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!