroom and desks at home and school are always in total disarray, and he usually forgets test dates. What can I do to help him before he gets in the later grades?
Answer: Your child may be having problems with what is called “executive function,” the neurological process that lets us be organized. Children with attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD) or other related neurobiological problems often have problems with this skill set. It would be a good idea to ask your child’s school to test him for these problems. If one is found, he will receive not only additional support from the school but also understanding from his teachers.
Obviously, having poor organizational skills affects schoolwork. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), early attention to developing efficient organizational skills can be very helpful. Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to help your child:
- Develop checklists with him that he can use for various tasks including starting and completing homework and bringing materials to and from school. These checklists can be laminated and placed on his desks at home and school. As items are completed, they can be checked off with an erasable marker. At first, you must be sure to go over the checklist with him immediately after he has completed his homework.
- Have him use a calendar to keep track of long-term assignments and tests. Look over it with him at the start of each homework session.
- Work with him to divide long-term assignments into manageable chunks. Then check that he is following this timetable when he has this type of assignment.
- Decide on a weekly time in which you help your son clean and organize his work space at home. It would be great if the same thing could happen at school.
- Make sure that he uses the organizer that the teacher recommends. At first, help him keep it organized nightly. Later, he should take over this task which will be part of his “at-home” checklist.
- If possible, provide him with an at-home set of books until bringing home books becomes automatic.
- After homework sessions, have him put all homework and books returning to school in his backpack or organizer. This should be placed by the door. Check that he has done this. Place a note on the door to remind him to take these items to school. If he fails to do this, start checking on this before your son leaves home.
In trying to help a disorganized child become more organized, don’t expect immediate results. What works best is to work on improving one area in which he is disorganized at a time. After he acquires organizational skills in this area, back off on your supervision. Then, if he has definitely acquired a skill, start working on helping him acquire another. It will take time! And it will be far easier if you are an organized person.
Your Local Library
Parents: “It is never too early—or late—to start visiting the library. Go on a library safari with your children and you’ll be amazed at all there is to discover,” according to the International Reading Association. Programs specifically designed for your children make the library a fun place to spend time. Books, CDs, music, movies and
special programs designed for children from infants on up are often readily available and regularly scheduled at your nearby library branch.
The Metropolitan Library System (MetroLibrary.org) and the Pioneer Library System (pls.lib.ok.us) serve the greater Oklahoma City area. You can find a listing of the library locations and telephone numbers on page 35. Various library programs are listed in our calendar, and a full listing of library events can be found online at each library’s website.