What are some things that can be done by teachers and parents to help teenagers improve their organizational skills?
- Discuss with the student the lack of organization that you have observed. The first thing that must be done is to talk with the young person privately about. how you feel the lack of organization is creating havoc. Explain how you judge that it is interfering with progress in school and in life, and furthermore, that it will probably only get worse.
- Get the student to admit that the lack of organization is a problem. Ownership of this as a problem is essential if progress is to be made. A few chats may be required before you feel that you have a commitment from the student to want to improve.
- The teenager will need assistance in putting organization into his life. If you are the parent, help your child to reorganize the bedroom. Purchase closet organizers so that every sweater has its location, every shirt has a hanger, every pair of shoes has its own location. Be certain that a laundry hamper is in the room and within easy reach. I know a young wife who "took the bull by the horns" and told her disorganized husband that she had put the laundry hamper beside the bed on his side. "Then you will have to trip over it to get out of the room. Perhaps now you can get your clothes in the basket!" It worked.
If you don't get along very well with your child during this stage of life, you may need to find someone else to tackle this task (a sibling or an aunt or uncle), Going it alone, you may only make it worse. Try to remind yourself that your child isn't deliberately trying to disobey you. She really doesn’t know how to organize her belongings.
- A planner is a must. The disorganized person needs to have a daily planner and use it every day. Sunday afternoons need to include 30 to 60 minutes when the "student plans the week as much as possible. This needs to include all standing appointments such as guitar lessons. As the week progresses, the planner should include homework assignments, studying for tests, free time, time for meals, and so forth.
- Put a schedule on the disorganized student's closet door. Included should be such topics as laundry, telephone time, dates, homework, bedtime, morning wakeup time, and other items related to his weekly routines. The teenager should be involved in deciding what should be included in the schedule. If a parent is unable to help with this for various reasons, perhaps one of the student's teachers can do so. Or maybe a well-organized friend can communicate with the student more effectively to get the job done.
- Select clothing for the next day before going to bed at night. The student must select in advance what is to be worn to school the next day. The clothes should be hung on the closet door or another appropriate place.
- Put everything going to school at the front door before going to bed. The student must collect all books, papers, notebooks, and, writing instruments, put them in the book bag, and place them outside the bedroom door or at the front door. If there is a completed homework assignment for the next day, be sure that this is in the book bag. This will eliminate many frantic mornings of last-minute searches.
- Be very specific. Establish guidelines for neatness and other organizational skills. For example, don't tell a disorganized student to "'clean out your desk" or "clean up your room." What you mean by that will puzzle this teenager. Instead, say, "I want you to remove all the crumpled papers from your desk and put them in the trash." When that assignment is completed, say what should be done next.
- The cause of disorganization may not be apparent. Instead of just looking at the symptoms, try to locate the cause of behavior that is unacceptable, such as disorganization. Students with ADHD are often completely lacking in the ability to insert organizational skills into their lives.
- Use praise as a reward. When the disorganized student has shown improvement, be sure to compliment generously. All of us enjoy compliments, but for those who rarely receive them, this is even more important.
- Suggest exercise as a possibility for improvement. When a students finds school work so distasteful that it is avoided at all costs, suggest that the student work out vigorously before school and as often thereafter as needed. This may need to be a recommendation of the placement committee since it will probably involved having the student leave the classroom. If the student can be trusted to behave properly, walking up and down a staircase until exhausted may be beneficial. Walking on a treadmill for 5 minutes may mean the difference between having a good experience in the classroom or being extremely difficult to manage. Sometimes vigorous exercise of this type helps a student pay attention as well as work for a reasonable time before becoming distracted and disorganized.
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