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Tips for Developing Organizational Skills in Children
Developing good organizational skills is a key ingredient for success in school and in life. Although some people by nature are more organized than others, anyone can put routines and systems in place to help a child become more organized. The Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities has compiled a list of strategies that parents can use to help their child develop good organizational skills.
Help your child get into the habit of using a "to-do" list. Checklists can be used to list assignments and household chores and to remind children to bring appropriate materials to class. It is recommended that children keep a small pad or notebook dedicated to listing homework assignments. Crossing completed items off the list will help children feel a sense of accomplishment.
Organize homework assignments
Before beginning a homework session, encourage your child to number assignments in the order in which they are to be done. Children should start with one that's not too long or difficult but avoid saving the longest or hardest assignments for last.
Set a designated study space
Children should study in the same place every night where supplies and materials are close at hand. This space doesn't have to be a bedroom, but it should be a quiet place with few distractions. Young children may want their study space near a parent. This should be encouraged, as parents can then have the opportunity to monitor progress and encourage good study habits.
Set a designated study time
Children should know that a certain time every day is reserved for studying and doing homework. The best time is usually not right after school, as most children benefit from time to unwind first. Parents should include their child in making this decision. Even if your child does not have homework, the reserved time should be used to review the day's lessons, read for pleasure or work on an upcoming project.
Keep organized notebooks
Help your child keep track of papers by organizing them in a binder or notebook. The purpose of a notebook is to help keep track of and remember the material for each day's classes and to organize the material later to prepare for tests and quizzes. Use dividers to separate class notes, or color-code notebooks. Having separate "to do" and "done" folders helps organize worksheets, notices and items to be signed by parents as well as provide a central place to store completed assignments.
Conduct a weekly clean-up
Children should be encouraged to go through and sort out book bags and notebooks on a weekly basis. Old tests and papers should be organized and kept in a separate file at home.
Create a household schedule
Try to establish and stick to a regular dinnertime and a regular bedtime. This will help your child fall into a pattern when at home. Children with a regular bedtime go to school well rested. Try to limit television watching and computer play to specific amounts of time during the day.
Keep a master calendar
Keep a large wall-sized calendar for the household that lists the family's commitments, schedules for extracurricular activities, days off from school and major events at home and at school. Note dates when your children have big exams or due dates for projects. This will help family members keep track of each other's activities and avoid scheduling conflicts.
Prepare for the day ahead
Before your child goes to bed he/she should pack schoolwork and books in a book bag. Clothes should be ironed and laid out with shoes, socks and accessories. This will cut down on morning confusion and allow your child to prepare for the day ahead.
Provide necessary support while your child is learning to become more organized
Help your child develop organizational skills by photocopying checklists and schedules and taping them to the refrigerator. Give children gentle reminders about filling in calendar dates and keeping papers and materials organized. Most important, set a good example.
Copyright 1999 by the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities (CCLD), a collaboration of leading U.S. nonprofit learning disabilities organizations. All rights reserved.
Time Management Tips for Online Students
1. Plan ahead.
Your hectic schedule, combined with daily distractions, can easily get in the way of finishing tasks. The best online students know how to set aside time to focus. This includes having a consistent time and workspace, tuning out those distractions, and avoiding surfing the internet.
Despite the flexibility in being an online student, it’s important to have frequent engagement with your studies throughout the week. Provide plenty of time to space out your required readings, assignments, etc.
Consider purchasing a calendar you can use to plan your daily and weekly assignments, highlighting:
- Assignments due, including drafts and final submissions
- Activities related to your program
- Virtual or in-person office hours with teachers & staff
2. Don’t multitask.
Avoid multitasking—which can actually decrease your productivity. Focus on one assignment at a time and zero in on the specific task at hand, whether that’s studying for an exam, reading a textbook, emailing a teacher, or participating in an online forum. Arrange your tasks in order of importance, and pay attention to the three or four crucial tasks that require the most effort.
If you need help staying focused, then consider creating lists using a project management tool, such as Trello or Smartsheet, to help organize tasks. If you prefer a traditional to-do list, then look at digital notebooks like Todoist, Wunderlist, or Evernote.
Lastly, concentrate on what needs to get done in the present and avoid anything too far-off. If it’s a small assignment that you don’t need to address for several weeks, put it on your calendar to focus on when the deadline is closer.
3. Set up your virtual office.
It’s important to work in the optimal setting needed to complete your work. Make sure there’s high-speed internet, and that you’re in a comfortable space with the right lighting, sound, and background. For example, some people prefer to work with headphones on, while others prefer silence or an ambient backdrop with people quietly chatting. Sit in a comfortable chair, and make sure the lighting isn’t too dim. Close out your browser windows, and put your phone away.
