I Can't Find My Homework!
Dr. Christopher Kaufman, a licensed psychologist, spoke with us the morning on The Inclusive Class Radio Show about Executive Functioning skills. Those are the skills that we have to keep ourselves organized, transition from one task to another, and control our impulses.
For some children (and adults!), however, executive functioning skills are underdeveloped or absent altogether. It is important for parents and teachers to be aware of the warning signs that a child's executive functioning skills are problematic, in order to avoid labeling the child as lazy, absentminded, disorganized or have behavior problems. As Dr. Kaufman mentioned, some warning signs include:
1. Inability to plan and strategize
2. Difficulty attending to the task and completing it
3. Unable to follow through on a sequence of steps
4. Difficulty controlling impulses outside the norm of expected behavior ie. hitting other children on the playground
Between the parent, teacher and even the student, underdeveloped executive functioning skills can be identified and thus intervention can take place.
Both Teri and I agreed with Dr. Kaufman, that it is highly important for teachers and parents to become aware of and accommodate for students who have executive functioning challenges. In the school system today, most of these executive functioning skills are not taught. It is just assumed that children come to school able to plan their day, organize their work and get along with others at all times. If a child struggles with this, he/she is often penalized for "bad behavior", disorganization, inattentiveness and suffer from social isolation.
In a student-centered, inclusive classroom the teacher not only makes accommodations for these children, but sets the child up for success by teaching skills related to organization, social interaction and impulse control. For example,
1. Planners are used daily to record homework. There is a time set aside at the end of the day for the children to write their homework in their planner, take their homework out of their desk and put it all into their backpack. The teacher monitors the class to see that everyone completes this task. The reverse happens the following morning.
2. Subject material is kept in different colored folders and not all in one binder. Ie. The red folder is for reading, the blue folder is for math. The folders are then kept in different bins on a shelf in the classroom. In my own classrooms, I rarely let any work go into a child's desk - because it usually never came back out again!
3. Transitions between subjects and events were highly managed. For example, rather than asking the students to line up at the door and then having a big rush of bodies tripping, falling and bumping into one another, the students are given the task in steps. Ie.
a) Stand up and push in your chair.
b) When I say "Go", Row 1 will quietly walk to the door. (Note: In some classes I have even taught "quietly walk")
c) "Go" (Then repeat until entire class is at door.)
If the students are unable to transition as expected, they are asked to do it again. Repeated, modeled behavior is key to developing impulse control.
4. An older buddy or adult is available at recess/lunch to monitor and cue the child to behave appropriately. Social stories can be read in class and there are social programs available for teachers to use to teach children how to interact with one another.
Fortunately, there are many books available now to parents and teachers that bring to light the challenges that a child with underdeveloped executive functioning skills might have. Educate yourself so that you can help provide the best possible education for your child/student!
We've heard it all before. Your child can't find his homework, but he swears he just had it in front of him. Help your child avoid the embarrassment of misplacing his report 5 minutes before he has to turn it in — and all the other following scenarios — by putting some method in the messes' madness.
Your Child Hands in the Homework Due Nov. 11... on Nov. 12
Time flies when your child is having fun — especially when he’s having fun instead of keeping up with his assignments. One of the best ways to make sure your child doesn’t miss a due date is to hang a calendar on a wall in his room. Stick a tack on the wall next to it (sacrificing wall paint is a small price to pay for your child’s organization) and tie a string with a pen on the end to the tack. Have your child use the pen to write his due dates on the calendar. If you can hang more than one pen, encourage him to use different colors for each subject. Every night before he goes to sleep, cross off the day. That way, your child will always know how much time he has left before his science project is due.
The Girl Who Sits Next to Your Child Is Sick of Lending Her Pencils
Try not to let your child go to class unprepared. Yes, it's understandable if she used the last page in her notebook and she needs to ask a classmate to borrow a few sheets to last the rest of the day. But don't encourage your child to make a habit of mooching because she didn't bring the necessary school supplies. To help her get it all together, first, make a list of everything your child needs in class. If possible, buy it all in bulk — pens, pencils, notebooks, rulers, paper clips, a stapler, chewing gum, whatever! Then, create a homework supply box. Fill the box with your child’s extra school supplies and keep it in her desk or send it to school with her to put it in her locker. The box can be anything from a Tupperware container decorated with pictures of her favorite band to a vintage lunchbox to a shoebox — it doesn't matter, as long as your child can fit everything she might need in it.
