Forum 2019 Q & A: Organizational Strategies for Everyone

Answers provided by Claire Lanham, Special Education Teacher (Autism Resources Services, Gaithersburg MS)

Q: What do you do when your child does not know the priority of various homework assignments? Parent doesn’t know, and child can’t explain what is important.

A: I would suggest working with teachers to have them identify HIGH priority assignments. A sticker, stamp, star, etc. at the top to let you know it is a high priority. High priority is a good place to start!

Q: What is the homework? My child's elementary school teacher doesn’t communicate what’s the assignment. Child doesn’t know, parent doesn’t know. I never see what she’s done — chrome book – no papers! No communication. No structure, no organization apparent in the classroom! What to do?

A: This is a very unfortunate situation and is an example of a time when you may need to advocate for your child. I would encourage reaching out to the teacher and specifically stating what about the current routine is not working for your child. Emphasize your child's disability and impact in executive functioning and let the teacher know you want to be able to support the student at home. There are certain teachers who assign less HW than others, but you can confirm that the student is not missing anything.

Q: How do you get teacher to help with organization?

A: Every teacher is different, but I would advocate and specifically cite your student's individual needs and impacted executive functioning. Offer to help the student at home, but ask for support at school.

Q: What are some strategies to help my child get ready for school in the morning without multiple reminders?

A: Use checklists at your child's level (words, pictures, or both) and also an alarm on your phone or on a smart speaker to cue when it is time for the next task. I also know families that use kitchen timers in the morning. XX minutes to change, set the timer, walk away. XX minutes for breakfast, set timer, walk away.

Q: How do you help a child get organized and do it positively?

A: Reward system! Use reinforcers heavily at first and fade as it becomes a more solidified routine.

Q: What training do elementary school teachers have in this area for special needs?

A: While organization looks different in the elementary school setting, teachers have training in establishing routines and the importance of routine for students. Within each building, the special education teacher or teachers are also serve as resources to help general education classroom teachers. If you feel your child's needs are not being met, I would reach out to the Special Education Teacher and ask for their support with speaking to the classroom teacher.

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