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ADHD kids encounter organizational problems that sabotage school performance. Parenting tips to teach your ADHD kid organizational skills.

ADHD and School: An Organizational Nightmare

Of all the struggles associated with ADHD, organizational problems create the greatest havoc in children's academic lives. Forgotten or misplaced homework assignments, lost supplies, poor long-term planning, and underestimating task demands are a few of the typical traps that sabotage school performance. The resulting stress imposed upon family relationships, coupled with the damage incurred by the child's self-esteem, makes it vital that children learn ways to overcome the organizational chaos so typical of ADHD.

How to Help Your ADHD Child Be More Organized

Parents wishing to coach organizational skills to their ADHD children can benefit from the following strategies:

Educate your child about the practical challenges imposed by ADHD. Many children diagnosed with ADHD hold only a simple understanding of their condition. Labels such as "focusing problem" or "being too hyper" don't begin to capture the interferences with managing the demands of life. Consider the following explanation: "ADHD pushes people off the path of getting things done. It can block you from taking the time to write down a school assignment, or place a homework sheet in the right place, or remember to do it, or to file it away once it's completed, or to hand it in the next day." Point out how these examples have surfaced in your child's school life but assure them that there are ways to control for these troubles.

Explain how controlling ADHD interferences is similar to developing a "personal navigational system."ADHD children are often unaware of how random events, such as dropping a pencil on the floor, can open up another thought pattern in their mind and steer them far away from picking up important cues in the classroom. Expose how you have witnessed this at home, and emphasize how distracting habits push them off track, and therefore must be minimized. Describe how ADHD causes people to drift off course and ignore the signals that teachers send to students about what is important to remember for tests/quizzes or to include within written assignments, etc.


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Pinpoint how they can prompt themselves at different times of the day to mentally check up on their self-management. Suggest that they silently ask themselves, "How's my steering and have I stayed on track so far?" Stress how their rush to leave a class once the bell rings or to speak with a classmate rather than carefully listen to a teacher's last minute instructions will cause them to ignore critical organizational cues. Help them develop a list of those times during the day when "organizational check points" would be especially helpful. Do the same for the home and encourage them to practice drilling themselves until these check-points become routine.

Coach them about the importance of planning and thinking in advance. ADHD cultivates a mindset that focuses upon present wishes and whims rather than future responsibilities and commitments. Children need help developing a view of the road ahead in life. Here is one way to approach this critical need: "By remembering to ask yourself three questions throughout the day, you can make life run more smoothly:

(1) What do I have to remember to do today? (2) Before I leave this place, do I have everything I need? And (3) What's coming up in the next few days that I need to prepare for now?" Help them assimilate these three questions by prompting them at pivotal points while they are on their "life road."

About Dr. Steven Richfield: Known as "The Parent Coach," Dr. Richfield is a child psychologist, parent/teacher trainer, author of "The Parent Coach: A New Approach To Parenting In Today's Society" and creator of the Parent Coaching Cards.

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