Your Child Misses the Bus Because He Can't Find His Cargo Pants
Your child wants to look his best at school, but it takes forever to get ready in the morning because he can never find the perfect outfit. Are his favorite jeans in the laundry, draped on the back of his chair, on the bathroom floor, or in the scary-looking pile in his closet? Truly, it's a mystery. Keep getting-to-school time from becoming berserk by getting things in order. If there's a place for everything, your child will find it a lot easier to locate his clothes, keep his stuff neat, and clean it all up. Use containers and closet organizers to get clutter out of the way. When fall gets chilly, move summer clothes, like tank tops and shorts, to the back of shelves and break out sweaters, sweatshirts, and fleeces. Donate anything your child has outgrown or worn holes in. It'll be easier to choose outfits if there's less mess. Organizing your child’s closet may not be an enthralling way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but think of it this way — if everything is cleaned up and cleaned out, your child will feel like he has a whole new wardrobe because he’ll be able to find all of his stuff! Also, ask him to lay out clothes the night before. This one's always tough, but it does cut time in the morning if you can get him in the habit.
Uh... The Dog Ate My Homework...
Your child’s teacher asks the class to turn in last night's assignment. Everyone's reaching into folders, backpacks, and desks, pulling out the homework. But your child’s homework, alas, is not materializing. So what happened? Chances are, your child left it in the pile of papers on his desk at home. Remedy this NOW by resolving to help your child organize his schoolwork. Here's a tried-and-true tactic to ensure your child never has to use this lame excuse.
1. Establish a homework routine. Have your child do his assignments in the same place each night.
2. Whether he chooses a comfy workspace in his room or at the kitchen table, set up file baskets or bins marked "Done," "To Do," and "For Mom to Sign," so your child can keep track of what assignments need to go back to school, what he’s still working on, and if he need a parent signature for field trips or report cards.
3. Keep all notes, handouts, and graded assignments in separate, labeled folders in a binder.
4. When his homework assignment is complete, put it in the correct folder and ask him to zip it into his backpack. Voila! No more homework humiliation.
Your Child’s Binder/Desk/Locker Looks Like a Mini Tornado Disaster Zone
Keeping closed areas like desks or lockers neat is easy…for the first month of school. Then the novelty of new school supplies wears off and all of a sudden, your child smells something funky in there and doesn’t even want to reach his hand in to grab his calculator. Okay, not only is that disgusting, but lockers and desks are supposed to help students keep track of everything — they aren't trash receptacles or recycling bins. Here are some tips to share with your messy child for keeping it clean in there:
1. Have your child put something in his desk or locker that he wants to see every day — a mini poster of his favorite baseball player, a photo of the family dog, a note his best friend wrote to him during homeroom. Important stuff like that is good motivation for not leaving half a sandwich in there for a week.
2. Stick in a shelf or a divider to keep binders, textbooks, and lunch separate. Even in a tiny area, everything should have its own place.
3. Every Friday, have your child clean out old papers, pencils without erasers, candy wrappers, and anything else that has absolutely no use. That way, when your child comes back to school on Monday morning everything will be tidy.
Everything's Done! Oh Wait. Except for That…
It's a terrible feeling when you think you did everything, just to realize there's one thing that totally slipped your mind. That means it's time to introduce your child to the art of making checklists. It can be as simple as "Homework I Need to Complete," "5 Things Dad Wants Me to Do for Tomorrow," or "School Snacks I Want From the Supermarket." But the fact remains that creating and referring to lists will develop your child’s ability to strategize tasks and organize his time. Let your child know to always put the task that's most important at the top, and prioritize down to the least important task at the bottom. That way the thing your child needs to accomplish right away will be #1 on the list, boldly begging to be crossed off and completed. So whether your child writes down all of his assignments, the top 7 movies he wants to see over winter break, or a massive inventory of all the toys he wants to get for the holidays, grab a pen and make a list — and then show him the satisfaction he will feel of checking stuff off once he’s done it!