Organize your Life!

One of the most frustrating parts of having executive functioning difficulties, is the lack of a clear organizational system. Simple, everyday tasks become difficult when you don’t know where to begin or worse…when you are ready to begin you can’t because you cannot find the necessary tools for the job. This can really get in the way of not just learning, but life in general. Those with poor organizational skills often end up late for school, appointments, social functions, etc.

Whether it is the child that is lacking in organizational abilities, or the parent (I’m guilty of this!) here are a few suggestions and strategies to help make things go a little smoother.

1.ROUTINE – Create a routine for your family. This is so important. Routines can easily become habits when they are DSC_0014-3Snap 2012-03-07 at 08.02.04consistent. This paves the way for leaning life-long strategies to help organize your life. Time management is always a valuable lesson. Making a schedule for your young children to follow can cut out a lot of family arguments as well. If children have assigned shower times and homework
times, there is no fighting over who goes next in the shower and yelling to turn the tunes down (depending on the age of your children). Always include homework time, a chore and free time in the routine. A balance is necessary. If your child doesn’t have time for these things, you may want to consider a shift in activities for better time management.calendar

2.FAMILY CALENDAR – Have a central family calendar that is posted somewhere with high visibility, like the fridge. I bought an “Mom’s Ultimate Family Fridge Calendar”. It comes with stickers for different activities and
appointments. You could also find many different DIY calendar ideas on Pinterest. It is way easier to plan events and activities when everyone knows what is going on.

2.PERSONAL AGENDA – Another important tool for children as students is the agenda. Many students are expected to carry an agenda for school each day. This
provides an essential daily means of communication between the parent and teacher. Phone calls and interviews are good for periodic checks, but in order for you to get the full picture on your child’s agendaschool day, an agenda routine is necessary. Some teachers and/or schools do not follow this policy. If that is the case it may be difficult for you to convince your child to consistently use an agenda, but give it it a try. It keeps them organized with assignments and homework and they can transfer any important days onto the family calendar at the end of the day.
Some teachers use blogs and websites to relay this type of information. That is great news! Make sure that checking the blog or website is built in to your child’s nightly routine.

3. ORGANIZE! – Organize and reorganize and reorganize! We finally get a room organized and then VOILA! All your hard is gone. Of course it is…it takes work to stay organized. Make sure you expect this to happen. Look for lots of ideas on how to organize parts of your house. I find most of mine on Pinterest or Google. It does take time to adjust to news ways of organizing your items, but it is worth it when you are looking. I use labels and pictures to help organize things at home and things at school. If you aren’t sure where to start, a FANTASTIC website for organizing your life is:


This website really can help you clean and organize your entire house. She has tons of great ideas and even better – a routine to follow!

Most of my favourite ideas come from Pinterest though…



4. GENTLE REMINDERS – Remember – everyone needs lots of reminders! That usually includes the parents too. It takes a lot of work to change a lifestyle. You can do it! Life will be so much easier in the end.

One-of-a-kind souls…

Image of ball of light in the palm of a hand, aginst a golden sky.

It’s Christmas (almost)!  And my gift to you is a guest blog from my friend and colleague, Christine Quaglia.  She’s a philosopher, a writer, a poet, and perhaps even a bit of a mystic, among many other things.   Right now, she is a Ph.D. candidate, whose research is focused on the perception of self in the face of disability.   She also happens to be in a wheelchair,  which is perhaps a propos of nothing but it does give her incredible insight into what it means to have a disability (whether it’s visible or not), in a world that isn’t always quite sure how to think about them.  She talks here about self-esteem, self-acceptance, what it is that makes each of us uniquely worthwhile and valuable in the world, and how we can nurture that in one another (particularly in our kids with disabilities).

One-of-a-kind Souls (by Christine Quaglia)

It was Pablo Picasso who said, “I used to draw like Raphael, but it has taken me a whole lifetime to learn to draw like a child”.  In that one sentence Picasso perfectly captures the moment in life when we all know who we truly are and live in full awareness of our one-of-a-kind souls. There are no questions, no doubts, no what ifs or could have beens – just a wide open field in which all things are possible. But then, childhood ends and, if you are Picasso, you start to draw like Raphael and, if you are the rest of us, you start to wonder “Who am I”, “Why am I here” and “What do I need to be doing”.  If you are lucky (again, like Picasso) you return some day to that natural state, to that field of all possibility but, before getting there, some growing pains are guaranteed.

