Back to School with Effective Strategies for Managing A.D.H.D. and Executive Function Deficits: Getting - and Staying! - Organized

In today's blog, we learn how to help kids and teens with A.D.H.D. start the school off right, by being prepared, and by getting - and staying! - organized!

Tucked safely inside each backpack this September is one essential goal: increased self-confidence. 

Self-esteem is an essential component of both academic and social success. In fact, positive self-esteem is both at the root of – and a result of – feeling good about oneself within the context of a successful school experience.   

For children and teens with A.D.H.D., however, feeling good about oneself and one’s ability to achieve success can sometimes be elusive.

Challenges with organization, planning, and time management - along with issues with working memory and recall - can ultimately determine the path to success or frustration.   

A common misconception is that these behaviors are result of laziness or lack of motivation, yet instead these issues are reflective of deficits in critical cognitive skills, known as executive functions. 

It is estimated that up to 98% of children and adolescents with A.D.H.D. may evidence deficits in executive functions.  

The conversations (and conflicts!) that we have each night can seem almost identical to the night before, yet consistent effort does not seem to yield concrete results. The result is endless exasperation for parents and child or teen. 

What can we do to help, from the very first week of school? A supportive, nurturing approach is key. Let’s tackle each concern one at a time: 

1. Impaired sense of time - This can impact both test preparation and timely assignment completion. We can implement the use of timelines, calendars, and other organizational tools. The organized home environment is crucial to success. A work area (in the same place each night) that is clean, organized, quiet, and private – with minimal distractions! – is ideal for a child or adolescent coping with A.D.H.D. 

2. Long-range project planning -  If your child or adolescent has challenges when planning accurately for long-term projects, (again, due to working memory and recall issues), provide charts or graphic organizers, coach your teen how to plan and prioritize certain tasks, and work together to learn sequencing of steps required for task completion.  

3. Knowledge of assignments -  Students with executive function deficits can find it challenging to understand the full expectation of each assignment, often getting only “half” of the assignment done, handing it in late, or not at all. Sometimes, he or she may not truly understand what is required, or may lose the assignment directions.

Support your child by suggesting that he or she check-in with a peer, provide coaching in creating a weekly planner, use the district web site to monitor due dates, and keep a planning tool at home. Partner with a qualified learning specialist to help coach and support your child or teen. 

4. Timely completion of tasks -  Encourage your child or teen to get an early start on assignments, and to work incrementally, so that the project does not become overwhelming, and he or she does not run out of time. Create timelines at home, and model for your child how to plan in advance for long-term projects.  

More to follow in our next blog on September 10th about how A.D.H.D. impacts reading comprehension and written expression! 

Carolyn Polchinski, M.S.Ed. is a Clinical Professor of Reading and Literacy Education and licensed Learning Specialist based out of Scarsdale. She specializes in supporting children with A.D.H.D. and executive function deficits.

To learn more about the programs she offers, call 914.325.0297 or email Carolyn@ConfidentReaders.com. You can also read .

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lenore Clemens September 08, 2012 at 06:39 PM
This is all great advice that works. . . IF . . . However parents, don't worry if it doesn't stop the arguments. Don't think you are doing "something wrong". These great ideas make it easier for the student to get to work and feel good, once they finally give up and do it. But parents, remember, no matter how supportive, nurturing and nearing angelic you are, the kids will still fight and it will still be very difficult to implement these to the point where the student makes them their own - without reminder or arguing. If your child does! be very grateful. If your child doesn't, it's not your fault for not being perfect 100% of the time! IF . . . a lot of this works a lot easier if the parent(s) is/are comfortably middle-class and can afford supports, one room for their child, etc. Take what you can, and don't worry about the rest.
Carolyn Polchinski, M.S.Ed. September 10, 2012 at 09:03 PM
All true, Ms. Clemens! Excellent points. Please see Part Two of this same blog for some helpful coping strategies for both parents and child. (Posted on Patch on Sept. 7th) ~ and not every strategy will "work" for every child. Trial and error, work in progress.... Perhaps try one at a time, to get started. ~ and Yes! Ownership on the part of the student is essential- great point! Thanks again, Carolyn Polchinski, M.S.Ed.


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