Heading off to College

Welcome, Jessica Hawkins to The Kid Organizer!!!  We are so lucky to have Jessica join us at TKO. She brings a wealth of knowledge and valuable experience from her work as the Associate Director of The Office of Disability Services at a major University. Here are some wise tips Jessica is sharing with our parents of High School Graduating Students:

I can still remember the anxiety and excitement of heading off to college for the first time; I was totally ready to be an adult. I was going to love it, and do so well in school, and be completely independent in choosing the course of my life (except for having my own money, of course)! Needless to say, after being thrown into the “real” world with responsibilities I never had before, I realized that being an active adult was harder than it seemed. I lacked organizational and time management skills, and did not know where to turn! Why didn’t they teach me this in high school!? Feeling defeated and overwhelmed, I ended up not doing very well my freshman year and moved back home.

It was not until my mid-twenties that I was ready to try school again, but this time, I really thrived. I am now an LMSW and the Associate Director of Disability Services at a major University. For the past 4 years, I have been working with college students, and have seen and felt some of the struggles that come along with going off to college for the first time, becoming an independent adult, and staying on track through graduation. It is a major transition in a young person’s life, and having someone trustworthy to help guide them through these hardships is my main goal!

There are so many things that impact a college student’s level of success, below are just a few:

Expectations. What are your high school senior’s expectations for college, and are they a reality?

Responsibility. As a college student, your young adult is now in charge of him/herself. They must get to class on time, finish their homework, do laundry and remember to EAT all on their own!

Study skills. Everyone learns differently, so your young adult has to figure out their own way of absorbing the information they must learn for their classes. This in itself is a learned skill that many students do not fully discover until they are well into their college tenure.

Time management. How to properly manage the free time they have to get their work done, but also be able to have a social life. (Which of course, we all know, is the most important part of college.)

Organizational skills. Every Professor/class has a different set of classwork/homework that must be completed on time in order to pass the class. Having at least 4 (most of the time 5) classes all with different work and expectations requires organization, the ability to look at the bigger picture, and be able to break things down in order to get everything completed on time.

Seeking assistance when needed. This is crucial. There are support services all over college campuses now. They want to see students succeed, and are happy to help them, as long as the student seeks them out!

Social media. This plays a large role in a college student’s life and can impact their own feeling about their self-worth through the comparison of others. They just have to remember that people mainly post about good things that are happening or fun pictures, but it does not mean that everything is wonderful for everyone else. In fact, most students are struggling with the same issues every day.

Again, these are just some of the challenges facing college students today. With some help and encouragement, they can succeed!!!

  • written by Jessica Hawkins, Team Member @ The Kid Organizer

Using Technology for Homework – Can It Work with My Child?

I’m a big fan of Tali and GetScreen!  She’s our Guest Blogger this month and has a lot to share.

By Tali Orad

Technology as a Homework Helper

With technology at the everyone’s disposal, especially kids, we see more and more students using it for their homework. Student surveyed shows almost third are using a tablet for it, while 65% are using a laptop for homework.

To make it even more challenging, 39% of 14 year old reported using a smartphone to complete their homework, 42% of 6th graders used them, while 57% of 8th graders did the same (based on a study from Teen Research Unlimited, done for the Verizon Foundation found).

There are great benefits for technology with doing homework

Many schools have an interface or learning management system, like Edmodo, in place that allows parents to view homework assignments and their own child’s progress. For parent of an organizational challenged child, it’s the dream come true.

For the child, the ability to finish and submit homework electronically, lower the chances of forgetting to submit or lose homework sheets.

Having the option to rely on technology make scheduling easier. With tools like google calendar, and other calendar apps, a 7th grader can have all assignment in the calendar. And Google can remind him or her to study for a test. It can also show the list of project scheduled for the following week, making it easier to plan ahead.

Plus, teachers are more accessible as many are on social media for the students to contact them and ask questions.

When getting down to do homework

In a study conducted by Dr. Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University – Dominguez Hills, surveyed high school students and asked them how often they switch from studying to doing something related to technology such as checking email, social media, texting, or even watching TV. Across all grade levels, 80% of students reported that they switch between studying and technology somewhat often to very often. Rosen calls this “Continuous Partial Attention”, meaning that most of the time, students are not focused on studying but rather are moving their attention back and forth between studying and various forms of technology.

Rosen explains, “Young people’s technology use is really about quelling anxiety…they don’t want to miss out or to be the last person to hear some news (or like or comment about a post online).” One of the major problems with texting and posting on social media sites while in class and/or studying, is that “they draw on the same mental resources—using language, parsing meaning—demanded by schoolwork.” Ultimately, he concludes, if we want students to learn and perform at their best, smart phones and other online distractions must be managed.