So why does this fragmentation of self occur? What separates the child who just knew how to be from the person in the mirror? As it turns out, there are myriad reasons for why one can become separated from their essential nature and one of the big reasons has to do with trying to reconcile who we know ourselves to be, and how we best accomplish our goals, with who we are told we are, and how we are told to do things, by the larger world.

That experience is particularly poignant in the face of disability as it is one thing to have an invisible disability and to have to ‘out’ yourself when you need to do things differently, but, another thing altogether to feel one way on the inside, to know how you learn and think and process and to never have that image reflected back to you by the rest of the world. Or, worse yet to have those feelings, the things that you know to be true for yourself squashed, ignored, or, worse told are wrong and cannot be. What kind of message does that send? The kind of message that tells you there are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways to be.

Are there differences in what this fragmentation looks like for a person with a visible disability compared to the person whose disability is invisible? You bet. The person with the visible disability may be told they “look healthy” which implies they were to have looked sick. For the person with the invisible disability, like a learning disability, it may be being told “Oh, really? But you seem so smart” implying the person was smart but the acknowledgment of a learning disability has suddenly produced its opposite.

Now, the student who needs different tools by which to accomplish their learning becomes viewed not as an opportunity to be embraced but rather a challenge to be feared and those feelings become internalized. Instead of having strengths channelled, weaknesses are emphasized and those students are asked why they cannot be ‘more like everyone else’. And there it is: the first crack between what that student knows to be true for them and what they think they need to do in order to fit in and survive.

So, what does the student in that situation do? Maybe they become sullen and retreat, or, display anger, fear and frustration as they struggle to be, you guessed it, more like everyone else. The question for educators and advisors becomes how do we help those students to reconcile the truth of their reality with the perceptions of the world and the answer is: we don’t. Not now. Not ever.

The central role and function of educators and education should be to help students embrace how they do things and to show them the illusory nature of sameness and the truth of difference. We can show students that it is no sign of health to become adjusted to a sick society and, not only is sameness illusory and irrelevant but that there can be freedom in that knowing. The kind of freedom which allows for the recognition that we are all unique, special and in possession of a whole host of gifts that can be of service, value and contribution to the world. Our job, our best work will be done when we can show a student the way past self-doubt and help them to understand that their disability, and how they may have to do things, says nothing about who they truly are. The only thing that says that is their one-of-a-kind soul and that is already perfectly fine just the way it is.

Finding Employment

When I was asked if I wanted to contribute to a blog about learning disabilities, I was a little skeptical to say the least, because I definitely am no expert on learning disabilities; but I do enjoy writing and doing research, so I thought why not. (The fact that my girlfriend is involved with the LDAWE and is a LST for the public school board was a motivating factor as well).

After reading some of the other posted blogs, and I sat down to write my first blog; I am now a little nervous. I realize that I know very little about learning disabilities. That being said I will concentrate more on what I do know….preparing people for the workforce.

At my job (I work at Insight Advantage Inc.) I work with adults who have physical ailments or restrictions, or have been referred to us by help_wantedOntario Disability Support Program ODSP. Many of them receive computer, life skills, customer service or job specific training either with Insight or another company or agency. (Some are even referred to us after receiving a post-secondary education.) Our ultimate goal is to help find employment for our clients. My job is twofold. The first part of my job is to teach the classes and skills I discussed above, the other part is teaching a Job Search training course which consists of creating a resume, writing cover letters, thank you letters, job searching skills and job interview preparation and training, including mock interviews. The two biggest hurdles I see clients facing (outside of the economy) are confidence and motivation. I am going to talk today about confidence.

First off let me tell you what my definition of confidence is in this context. describes confidence as: belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence. In job searching it is belief in yourself and your abilities to do the job you want or are applying for. That may sound so obvious, but for somebody with an ailment or a disability (physical or learning) it is often a struggle to find that confidence. To help attain this I talk to the job seeker, get to know them, find out their interests, what they want to do, even if they do not think they could do it. What you have to do is find a job area or field they are interested in. Offer suggestions abimagesout jobs by asking, “What about…., or Can you see yourself,” questions. If the job seeker is looking for work doing something they would like, the confidence will increase. At Insight, we have the capability and means to offer job specific training as well, to help boost the confidence of the job seeker.

If you have a learning disability it is important to disclose this information to anyone helping you find a job. If you were to secure an interview, thought should be given to disclosing the disability to the interviewer, especially if it would affect your performance in the interview.  In my next blog I will discuss disclosure in more detail.