Tag Archives: School

8 Tips to Help you be Your Child’s Advocate

By Mary Fowler

1. Be knowledgeable and stay informed.

  • Most teachers appreciate your clearheaded understanding of your child’s problems and any possible interventions you can suggest.
  • Read and keep up to date on new research.

2. Use knowledge to help, not to hammer.

  • Knowledge helps create solutions for problems. But sometimes knowledge can be used to beat up on people who “should know better.” That’s like calling someone a “stupid idiot.”
  • You want to help by sharing your knowledge.

3. Speak up, not out. Good communication skills are crucial for effective advocacy.

  • Always be polite and respectful, even of people who don’t seem to warrant your respect. Act as if they might rise to the occasion one day.
  • Be aware of your tone, volume, and body language. Don’t make accusations. If you feel you’re going to lose it, excuse yourself. Nothing gets solved during a shouting match.

4. Know your intention. Before meetings, have an agenda.

  • What are your child’s needs?
  • What do you hope to accomplish?
  • Is there a specific problem that needs attention?
  • Put your energy there.

5. Stay focused on your intention.

  • Don’t get side-tracked by emotional issues that may come up in conferences or phone calls. Either you or the school personnel may have an agenda.
  • Stick to the agenda of solving problems and meeting needs. The meeting will move more smoothly.

6. Use conflict resolution skills. Don’t get too invested in the belief that your way is the only way.

  • Conflict resolution is a negotiation. Both parties have perspectives and issues that belong on the table.
  • Look for ways to solve the table topics that create wins for all. Avoid the
    “I win/you lose” agenda.

7. Bring a skilled advocate to meetings. It can be intimidating to deal with school staff on your own, especially when you’re first learning about ADHD and feel as though you are in over your head.

  • Parent/child advocates can help you. Look to your local disability support groups to
    find these names.
  • Find your local disability support groups by reading newspaper calendars, asking school personnel or your child’s treatment professionals, or by searching the Web.

8. Keep good records.

  • Get a large three-ring binder.
  • Fill it with records of anything pertaining to school: report cards, meetings, phone
    contacts, evaluations, intervention plans, and so on.

 

By Mary Fowler http://www.maryfowler.com

Mary trains educators and parents on ADHD, emotional challenges, and classroom management practices. An internationally recognized expert on ADHD, she is the author of four books, including the bestseller, Maybe You Know My Kid (3rd edition), Maybe you Know my Teen, the original CHADD Educators Manual,  and 20 Questions to Ask If Your Child has ADHD.

Reprinted, with permission of the author, from 20 Questions to Ask if Your Child Has ADHD© 2006 Mary Fowler. Published by Career Press, Franklin Lakes, NJ. All rights reserved.

 

 

“Think of this book as facts with personality. Answers are written in an easy-to-read, conversational style from a parent who’s been there”. Organized into four easily manageable categories:• General/Medical Information • Social/Emotional Well-being • Home Issues • School Issues. ($10 on Kindle – $13 for paperback)

 

 

“Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG/FreeDigitalPhoto.com” Modified on Canva http://canva.com

7 Questions to Help Parents and Children with ADHD Succeed with Homework

Your job, Mom and Dad, is to provide the environment that works for your child.By Sarah Jane Keyser

If you are a parent of a child with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and you have big time problems with homework, explore these seven questions with your child to create the best environment for him or her to succeed. Understanding how your child’s brain functions will help you find the strategies that work best.

 

When we are interested in something and are good at it, such as math, or English, interest stimulates the brain and aids focusing. For people with ADHD, the greater the passion, the easier it is to pay attention. Kids who have an interest may be a walking encyclopedia for their favorite topic, like dinosaurs or basketball, but be hopeless about school. The problems arise with subjects that are not interesting and may be particularly difficult for your child.

New research supports this experiential evidence.

Recent research has identified two separate areas in the brain which are used to focus attention. The parietal cortex reacts to external stimuli; the prefrontal cortex is active when you must choose what to pay attention to.

The prefrontal cortex is the brain part that is used for executive functions like deciding, planning and activating and is under active in ADHD. It is the last part of the brain to reach full maturity (that’s why Hertz and Avis don’t rent cars to people under age 25). Children with ADHD may be two to three years behind their age peers in mental maturity, but they do get there.

How can you use this information to help your child do his homework?