This, as you might expect, affected their grades, and quality of work. Students who were less distracted had higher GPAs than students who switched back and forth often and those who regularly check Facebook or text messages. Students who had strategies for studying also had higher GPAs per Rosen’s findings.

Stay focus

If we want our children to succeed at school and be able to utilize technology, we need to set boundaries. Discuss with your child the appropriate time and place to use technology.

Teach him or her to take technology breaks to separate doing homework from using technology.

Use parental control tools to block their usage off their devices when it’s time for homework.

“Just 5 More Minutes, Mom!”: Best Tip To Make Life Easier In The Morning.

Every client, and I mean EVERY CLIENT who works with us, has some sort of issue with time management. Parents will often report that their child procrastinates, will wait until the last minute to start or complete an assignment, or will often run late for school. Some parents note that the mornings are challenging because their child can take a very long time getting ready for school, usually resulting in the entire family running behind in the morning. All too often, parents will complain that even though they have attempted to implement multiple time management plans none of them were successful!! Why is that?

As parents, we teach our children how to tell time. In the age of the endless “apps”, there are a variety of methods to learn how to read a clock. So, when we tell our kids to be ready in 10 minutes, we take for granted that our child knows what 10 minutes is. Sure, they can read the clock and tell you that 12:10 means 10 minutes after 12:00 but can they tell you what 10 minutes FEELS LIKE? Interesting, right! Before we expect our time challenged child to follow any time management plan, he/she needs to understand what time is and what it feels like.

For those Comfy/Cozy Organizers, feeling time is essential. For the Visual Organizer, seeing time is just as important. The Sequential Organizer needs to see the numbers on the clock to understand the order of the minutes. A bit confusing? Let me give you an example of how we help our clients through this process of understanding time.

A Time Timer is an excellent tool for teaching time since this tool can service all three organizing styles. (If you have a Sequential Organizer, I would recommend writing all the numbers on the minute lines for your child to better understand the order of time.) For many families, the mornings can be challenging so we’ll use this scenario for our example.

  • Explain to your child how the time timer works and how you will use it to help him/her work more efficiently in the morning.
  • If you want your child to be dressed and at the breakfast table in 20 minutes, set the time timer for 20 minutes.
  • Place the time timer in a very visible spot that your child has picked out in his or her bedroom.
  • If possible, remind your child to look at the time timer so he/she can manage the time. Be mindful to not give many reminders, otherwise your kids will say you’re nagging.
  • When the 20 minutes has expired, the timer’s bell will ring.
  • The goal is for your child to be fully dressed and prepared to for the next phase of the morning routine.

I know some of you may be thinking, “Yeah, right!! If it was only that easy!” There is not a one size fits all when organizing. Strategies presented here are guidelines that may need to be tweaked to fit your child’s needs. That’s fine. Some parents may need to start with smaller chunks of time and in some practice scenarios that are not stressful. Other parents may need to initially monitor how the child navigates through the given time to ensure that the goals are met.

Once your child has a better understanding of time, he /she will be better equipped to handle a time management plan.

The End Of The School Year: Are You Micromanaging Your Child?

Projects are due, essays are being typed, quizzes and subject tests are piling up and the final exams are listed on the school homepages. If your child was feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork before June, I’m sure he’s feeling inundated with the last round up of school assignments and tests. As the parent, I have no doubt that you want to jump right in and help your child glue the small pieces of construction paper to his science project, make vocab flash cards for her Spanish final and set up a study plan for finals week. However there is one big problem. Your child doesn’t want your help!

It’s downright painful to watch your disorganized child struggle with his/her executive functions during the school year. At this time of year, not only is your child feeling anxious about getting all the assignments completed but you may find yourself silently “freaking out” that your child is not allowing you to help him. Many of our parents want to know how they can help their disorganized child without it turning into World War III.

Here are some easy tips to help your child manage the end of the school year demands.

