Is your child as organized as you would like him to be?
Is she slow at acquiring organizational skills, especially when it comes to school work?
Having a child with a developmental delay can make things move much slower. But slow is OK – it’s a good enough way to start and there is always room for progress. Remember Aesop’s Fable, The Tortoise and the Hare? Slow and steady wins the race!
It’s so important that you always presume competence in your child despite her challenges! Your child can become more organized. He can learn new skills, and his brain can always develop new neural pathways for them, as long as the teaching is customized to his needs. Learning how to be more organized will make life easier for your child, and for you.
The ability to be organized depends on your child’s executive functioning skills. Executive functioning is a set of skills that help you get things accomplished. This command center is located in the frontal part of the brain and controls how your child plans, remembers, manages time and is able to organize him self. These skills are extremely important to help your child with daily chores and responsibilities, as well as succeed in a job later in life.
The traits of an organized person are:
Establishing goals and priorities.
Budgeting time effectively.
Recording assignments systematically.
Acquiring the materials necessary for work.
Keeping the workspace neat and organized.
No child, on or off the autism spectrum, is skilled in all of these organizational traits, and many adults are deficient in some of these areas as well. It’s crucial that systems addressing executive functioning be put into place at home and at school for children on the autism spectrum if you want them to be better organized. Your goal as a parent is to launch your child into adulthood being as independent as is possible. Focusing on improving these skills at home and advocating that they also be addressed in school will make your child’s transition into adulthood easier.
Here are a nine things you can do at home to help your child become more organized and time efficient:
Teach organization. Create a system for organizing assignments, keeping track of notes and papers. Color coding these documents into color coordinated folders is helpful to some children. Invest time in teaching your child about the why and the how of organization and big dividends it will pay off in the long run. All of this will help maintain a productive homework environment for your child.
Customize a system to your child's needs. Be forever mindful of choosing a system that speaks to the way your child takes in and assimilates new information best. Is her learning style visual, auditory or hands on? What is his best manner of communication? What other unique things do you need to pay attention to that helps your child learn best?
Make things predictable. Use visual schedules, flowcharts, calendars and other visual tools to help your child know what needs to happen and when. This minimizes anxiety. Children with ASD often respond well to a schedule as opposed to nagging them or assuming they will figure out what they should do next. The autistic brain's sense of timing is often out of whack and needs a little assistance. Auditory reminders typically 'go in one ear and out the other' and are not properly stored in memory. So telling your child, "turn off the TV and go do your homework" may come as a surprise and trigger overwhelm.
Motivate your child. In order for your child to improve in this area, he first needs to be convinced that organization will make his life easier. Instead of lecturing, give examples of tasks done with good organization and the results they produce. It’s also very beneficial to use yourself as a role model - real life instances that demonstrate the outcomes your child wants.
Practice with a purpose. If your child is reluctant, encourage her to enter into a pilot project or experiment. Present a plan that is very clear and time limited so she can see a beginning and an end. Entice her with a small reward at the end if necessary. Then actively involve her in organizing her notebooks, her desk with all the essential materials, and how to budget her time. After she has made use of this new system for a while, evaluate the changes you have both seen or experienced. Seeing the benefits first-hand will quickly convince any child.
Consider style and perspective. Always keep the way your child’s brain and body works best in mind. The way you organize may not be agreeable to his learning style, temperament, or sensory system. A customized approach is always the wisest one to take. Looking at his world through his lens and getting his input will help keep you on the right track.
Teach your child to ask for help. This is a simple skill that is often assumed everyone has but not every child does. Does your child really know how to do this? If not, teach your child when she needs to do this and how? Walk her through it if necessary and practice as much as you can.
Be patient. I know you have heard this one before but it bears repeating. This will be a slow process, so start small and measure things in tiny increments so success is more apparent.
Bite your tongue. Remember - no nagging or lecturing! Show - don’t tell.
For more strategies to make school a more positive experience for your child with autism click here to learn more about the book AUTISM PARENTING: Practical Strategies for a Positive School Experience – Over 300 tips for parents to enhance their child’s school success.
Need help teaching your child to be organized? As a coach, I can help you fill in the gap between essential clinical support and practical at home solutions. Discover tangible tools to help you learn your child’s language and understand how she experiences the world in order to create a system of organization that works for him.