Your job, Mom and Dad, is to provide the environment that works for your child.

You do not want to do it for him or be dogmatic about how, where or when he should do his homework. But you do need to provide more structure and organizational assistance than for other children of his age.

Talk and explore with her to discover what kind of stimulation works best to help her brain stay focused, every child is different. Your goal is to provide an environment which provides the right stimulation for her unique brain.

Seven questions for you to explore.

When does he work best? He probably needs some exercise and a snack after school before settling down to do homework. A snack should include some protein for fuel for the brain.

Where does he work best? Does he work best alone in his room with no distractions or does he work better in an open area with some noise and movement around to provide stimulation? Does background music of his choosing help him stay on task?

Does he need to move often? Let him work in small chunks and take a short break to jump a bit between chunks. Explore using a rocking chair or a rubber ball seat.

Is he an aural or visual learner? Our modern world is expressed mostly through visual media, but some people learn better aurally. If your child is an aural learner have him work out loud recording his lessons on a tape recorder.

Is he a verbal or a graphic learner? Some children work better with pictures than with words. Let him use his creativity to illustrate his lessons with pictures cut from old magazines or his own drawings. Provide colored pens and highlighters to make his notes stimulating to look at.

Does he have a problem with time? Many people with ADHD have an elastic sense of time. Have your child practice measuring the time he needs to do each assignment. Prepare a chart on which he can record estimated time, start time, end time, elapsed time, and the difference from estimated time for each assignment.

Does he have difficulty starting? Some children with ADHD see tasks as one big overwhelming cloud. They need help finding where to begin. Talk with him about the steps he needs to accomplish starting with very simple actions like open your book, read the first problem.

 Most important! Enjoy! Have fun! Tell a silly joke before he starts or when he takes a break. This may sound paradoxical, but laughing lowers the stress level for you and your child.

 

Published by Sarah Jane Keyser, Copyright 2006, all rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward or post this content in full for use in a not-for-profit format, as long as this copyright notice and full information about the author is attached intact. If any other use is desired, permission in writing is required.

Sarah Jane Keyser worked for many years with computers as a programmer, analyst, and user trainer, but her struggle with inattentive ADD kept getting in the way of her plans and dreams. Once ADD was identified and the great need that coaching filled, she added ADD Coach training to complete her preparation for a new career as ADD Coach. Her credentials include ADD Coach training at the ADD Coach Academy. the Newfield Network’s graduate coaching program “Mastery in Coaching,” and “Coaching Kids and Teens” by Jodi Sleeper-Triplett MCC. Sarah Jane coaches in French and English by telephone. (Coaching Key to ADD)

“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhoto.net” Modified on Canva

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How can I work with my child’s school?

How can I work with my child’s school?

If you think your child has ADHD, or a teacher raises concerns, you may be able to request that the school conduct an evaluation to determine whether he or she qualifies for special education services.

Start by speaking with your child’s teacher, school counselor, or the school’s student support team, to begin an evaluation. Also, each state has a Parent Training and Information Center and a Protection and Advocacy Agency (Link works) that can help you get an evaluation. A team of professionals conducts the evaluation using a variety of tools and measures. It will look at all areas related to the child’s disability.

Once your child has been evaluated, he or she has several options, depending on the specific needs. If special education services are needed and your child is eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the school district must develop an “individualized education program” specifically for your child within 30 days.

If your child is considered not eligible for special education services—and not all children with ADHD are eligible—he or she still can get “free appropriate public education,” available to all public-school children with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.

For more information on Section 504, consult the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which enforces Section 504 in programs and activities that receive Federal education funds.

Visit the Department of Education website  for more information about programs for children with disabilities.

Transitions can be difficult. Each school year brings a new teacher and new schoolwork, a change that can be especially hard for a child with ADHD who needs routine and structure. Consider telling the teachers that your child has ADHD when he or she starts school or moves to a new class. Additional support will help your child deal with the transition.

Casting a Wider Net: Section 504 Revisions

Casting a Wider Net:  Section 504 Under the 2008 ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA)

©  Lisa M. LaVardera, Esq.

In 2008, Congress amended the Americans with Disabilities Act, significantly broadening the definition of disability, beginning in 2009.  That change impacted the definition of disability under Section 504, one of two statutes from which children  receive special education services in school, (the other being The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA.).  The major changes as they pertain to students with disabilities, including children with ADHD, 2e children, and other bright children who may not have qualified for special education services or accommodations are significant, and are summarized herein.