  1. Own Your Feelings. Acknowledge that you feel frustrated, anxious, mad, sad and even angry that your child is not accepting your help. Yes, it’s infuriating. I want you to stop and think about what your facial expressions look like and your tone of voice sounds like when you are mad, frustrated, anxious, etc. Kids, at any age, are very perceptive. Many, if not ALL, the students who come through our doors tell us that they don’t want help from Mom and Dad because it always ends in a fight. Kids can pick up on emotional cues much quicker than you may think. How many times has your son accused you of “yelling” at him when you clearly were not? Has your daughter accused you of “sighing” too much or making that “angry” face when you tried to help her with Math? Remaining calm, positive, and non-judgmental, will create a more secure atmosphere for your child. Remember that this can be an emotionally chaotic time of year for your child; she needs Mom and Dad to be in this turbulent state too.
  2. Stop Micromanaging. I had a middle school student, Jane, who complained about her parents constantly wanting to help her study. Dad would peek his head into Jane’s bedroom while she was doing homework, notice that she was working on math, and then insist on helping Jane. Mom continually asked Jane,” Can I help you with making flash cards, Honey?”. On her usual response, Jane would say, “No Mom, I’m fine!” As parents of disorganized children, we know that Jane could’ve benefited from Dad and Mom’s help. But to no avail, Jane refused any of their help. In my session with Jane, the only thing she wanted from her parents was not to be asked about school. “I just want them to be Mom and Dad not micro manage me!” In my session with Mom and Dad, I suggested that they back off. I wanted them to let Jane know that they were going to stop asking her a ton of questions about school. Mom and Dad told Jane that they were very willing to help her but ONLY if she asked. During homework time, Mom only asked Jane if she wanted something to eat and drink while working on homework. Dad would only sneak his head into Jane’s room to say Hi. Mom and Dad were very mindful to be calm, soft spoken and have their’ Smiley face” on when speaking to Jane during HW time. Within days of Mom and Dad’s new approach, Jane asked Mom for some help with her homework. A Win –Win for everyone.
  3. Get the teacher involved. Students are often more willing to listen to a teacher than to a parent regarding school. If you know that your child’s time management skills are poor, email a teacher or guidance counselor and ask if he or she would sit with your child and design a study plan for the next few weeks that would include the remaining assignments and exams. Don’t forget to let the teacher know of your child’s after school commitments so they can incorporate it into the schedule.
  4. Mom, can you help me. If your child allows you to help her devise a plan to reduce the end of the year stress, start with listing all of the assignments and their due dates. If your child is feeling very overwhelmed, only make a time management plan for a week at a time. Since disorganized kids can often be “time” challenged, brainstorm with your child how long it will probably take to complete an assignment. For students who feel pressured when they are given specific time slots to work within, create a plan that has extended time slots. I like to use colored pencils or post its to create these plans so the student can edit when need be. Make a copy of the plan you developed and ask your child to place it at eye level to where he/she is working. DO NOT place it on the working desk where it can be buried under books and papers.

Remember that summer vacation is within sight. Use that time to have a discussion with your child about the organizing strategies that worked for him during the school year and the strategies that may need some improving. Brainstorm on how your child can have a more “organized” school year in the Fall.

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.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is one of the most discussed neurological disorders. Research indicates that there has been a 53% increase in the diagnosis of ADHD in the past decade, with some 6.4 million children between ages 4-17 years old receiving a diagnosis That’s a lot of kids! The diagnosis isn’t just for boy: there are a lot of girls with ADHD too. Many of the clients in my practice have a diagnosis of ADHD.

According to the DSM V, ADHD symptoms are presented in two categories:

  1. Inattentive
  2. Hyperactivity-Impulsivity

Released in May 2013, the updated DSM V listed some changes to the diagnosis of ADHD:

  1. Symptoms can be present by age 12 instead of age 6
  2. Several symptoms need to be present in more than one setting rather than just some impairment in more than one setting;
  3. Updated descriptions to indicate what symptoms present like at older ages; and for adults and adolescents age 17 or older,
  4. Only five symptoms need to be present instead of six for younger children.


In the inattentive category, there are nine criteria. Four of them indeed refer to being inattentive or having a short attention span: Doesn’t pay close attention, has difficulty listening, and is easily distracted. However the other five criteria all relate to organizational problems! These criteria include having difficulty organizing, trouble following through with organization, avoiding activities that require organization, losing things, and being forgetful. Does this sound familiar? Five if the nine criteria for the inattentive type of ADHD all relate to organizational problems- and you only need five of the criteria to diagnose ADHD of the predominately inattentive type. In other words, if your are significantly disorganized, you are already 5/6 of the way toward a diagnosis of ADHD. (Conversely, you typically can’t be diagnosed with ADHD you have to work at problems with organization.)

There are the nine criteria of the hyperactive- impulsive group. Six of those nine criteria relate to physical hyperactivity, such as fidgety, being always active, or talking excessively. The other three relate to impulsivity: blurting out answers, interrupting, or having trouble with turn taking. A child needs to meet at least six of these nine criteria to be classified as hyperactive-impulsive type.

According to all of these criteria, three types of ADHD can be diagnosed:

  1. ADHD, predominantly inattentive type. Girls are more typically of this type, which has been referred to as ADD. These are the “Earth to Jill” kids. In particular, bright cute girls who are inattentive tend to slip under the radar until later years in school.ADHD, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type. This diagnosis is not as common as the other ADHD types since it excludes the inattentive piece,
  2. ADHD, combined type. The inattentive and hyperactive-impulsivity types are occurring together.
    The DSM V indicates that a few more criteria needs to be met for an ADHD diagnosis that include several symptoms need to be present in two or more setting, (home or school) and that symptoms interfere with the quality of the child’s functioning.