Help Your Child Get Organized

By — NYU Child Study Center
Updated on Oct 22, 2010

Great expectations

"This year it's going to be different." This sentence, uttered with a mixture of determination and hope, rings throughout homes across the country as the new school year starts. This year your child will get better grades, start his assignments earlier and, finally, get organized. And so you arm your child with notebooks, binders, pens and pencils, schedules and systems that should make all the difference. And now you've had your first parent-teacher conferences and some things don't seem to have changed at all.

We all have the best of intentions as we send our kids off to school. Our kids have the best of intentions too - no child wants to fail, and no student likes to be the one without her homework, textbook or completed project. And yet it seems sometimes that no matter how hard we all try, nothing changes: notebooks fall apart, homework get lost, long-term assignments are left for the last minute.

Why can't some kids stay on course?

Some of the most vital skills needed for success in school are not, for the most part, being taught in classrooms. Organization and time management are skills that lie at the heart of academic success for many students, and they need to be learned, adjusted and practiced. These are the skills that enable students to keep track of their belongings and assignments, both physically and mentally. As children enter middle school and classes become departmentalized, the challenges become even greater and the need for organizational skills becomes even more urgent. When a student misses the lesson on breaking down long-term assignments, or the required notebook setup doesn't match a student's learning style, the proper systems are not in place to support a student's academic success.

Children with learning issues

Children who have learning issues face an additional set of challenges. Students with attention difficulties tend to have trouble focusing on the details involved in an organizational system; kids with auditory processing issues often don't take in all of the information as it's being taught in school; and children with non-verbal learning disabilities or executive functioning issues may have trouble with sequencing, priorities and consequences, which are all significant components of organization. In fact, the steps involved in getting organized may seem like a burden rather than a tool - one more place to fail, one more obstacle between your child and success in the classroom.

When I was growing up, organization actually became my coping mechanism. My (undiagnosed) dyslexia left me feeling like a failure, and facing that failure five days a week, six hours a day, was so painful that I shut down. I learned to look like I was paying attention in class while I had in fact completely vacated the room mentally. The only way I could survive was by being extremely organized, by having control over the few things I did understand in the classroom. But students today live in a world in which even staying organized is more challenging that it was when we were in school.

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