What’s Section 504 got to do with the ADA?

Both are civil rights laws that protect individuals with disabilities from being discriminated against in our public schools.   Section 504 was enacted in 1973 and applies to all programs and activities that receive federal money.  This includes public schools, colleges, and universities as well as certain employers, state and local government programs, and places of public accommodation, such as a public library, courthouse or Federal office building.  (It’s hard to find any school, including private school that does not receive some financial assistance from the government.)   The ADAAA includes a “conforming amendment” to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; meaning that the newly expanded coverage under ADAAA also applies to Section 504.  Since both statutes are interpreted in parallel, the ADA impacts Section 504. While the wording of Section 504 did not change, because of the ADAAA, it’s interpretation has.  The main key to understanding Section 504 is that it is essentially a civil rights anti-discrimination statute, designed to level the playing field between a person with a disability and his non-disabled peers, when it comes to equal access to governmental sponsored activities, venues and rights.   It confers no federal funding upon the states, it is an unfunded mandate.

Today, the key difference between Section 504 and IDEA is that under 504, the level of restriction is the determining factor, not the severity of the impairment, or adverse educational impact.   Further, a substantial limitation in one major life activity need not be limiting in other major life activities in order to be considered a disability, and consideration must be made on a case-by-case basis, according to the “reasonable person” standard.  (If a reasonable person/ average person would consider that disability to be materially restricting.)

These changes are especially important if your child:

  1. Was previously evaluated under IDEA and was found ineligible.
  2. Was previously evaluated under Section 504 and was found ineligible.
  3. Already has a 504 plan.
  4. Is already receiving informal accommodations.
  5. Needs accommodations from the College Boards.
  6. Is applying to college.

 

Why The Change?:

Previously, the definition of disability was described in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Under Section 504, a person was considered to be a person with a disability if he: (1) had a physical or mental impairment which substantially limited a major life activity and; 2) had a record of such impairment; or (3) was regarded as having such an impairment. Once a person met that standard, they could receive a “reasonable accommodation.” Over the years a few landmark employment law cases made it to the Supreme Court, which decisions tightened the requirements by which a person could be considered disabled for purposes of employment and disability law. Congress thought that those Supreme Court decisions contradicted their congressional intent of protecting people with disabilities, and so Congress revised the Americans with Disabilities Act (The ADAAA), to re- clarify and broaden the interpretation of disability and realign it with the original Congressional intent (which was whether the school, entity or facility met its obligations under the law, not whether the claimant met the definition of disability.)

What’s New?:

The Definition of Major Life Activity:

The definition of “major life activities” was expanded to include learning, reading, concentrating, thinking and even sleeping.  And the definition of “major bodily functions” was expanded to include neurological, digestive, reproductive and brain functions.

The Definition of Disability:

The definition of “disability” is to be broadly, rather than narrowly interpreted. And a limitation in one major life activity need not impact other major life activities.  Eg., a reading disability need not impact all subject areas to be considered a “disability.”

The Definition of Substantial Limitation:

The ADA as revised by Congress has now clarified “substantially limits” with a lower standard of “materially restricts.” While the wording of Section 504 did not change, because of the ADAAA, it’s interpretation has.  Today, the level of restriction is the determining factor, not the severity of the impairment.  Further, a substantial limitation in one major life activity need not be limiting in other major life activities in order to be considered a disability, and must be made on a case-by-case basis.  This change significantly broadened the definition of what constitutes a “disability.”

No Requirement of Educational Need:

Accordingly, the threshold for “educational need” is now more flexible under 504 than it is under IDEA.  Under 504, educational need or adverse educational impact is not the threshold for evaluation; the disability is. (Think disability plus some level of restriction in some area regarding learning, thinking, communicating, and so on, versus the requirement of “adverse educational impact” under IDEA.)  The threshold is not the same.

