Organization or Executive Function. How do we help?

It does not matter if it is online learning or in class, some kids struggle with organization. I hear it all the time in IEP meetings; the child cannot get organized, they can’t plan ahead, or they are not paying attention. These are indicators your child is struggling with executive function. This means you may see deficits in working memory, flexible thinking, self-control, time management, following directions, self-regulating, planning, organizing, and remembering tasks. This is completely manageable when we focus on what your child CAN do! We can create strategies that play into their strengths and help them learn these skills. Here are some quick tips:

1. Finished products. Even before you start a task, ask you child to imagine what it looks like when it is done. What do they want it to look like? What do they want to accomplish at the end? Then help them see the steps to get there. Many students who struggle with this cannot see “the forest through the trees”. Help them create some laser vision and get them thinking about their thinking! This way they can slowly begin to organize everything they need to get the job done.

2. Visual schedules/cues, timers, recording important moments. Time management is huge! How many of us zone out or go down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos? A good tip is give them a visual or auditory reminder. A schedule to watch, a timer to buzz, or even having them documenting when 30 minutes has passed on a piece of paper can help the day, the task, or the lesson keep moving. This can also be applied to a list of due dates. Help them see when it is due so they can regulate how much time they have left to complete the task.

3. Frequent Breaks. It is so important to stretch your legs, move around, listen to music, and just get away from the SCREEN! Imagine not being able to get up at work for hours. It would be tedious! Dance, sing, laugh, do whatever it takes to break up the monotony.

4. Real life application. Show your student how all this applies to real life. Find a cool video where you can see it in action. Find a picture of that moment in history. Help them see how it applies to daily living. Whatever your child is learning, bring it to life!

5. Questions and review. Instead of questioning your child, allow them to create a list of ongoing questions they want to ask you, their teacher, or even their friends. Give them a space to review what they learned, talk about the day, and express how they feel about it. The great thing about children with executive function issues is that they are constantly learning from others and the environment around them. Online tasks, lectures, or book assignments may not seem meaningful or important to them. The interaction with other people is what they find meaningful and important. Tap into their need to communicate and socialize!

Even better, if your child is on an IEP or a 504 plan, these can be incorporated into their goals. And accommodations. It is simple to add a timer, visual cues, frequent breaks, or help with organization. These are all reasonable requests and can make a HUGE difference!

But we had a meeting!

Great! You had a meeting! I hear this all the time. What matters is what happens after the meeting. Did anything productive come from it? Do you have a full understanding of the plan that was made for your child? Is it being executed correctly by all staff members? Is your child making progress?

Meetings are important but can be frustrating if you don’t feel progress is being made or your child’s voice is not being represented. It is intimidating. They are the professionals, they know all the laws, requirements, and specialized methods. What do you know? YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD! If you walk into a meeting and feel like all the paperwork is already done and you must sign on the dotted line, then this is not a team atmosphere. You are guaranteed MEANINGFUL PARTICIPATION. How is just showing up and signing meaningful? It is not. Meaningful looks like your opinions, ideas, and thoughts being heard and documented. Meaningful is your child having a voice and allowing them to speak about what works for them.

If you walk out of the meeting without a clear understanding of your child’s plan or have limited understanding of what you can do at home, then another meeting must be held. It is the job of the district to ensure you have a clear understanding of all the proceedings and that you agree. Many parents do not realize how much power they have in the process. For example, if you see a lack of progress SPEAK UP! This is important for the team to know and for you to document. A child cannot be passed along from year to year. There must be proof of progress.

I look at advocacy as having an ally in a meeting. You need someone to help you find your voice, back you up, interpret findings, and explain the districts point of view. You need someone to be able to corroborate, “This does not sound right. This does not make sense. How will this help my child?” We are on your team! We are there to represent your child and help them find their path. Remember, our number one motto, “Trust your gut!”

So you want to hire an advocate?

Many people claim to be advocates in education but you must look at their philosophy, education, and background. Advocacy is not regulated and we have seen many people say they can advocate for you and wind up making the situation worse. Some advocates goals are only to sue, sue, sue! This is not our goal at Inspire Education. Our goal is relationships and helping children find their path. We have 12 years of classroom experience. We have completed two years of advocacy training by the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates and our founder has her Master’s Degree from the University of South Dakota in training and education. How many advocates can bring that resume to the table? Not many! This is a huge advantage for you and your child.
We negotiate, we give your child a voice, we want to build a relationship with your family. If your advocate says they can just show up to your IEP meeting and help, that is a HUGE RED FLAG! An effective advocate will take the time to learn about your child, your family, and the school. They will review records, communicate with staff, and create a straightforward plan before a meeting is even mentioned. Inspire Education is the ONLY independent advocate in the state of South Dakota. We are the only advocate who has been trained by COPAA. We do charge for our services and our expertise in the field is a reflection of that charge. You will get what you pay for when you hire us! You will get a professional who knows the system inside and out. You will get an advocate trained in negotiation, the law, and what is appropriate for your child. We will individualize, personalize and not just treat you like another case file. We want our students to succeed!