Along with these elements, make sure you have all the required materials. Set up as much as you can ahead of time to stay on task with your coursework.
4. Block out distractions.
Make sure to avoid surfing the web excessively. It’s easy to become distracted by the news or your favorite celebrity gossip site. Stay focused, and avoid Facebook, Twitter, and other social media tools when you need to concentrate on your studies.
If you’re struggling to stay focused, then consider the Pomodoro Method. This technique helps with productivity by arranging how you work to increase efficiency. The tool builds on 25-minute work sessions, optimizing your time to focus on your online studies. The best way to use this method is to:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and work uninterrupted for the scheduled period.
- Take a five-minute break to grab a drink, check emails, stretch or do something else.
- Once you’ve completed four work sessions, treat yourself to a longer, 15-minute break.
If you’re still struggling with procrastination, download a website blocker for your Pomodoro sessions. Freedom, KeepMeOut, and Switcheroo minimize online browsing and let you follow through on your daily tasks. With these tools, you can block all websites or redirect your favorite sites to your school’s homepage.
5. Reward yourself
It’s important to reward yourself after a job well done in order to avoid burnout. Otherwise, it will be difficult to concentrate on even the simplest tasks.
You can reward yourself by celebrating your accomplishments and treating yourself to something you truly enjoy, whether that’s watching your favorite show on Netflix or going out for a long walk.
6. Create a balance.
In addition to rewarding yourself, it’s also important to find a balance between coursework and your other obligations, especially if you’re juggling school and home responsibilities.
To help create an effective balance and avoid burning out, be sure to prioritize your time in a way that allows you to focus on school and your personal life when you need to. Creating a predictable schedule can help you get into a routine that works for your lifestyle and allows you to dedicate your full attention to each aspect of your life at a given time.
7. Get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep is essential to rest your body and keep your mind fresh for the next day. Try to get seven to eight hours of rest a night. Pulling all-nighters is less productive than studying consistently. Include sleep in your schedule, and you can reap huge rewards.
Self-Advocacy: Strategies for All Ages
AT A GLANCE
Self-advocacy is a skill that your child can learn with help and practice • Start early with age-appropriate strategies • As your child matures continue to help him hone the skills, taking on greater responsibility for actively advocating for himself.
Students who know how to self-advocate have an important skill that supports lifelong success, yet few children actually are taught how to understand their needs and communicate those needs to others. Following are some strategies to help your child acquire the skills that will serve her well as she goes through school and beyond.
Young children often worry that teachers don’t like kids who remind them of accommodations or ask too many questions. Assure your child that teachers respect active learners, and are eager to help all students, regardless of their learning style.
As they progress through elementary school, students with learning differences should become increasingly aware of their specific assets and deficits and what accommodations they need to succeed. Help your child articulate her growing understanding by practicing how to ask for help in a positive way. Use role-play and humor to rework situations that proved uncomfortable in the past or to simulate solutions for problems that lurk in your child’s vivid imagination. Reinforce the fact that at school, as in most of life, politeness and a positive attitude usually result in favorable outcomes.
A child who is sensitive about LD during the academic year may be receptive to poolside conversations about learning preferences or fear of failure. Combine a trip to the ice-cream store with a casual conversation about negative and positive self-talk. Remind him of people with learning differences who have achieved outstanding success. Listening to music in the car might inspire a conversation about Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine; a role in the school play could trigger the story of Henry Winkler, whose parents called him “dumb dog” in a time before people understood that learning differences have nothing to do with intelligence and ability.
SUPPORT CRITICAL THINKING
When your child is in elementary or middle school, assure her that you will advocate for her before the IEP team makes decisions or changes. At the same time encourage her to begin to sort out strengths and weaknesses in non-confrontational settings. This will develop the confidence and awareness she needs to speak for herself when she is old enough to attend IEP meetings. In the course of casual conversation ask, “Do you think you learn better when you hear about something or when you look at something?” “Do your teachers usually give a fair amount of homework?” “What happens when you can’t figure out what to do and the teacher doesn’t seem to know you need help?”
ENGAGE IN PROBLEM-SOLVING
Try to discover which teachers clarify and which ones confuse; which approaches are calming and which are chaotic. After hearing your child discuss the issues he faces, brainstorm helpful coping strategies. Students who envision positive possibilities are better equipped to approach continuing challenges.
By the time children enter middle school, they should know the name and description of their diagnoses. They should also be aware of problems that diagnoses could cause in class, at recess, or in extracurricular settings. Let your child know that it’s appropriate to inform a teacher of strategies that support success: “I can’t seem to grasp what you want when you show us without explaining. Could you discuss each step you demonstrate? I think I’d do much better in your class with that help.”