No Requirement to Fail:

As for twice exceptional children, or bright children who did not previously qualify for special education services; under the new interpretation under 504, a district may not use a child’s superior or adequate grades as a reason to refuse to evaluate him.  A 504 plan may still be appropriate even in cases where the disability does not impact learning. Nothing in the ADA or Section 504, or IDEA for that matter, limits eligibility to students who suffer academically.  Therefore a district may not refuse to evaluate a child whose disability has no educational impact if the child meets the new definition of disability under the ADAAA and thus 504.  Thus, schools can no longer tell parents that their child doesn’t qualify for an evaluation or a 504 plan solely because he is “doing okay without any intervention.” To say this is now a violation, says the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Other information about the disability must still be considered. The child may, after a full evaluation, still not qualify for a particular accommodation or service, but he must still be evaluated, if he has a physical or mental impairment that materially restricts one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment, regardless of good grades.

 

Definition of Reasonable Accommodation:

A “reasonable accommodation” has no definition in educational law and no limit at the moment, other than undue hardship on the part of the district.  And, the accommodation requested does not need to be directly related to the specific disability. (That does not mean however, that the sky is the limit in requesting accommodations from the school district.  The accommodation request can still be denied if the school district feels it is unreasonable, and then it is up to the hearing officer, or judge to decide.)

No Consideration of Mitigating Measures:

Mitigating measures cannot be considered in determining substantial limitation (except for contacts and eyeglasses), and if mitigating measures create an additional impact, there must also be an accommodation for that issue caused by the mitigating measure. A student must be able to use a mitigating measure independently; if the school personnel has to do something, then the disability is not mitigated. When determining whether the disability materially restricts a major life function, school districts must do a “look back” evaluation to determine what the child is like when off medication or without the mitigating measure. That is a very difficult task, but good news for kids with ADHD who take medications to help them focus.  They must be evaluated based on what their behavior would be when un-medicated.

No Penalty for Self-Accommodations:

And perhaps the most important change: kids who have learned to “self-accommodate,”  adapt—or compensate, as we like to call it—now cannot be penalized for learning to manage the disability on their own. Learned adaptive skills are a mitigation that may not be taken into consideration when determining substantial limitation. A child with a reading disability who can still learn in other ways is still disabled for the purposes of the new interpretation under Section 504, perhaps even if he is an honor roll student.  This change significantly benefits children with ADHD, and other children who were bright enough, or had enough compensatory skills to slip under the classification radar.

What Conditions Are Covered?:

In addition to disorders of learning, reading, concentrating, thinking and sleeping, other biological conditions are now covered. Diseases in remission are now considered as if they were active.  (Yes, you can get a 504 plan for cancer in remission, if it materially restricts you in some way.)  Alcohol problems are covered, although drug addiction is not. Other biological conditions such as gastro disease, neurological, brain, and reproductive disorders also fall under 504 protection.  Medical needs, if they trigger 504 services are now a burden that the district must bear.  And service dogs are now covered and may be allowed in schools.

Children Who Are Bullied:

Another interesting wrinkle, children who are bullied may fall under the “regarded as” prong if they are bullied as a result of their perceived disability.  And, according to Congress in revising the ADA, that discrimination provides them protection under 504, whether the disability is “substantially limiting” or not. This is a very interesting new wrinkle. Conceivably, a child may be entitled to an accommodation for being bullied if he is discriminated against (bullied because he had a disability), whether or not his disability is materially restricting enough to otherwise qualify for Section 504 protections or accommodations.

Evaluations Under Section 504:

Evaluations under the new interpretation of Section 504 must be comprehensive and look at all areas of learning: thinking, concentration, communicating, and so on.  School Districts must meet 504’s evaluation and placement procedural requirements when developing the plan.  For children with medical conditions who previously had an IHP (health response plan), the IHP may no longer be sufficient to meet 504 procedural requirements and they may need to be upgraded to a 504 plan.

Clinicians who do private evaluations and recommend a 504 plan should be aware that their evaluations:  must clearly show how the disability materially restricts a major life activityhow it impacts learning; (thinking, concentrating, communicating, and so on); also address any deficits masked by mitigating or self-accommodation measures, (what the child looks like off medications); and list any accommodation required for any effect of a mitigating measure.  This is especially important for children who are high functioning and have no adverse educational impact.

What Is The New Standard of Education under Section 504?

That’s a really good question.  The standard of FAPE, (Free Appropriate Public Education) is not the same as under IDEA.  Section 504 regulations define appropriate education as “the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that (i) are designed to meet individual educational needs of handicapped persons as adequately as the needs of non-handicapped persons are met and (ii) are based upon adherence to procedures that satisfy the requirements” of the additional regulations governing educational setting, evaluation and placement, and procedural safeguards.

