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Building Organizational Skills
Q: My seventh-grade son has a learning disability and ADD. He has terrible organization skills. Some teachers struggle with children who lack these skills -- they think they intentionally don't turn work in. What goals or modifications can I add at our IEP meeting? How can I make the teachers accountable for following the procedures?
A: Beginning in fifth grade, some schools have organizational skills mini-courses that are extremely beneficial to all children but critical for those who have ADHD or LD. Try suggesting to your son's school's administration that they institute a course like this. In the meantime, you can suggest these modifications for your son:
He should have a planner with room to write down both long- and short-term assignments.
A volunteer homework buddy can be assigned to your son to make sure homework has been written down in his planner.
Your son should be allowed to have an extra set of books at home so there are no excuses for "forgetting" to bring home the books he needs to complete assignments.
Teachers can send daily/weekly progress notes home for you to monitor his homework/test performance so he never has a chance to get too far behind in his work.
Teachers can develop a reward system for completing class work or homework.
Your son can use a calendar to plot out mini-steps towards completing long-term assignments.
An excellent resource for other ideas about strengthening organizational skills is Sandra Rief's book, How to Reach and Teach ADD/ADHD Children: Practical Techniques, Strategies for Helping Children with Attention Problems and Hyperactivity. If these goals and accommodations are written on your son's 504 Plan or Individual Education Plan, you should be informed on a regular basis about his progress in this important area.
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.