High schoolers should be encouraged to participate in the process that defines their learning. They should know their rights, be able to present a comprehensive description of their assets and deficits, and contribute actively to IEP meetings. Those using curricular modifications should be able to evaluate the accommodations that are useful and those that are not.
PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
Long before graduation approaches, your child should play an active role in the transition planning that affects life after high school. Summer internships, jobs, or pre-college, campus-based programs can offer wonderful firsthand experience for real-world possibilities.
For students who learn differently, knowledge truly is power. Use your own creativity to help your child develop the skills she needs to help herself. Successful self-advocacy starts with self-esteem. Catch your child doing something right and praise, praise, praise. The strongest self-advocates are those who feel best about themselves.
By Marcia Brown Rubinstien, MA, CEP
How to Build Self-Advocacy in Kids
Because self-advocacy is so important, you may want to take specific steps to help your child build this skill. Here are some ways to help your child develop self-advocacy:
Talk with your child about strengths and weaknesses.
Have ongoing conversations about learning and thinking differences.
Remind your child that asking for help is a good thing.
Praise your child’s efforts at speaking up.
Encourage your child to use classroom accommodations.
Find a role model for your child, like a mentor who learns or thinks differently.
When a problem comes up, give your child a chance to solve it before stepping in.
Let your child have a say in decisions about school.
If your child has an IEP, encourage your child to attend IEP meetings.
Consider adding self-advocacy goals to your child’s IEP.
Teach your child about legal rights and how to talk about them in a positive, constructive way.
12 Steps to Being an Effective Self-Advocate
1. Believe in Yourself
You are a unique and valuable person. You are worth the effort it takes to advocate for yourself and protect your rights. You can do it! You may need to work on raising your self-esteem to really believe in yourself and become your own best advocate.
2. Know Your Rights
You are entitled to equality and being treated fairly.
4. Get the Facts
When you advocate for yourself, you need to know what you are talking about or asking for. Talk to your parents, school staff, doctor, etc.
5. Planning Strategy
Using the information you have gathered, plan a strategy that you feel will work to get what you need and want for yourself. Think of several ways to address the problem. Ask trusted adults for suggestions. Get feedback on your ideas. Then choose to take action using the one that you feel has the most chance of being successful.
6. Gather Support
In advocating for what you need and want for yourself, it is helpful to have support from family members, friends and other people who have similar issues.
7. Target Efforts
Who is the person, persons, or organization you need to deal with to get action on this matter? Talk directly with the person who can best assist you. It may take a few tries but do not give up! It is worth the effort. Keep trying until you find the right person.
8. Express Yourself Clearly
When you are asking for what you need and want for yourself, be brief. Stick to the point. Don’t allow yourself to be diverted or to ramble on with unimportant details. State your concern and what you need. If the other person tries to tell you reasons why you cannot achieve what it is you want for yourself, repeat again what it is you want and expect until they either give it to you, help you get it, or refer you to someone else who may be able to give you what you need. If you feel this may be difficult for you, you may want to role-play different scenarios with a trusted adult.
9. Assert Yourself Clearly
Don’t lose your temper and lash out at the other person. Be respectful.
10. Speak out, asking for what you need and want and then listen. Respect the rights of others, but don’t let them “put you down” or “walk all over you.”
11. Be Firm and Persistent
Don’t give up! Keep after what you want. Always follow through on what you say. Dedicate yourself to getting whatever it is you need for yourself.
12. Get Assistance
When all else fails, get your parents or a trusted adult involved to help you.
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The Parent Resource Center
What Is The Parent Resource Center?
In operation since November 1992, the PWCS' Office of Special Education Parent Resource Center (PRC)'s mission is to assist parents and families of children with disabilities to become active participants in their child's education. Its goal is to promote a positive relationship between parents and educators.
The PRC provides information, lending library (PDF), and supports parents regarding the special education process in Prince William County, and will refer parents to appropriate resources in the Division and the community. PRC staff may not serve as advocates for parents in School Intervention, IEP, or Eligibility meetings or attend a Central Office Review, State Mediation, or Due Process Hearing.
Please check the events page often for information that may be of interest to you. TTAC Online, their websites are listed on the Events page, has many resources.
The Parent Resource Center (PRC) can provide bilingual support for parents. If interested in receiving this support, contact the PRC by phone at 703-791-8846 or 703-791-7438. Please provide the following information:
- First Language
- Days/Times available for consultation, and
- Contact information (phone number and/or email address)
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