Two notable cases, Lyons and Mark H., establish that the 504 “appropriate education” standard is enforceable, and that the standard it imposes on public schools is different from the IDEA appropriate education standard, maybe lower, maybe higher, depending on the circumstances of your particular school district.  For example, a wealthy district that offers multiple programs and activities for nondisabled children, would be held to a higher standard of education for children covered by 504, a standard well above what IDEA calls for.  Poorer school districts that offer a barely decent level of services and instruction to children without disabilities, might be able to get away with providing lesser services to their children with disabilities, which may fall far below the expectations of IDEA.   How this will play out especially in wealthier districts whose kids have more positive outcomes, remains to be seen.  At this point in time, remember there is no definitive limit to 504 services, as long as they provide an equal opportunity for FAPE as that enjoyed by the non-disabled peers.

Remember, under IDEA, the IEP compares the child to his own best capacities, (more person-centered) while Section 504, when looking at the impact of the disability, compares him to his same age peers across the nation.  But, the obligations of school districts and other entities are measured by how equally they provide access and services to the disabled versus non-disabled, and that is a local standard.  And, when assessing violations of the ADA and 504, the focus is on the school or entity, not the disability, or the person with the disability.  This is an entirely different paradigm than under IDEA.

All services, accommodations and modifications must level the playing field in order to be 504 compliant.  Not all actually do what they are intended to do.  A level playing field means an equal opportunity to succeed in school.  It does not mean maximization of your child’s potential.

By now all school districts must have updated their 504 evaluation criteria, procedural requirements, manuals, materials, parent letters, prior written notice letters, etc., and trained personnel not to make statements or policy that violates Section 504.  The Office of Civil Rights has said it will enforce Section 504 in a manner consistent with the ADA Amendments Act. Because school districts must create their own evaluation procedures under Section 504, this is particularly challenging.    Also, Section 504 does and has always included the provision of services, as well as accommodations and modifications.  There is nothing in the statute that limits 504 in that regard, but for some reason school districts forget that.  But, perhaps the most challenging issue facing school districts is understanding that even children who are doing adequately in school may still qualify for Section 504 accommodations and services, if they have a disability that materially restricts a major life activity.

What Should Parents Do?:

Clearly, these changes suggest that any child previously refused services under the old interpretation of Section 504 should promptly request an evaluation under the new interpretation of Section 504.  This is especially important for children who did not meet threshold criteria before or who may have had a discipline involvement (or both) and who are now otherwise protected under the “regarded as” prong of 504 (for example, already receiving informal accommodations).  It is also important for college-bound teens and those seeking accommodations on college boards to be promptly re-evaluated under Section 504. (However, the college board makes it’s own decisions under Section 504, independent of the school.)

Do not expect your school district to fully understand the ramifications of these changes.  Parents must be proactive and vigilant in protecting their children’s Section 504 rights, even if their school is not.

Ask, ask, ask for a new evaluation.  Be prepared with data and information about your child’s disability, and include examples of how your child functions without their medications or self-accommodations in ALL areas of learning, thinking, communicating, etc.  If your child has another type of disease or disability that is now covered, including gastro-intestinal, immunological, or cancer remission, remember to ask for a 504 plan for any issues arising out of that disease or it’s treatment.  Use your knowledge about your child to paint a picture for the committee.

Be specific about what services and/or accommodations you think they need to level the playing field in school.  Services are included under 504, do not be afraid to ask for “504 Services” by name.  Services that your child may have been denied under IDEA may be appropriate and more easily accessible under the new interpretation of Section 504.

Be a very attentive listener.  If you hear a comment from your school district that violates Section 504, as indicated above, report it to OCR, you can file an OCR complaint online.

Conclusion:

For many years the focus was on IDEA and the IEP and obtaining IEP services.  Children who had a 504 plan in school rarely got the same level of services or procedural protections as those given to children under IDEA.  In fact, the 504 plan was regarded as the “ugly stepchild” of special education.  Today, the ADA Amendments Act has created a paradigm shift in the way we look at children with disabilities, assess them and service them.  There seems to be no end in sight to the possibilities and potential ramifications of the new interpretation of Section 504.  But more importantly, it has opened a world of new possibilities for more students, and especially higher achieving students with disabilities to receive appropriate services and accommodations for disabilities that went un-noticed, un-validated, and un-serviced under IDEA.

