Executive Functions In The Disorganized Child

Not every disorganized child has ADHD. Children who are disorganized probably have some challenges with Executive Functions. These are housed in the frontal lobes of our brain and do not fully develop until we are in our early 20’s. The EF’s (as I like to call them) run the show when it comes to organization. They allow us to:

  1. Plan ahead
  2. Learn from our mistakes
  3. Follow through on task
  4. Execute a plan
  5. Understand the concept of time and time management
  6. Prioritize
  7. Transition from one task to another
  8. Self talk

So many parents will come into my office asking,’ Does my son have ADHD or is he just disorganized. Some of the ADHD symptoms may be present in a “disorganized child” but they are very mild and can be mediated with appropriate organizing strategies. When the child has difficulty implementing organizing strategies and presents with ADHD symptoms, a professional should be consulted to discuss the best treatment plan for the child.

Why Do Some Kids Struggle With Planning?

Ann has a report due on Monday that will count for 25% of her English grade. Mom feels that she needs to nag Ann to start this report because Ann will always wait to the last minute to start her assignments. Despite the increased tension anxiety felt in the house from Mom’s nagging, Ann won’t start the report til Sunday. You know how the rest of this story turns out….Ann is up til 3:00 am Monday morning to finish the paper because of poor planning. Mom is furious with Ann since she never seems to learn her lesson about time management.

The ability to set long term goals as well as short term goals can be a difficult task for some students.( Maybe some adults too!) There are several reasons for this:

  • The poor concept of time means that they really did think there was enough time
  • Their lack of foresight interferes with recognizing the disadvantages of delaying the project.
  • Their lack of hindsight prevents them for recognizing that procrastination didn’t work last time.
  • Children who are disorganized tend to have an extremely difficult time with initiating and executing a task all the way to completion.
  • They can’t resist the temptation to do something else more appealing.
  • Some kids are overwhelmed by having to do a project at all so they end up putting it off.
  • Sometimes the child just forgets about the project.
  • Most of these faults are the result of underdeveloped brains, not the child.

How can parents help?

Parents seem to have tried many tactics in the attempt to fight their children’s procrastination. Yelling doesn’t work. (It hasn’t yet, has it?) It’s really not surprising since punishment does not alter a child’s brain or teach the needed skills. You wouldn’t expect screaming to cure dyslexia. Why would you expect it to cure a planning /organizational problem? Planning skills will allow him to feel more confident and less stressed, and have a sense of pride in his work.

Organizing The Homework Area

When I was a contributing writer for Specialism.com, I wrote the following post to help parents organize the homework area. Hope you find the info helpful…

Now that we are slowly establishing the school year routine, one of the most important (let’s face it, they’re all important) aspects of the daily grind for kids is homework. Many parents will note how difficult homework can be in their house. Whether it’s the child who procrastinates, the disorganized work area, or the child who misplaces everything, homework can be a challenge. Here are some tips for parents to help their children stay organized while doing homework.

  1. Establish a homework zone. Many young children like to be near an adult (usually Mommy) when doing their homework so they can quickly have questions answered. For many this spot may be at the kitchen or dining room table.
  2. Set up the homework zone. Each child should have a portable school supplies box to include loose leaf, art supplies, and anything else needed to complete homework. This box should allow for easy access for your child. That means no boxes that the lids can come off. If you have another child who is using the same homework zone, you might want to think about dividers. This is a great privacy shield for the kids who squabble with each other.
  3. Headphones. Some children are sensitive to noise, especially the voices of their siblings. Using headphones with either soft music or white noise can be productive in reducing distractions of others.
  4. Internet use. As much as I love Facebook, for many students, this along with many other social media and gaming sites can be an incredible distraction to older students who may need the internet for homework. Some apps and software parents can install to block social media for a few hours are anti social  and K-9 web protection.
  5. File box for those exploding binders and folders. Buy a portable file box without a top for easy access. Since the box is portable, it can move from room to room with your child. Insert hanging file folders for each subject. Once every few weeks, your child should go through his folders and remove papers that are from past topics or just doesn’t need anymore. DO NOT throw these papers out but store them til midterms and final.
  6. Reminders. There are many different ways of setting up reminders. If your child is tech savvy, have her use an app on her phone for reminders. Post it calendars are great tools for reminders for the kids who are more tactile and visual. Another great reminder technique for the kids who are more visual and tactile, is to write down every task (homework) on a separate post it. Display the post its at eye level to give a clear view to your child what tasks she needs to accomplish that day. When the task is completed, your child should remove the corresponding post it and throw it away.
    Helping your child develop positive homework strategies will assure that the school work will get done. Make sure that your child feels comfortable in his work area and that you remain supportive in maintaining positive homework strategies.