 

Disclaimer: Please be advised that this information is not intended to take the place of legal advice.  For specific legal questions seek the advice of a licensed attorney.

©  Lisa M. LaVardera, Esq. – All rights reserved.  Articles may be reproduced or electronically distributed as long as attribution to Lisa M. LaVardera, Esq. is maintained.

Find the original article at: PTS Coaching –  Casting a Wider Net 

 

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Classic ADHD Books

Books about ADHDNote: Although I am not an affiliate, this collection does include active links to Amazon.

Driven to Distraction (Revised): Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder by Edward M. Hallowell M.D. and John J. Ratey M.D. (Sep 13, 2011)

Taking Charge of ADHD, Third Edition: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents by Russell A. Barkley (Apr 15, 2013)

A New Understanding of ADHD in Children and Adults: Executive Function Impairments by Thomas E. Brown (June 7, 2013)

20 questions20 Questions to Ask If Your Child has ADHD by Mary Fowler and Scott Eyre (Jun 3, 2008)

Healing ADD Revised Edition: The Breakthrough Program that Allows you to See and Heal the 7 Types of ADD by Daniel G. Amen (Dec, 3, 2013)

You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorderby Kate KellyPeggy Ramundo and M.D. Edward M. Hallowell M.D. (Apr 25, 2006)

Taking chargeTaking Charge of Adult ADHD by Russell A. Barkley (Jul 22, 2010)

More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD by Ari Tuckman (Apr 1, 2009)

ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life by Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau (Nov 7, 2002)

Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder… by Gina Pera and Russell Barkley (Aug 31, 2008)

Teaching teensTeaching Teens With ADD, ADHD & Executive Function Deficits: A Quick Reference Guide for Teachers and Parents by Chris A. Zeigler Dendy (May 12, 2011)

The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible… by Ross W. Greene PhD (May 20, 2014)

Making the System Work for Your Child with ADHD by Peter S. Jensen MD (Jun 22, 2004)

 

Image courtesy of hyena reality/FreeDigitalPhotos.net” Modified on Canva.

Organization for Children: Supporting Executive Functions

Help your child feel successful

Help your child feel successful

by Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC

Have you ever noticed that staying organized — or getting started on a project and seeing it through to completion — are all in a day’s work for some people, but for others, they don’t know where to begin?

Well, that might be due to executive functions and how well they are working — or not working. Executive functions are the cognitive skills that give us the ability to focus, plan, and act in a goal-directed manner — and current research shows that these functions are responsible for how effective we are at managing ourselves. Basically, these functions are the CEOs of our brains.

For the most part, we don’t need to consciously access these skills for day-to-day habits or routines. However, when we face new challenges or stressors that is when the CEO must take charge. And when it is not managing effectively, that’s when we forget things, can’t get organized, can’t get started, lose track of time, and lose our stream of thought. It’s behavior that makes some children look unmotivated, uncaring, and, well, unintelligent — while nothing could be further from the truth. By and large, these children are really suffering from a neurologically based difficulty, which results from incomplete or immature development of their frontal/prefrontal cortex of their brains. It’s not that these kids won’t perform, it’s that they can’t on their own … yet.

So how can we help? There are two distinct approaches. First, modify the environment. Help structure your child’s work- space, modify his work, and provide more prompts. Second, model actions and behaviors and join in with him as he works on his skills. Don’t be concerned that you may enable your child. Before he is ready to be independent, he needs to develop the necessary skills. Once the skills are developed, you will be able to gradually lessen your active involvement with your child.
It is important to recognize that weaknesses in executive functions are real and neurologically based. There is no shortage of strategies and devices to help children — and adults — improve their executive functioning. Children need modeling. The skills they need to be organized and manage their time effectively are not difficult, but they are not necessarily intuitive. Providing support and guidance, either directly or with outside support, will go a long way in helping your child be and feel successful. Here are some tips for your child to organize school materials and remember important information:

Day planner

Mike Rohde\'s Custom Moleskine Planner

Think of an agenda book or day planner as your calendar for your whole life, not just school.
• Write all of your school assignments, after-school activities, and social plans here.
• Use a large paper clip to mark the page you need to be on for quicker entry.
Binders and notebooks
Use different colors for each subject binder and notebook.
• For each subject, you will have two three-ring binders. One will be the everyday binder, and the second will be the reserve binder, where all of your papers will be moved to after tests. This allows you to straighten out and empty excess papers so you can focus on the current work. (Note: Check with each subject teacher before removing papers from your binder.)
• Both binders for each subject should be the same color (blue for math, green for science, etc.) and have the same labeled dividers.
• Keep one master reference binder with dividers for each subject. Here, you can keep any material that you might need to use in years to come, such as math formulas, social studies facts or periodic tables.
• Perhaps two of your subjects can be combined into one larger binder or notebook for less to carry.
Be sure to label everything! Big bumper stickers work great. Have fun, and be creative!

Master folder
Consider a multi-pocket folder to keep with you all day. It can hold the day’s hand- outs, work to be turned in, and your agenda book. This is an excellent tool for the overall organization of papers to go to and from school. It should be cleaned out each week, by transferring the appropriate papers to either binders or the recycle bin. (An excellent sturdy folder can be found at Nick’s Folders for $3.50. Not an affiliate.)

Locker
Clean out your locker and/or workspace every week, to lessen the chance of losing papers.
• Consider small trays to keep extra pens, pencils, tissues, erasers, etc.
• Keep a dry-erase board or small notepad for writing reminders.
• Try to keep your backpack on the hook, so there is more room to store items.
Backpack
• Keep an extra pen and pencil inside at all times.
• Look in your assignment book and check your locker’s dry-erase board before packing up for the day.
• When you get home, empty the entire bag near your workspace and sort the contents for homework and notes for parents. • Pack it up before you go to sleep at night, which will decrease the odds of forgetting things.

Alarms
A kitchen timer is great for keeping you on task and allowing for time-limited breaks. Set it for various intervals to see if you are on task and on track. What works for you? Set a start time or break time on your computer or cellphone alarm for a discreet nudge. Set an alarm for the time you want to go to sleep as a reminder to pack up, brush teeth, etc.

to do list

Lists
• Keep a dry-erase board or a small pad of paper by your workspace and use it to jot down things on your mind, so they can be done later and not distract you now. Write out your homework plan for the day — what you will do and in what order? It’s a great feeling to cross items off! Use it to plan out long-term projects or for math problems and other quick temporary notes.

Structures
A structure is any device that reminds you, visually, of something important. They work because they interrupt your ordinary mind flow and grab your attention. Some of the best structures come from your intuition and may not seem to make sense at first. Be creative — experiment with different ways to jolt your memory! Here are some examples:
• Wear a rubber band on your wrist when you want to remember to do something, such as breathe deeply, speak powerfully, sit up straight, or take home your violin.
• Put a chair by your door to remind yourself to take along important items tomorrow.
• Send yourself an e-mail, text or voice mail to request that a certain task be done.
Have some friends over once a month. This can be a structure for cleaning your room or keeping up relationships with friends.
• Devise an intentionally fabricated deadline on the day you start a project — such as scheduling a time to show a friend or family member your completed project.
• Schedule study time with one friend a week for two months to get you to study a particular subject.
• Counting is helpful to make you aware of your behavior. For instance, count how often you participate in class and work on increasing the number each day. Counting does not require you to do anything other than notice, but noting every time you do something heightens your awareness.
• A special slogan on your key chain can be a structure to remember to smile or be positive.

roary lion

A toy lion on your desk can remind you to be ferocious in pursuit of a goal.
• Put your keys in the refrigerator so you remember your lunch.
• Make a sign around your work area: “Don’t give in to the impulse!”
• Create a screen saver with one-line, motivational statements.
• A coach is one of the best structures. Text or e-mail your coach every day when a certain task is done.
“To do” lists are not meant as nag lists — just a place to hold important things. Be creative where you put your notes; try to have it somewhere in your field of vision on a regular basis: the refrigerator, your desk, next to your bed. Try to develop a consistent habit of where you write and keep important notes.

 

Written by Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC © 2013 www.PTSCoaching.com All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced or electronically distributed as long as attribution to PTS Coaching is maintained. Note: This article originally appeared as Get it Together! Tips to conquer your child’s organizational problems in LONG ISLAND SPECIAL CHILD, Fall/Winter 2010/11 and was retitled Just What are Executive Functions?  Link works

“Image courtesy of ImageryMajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net” – Modified on Canva.com

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