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:

http://www.flylady.net/

 

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…

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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.

Lazy Kid Syndrome?

Lazy Kid Syndrome?

Probably not…

In general, children want to please. They want to make us happy and be rewarded with praise and attention. It is a basic human need that we all experience.

What many parents and teachers see as a lazy child is usually a distracted or confused child. Kids with Executive Functions disorder are often mistaken as lazy. These are kids that are seen as intelligent by parents and teachers but are often mislabelled as lazy or lacking motivation. They simply do not have the skills necessary to complete the expectations independently. Executive Functions includes regulation of goals, organization, flexibility, planning, prioritizing and reflection.

 Individuals with Executive Functioning deficits will experience problems in the following areas:

  • Getting started on their work

  • Seeing work through to completion

  • Writing essays or reportsPost-Frustrated-Boy

  • Working math problems

  • Being punctual

  • Controlling emotions

  • Completing long-term assignments

  • Planning for the future

Although Executive Functions Disorder can be a challenging learning disability, depending on the severity, it is manageable. Many strategies and accommodations can be put in place to assist kids with the scaffolding necessary to get them through a task, transition or social situation.

Parents and teachers can both take advantage of and teach strategies that help with organization of space, time and materials. A couple of excellent books that is a wealth of ideas and further resources for teachers are:

Smart-but-Scattered-Teens

Smart-but-Scattered

 

 Some useful strategies include:

  • Breaking tasks (assignments or chores) into steps, with a written plan for completing assignments. Provide directions written and orally

  • Use of agenda, calendar or daily planner to help organize special dates, assignments, classes, etc. Create a visual calendar to help with time management. Sometimes a month-at-a-glance calendar is more visual and helps with longer-term time management.

  • Use of watch or cell phone alarm for reminders. Use of visual timers if necessary

  • Provide transitional time between activities or tasks. This could just include a brief, “heads up…we are going to be leaving for recess in 5…” or, “I’m going to ask you to clean up your stuff in 5 minutes and then we are going to get ready to go.”

  • Use of “to do” lists and checklists. There are great apps for this purpose.

  • Create a working area at home that is organized and free of clutter and distractions. Regularly schedule times to reorganize this area.

  • Ensure there is good communication between home and school to prevent any missed assignments, papers to be signed, etc.

The most important advice I would give as both a teacher and a mother (of a child with executive function deficits) is to keep it organized and consistent. A good role model is important. Those with executive function deficits have little internal organization. Learning how to organize their world will help to make them more successful. Knowing where to find things, when to be somewhere and what to expect will reduce the amount of meltdowns associated with poor emotional regulation.

Ideally, all this hard work will pay off. Children learn quickly that these little things are necessary for their own success and eventually adopt the strategies that help them the most.

Some great websites on Executive Functions include:

http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/executive-function-disorders/what-is-executive-function

http://www.ldonline.org/article/29122/

http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/7051.html

 

Executive Functions: Self-regulation and Emotion

Executive Functions: Self-Regulation and Emotion

“My kid can’t control his emotions! He gets so upset about everything or overreacts to minor incidents. I don’t know why he is like that.”

Executive Functions involve so many aspects of our lives. Our job as human beings is to monitor our state of arousal and ensure that it is at the appropriate level for the task at hand. Such self-regulatory functions, such as set-shifting, transitions, organization in time and space, initiation of task and emotional regulation, are some of the big areas of our lives that fall under the umbrella of executive functions.

Of course all aspects of executive functions and self-regulation are important when an individual needs to attend to a task. However, regulation of emotion is most likely the most all-encompassing and intertwined of the executive functions.

I am currently reading a book entitled “Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation” by Stuart Shanker. In this book, the author discusses the six critical elements to optimal self-regulation:

  1. When feeling calmly focused and alert, the ability to know that one is calm and alert.
  2. When one is stressed, the ability to recognize what is causing that stress.
  3. The ability to recognize stressors both within and outside the classroom
  4. The desire to deal with those stressors
  5. The ability to develop strategies for dealing with those stressors.
  6. The ability to recover efficiently and effectively from dealing with stressors.

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Shanker discusses the Five-Domain Model of Self-Regulation. One of these domains is The Emotional Domain.

Emotion regulation is as much about up-regulating positive emotions as it is about down-regulating negative ones.

Shanker brings up research done by Daniel Goleman on Emotional Intelligence and Social Emotional Learning. Goleman’s model identifies four main elements of emotional intelligence:

  •  Self-awareness – the ability to identify one’s own emotions
  • Self-management – the ability to modulate one’s emotions
  • Social awareness – the ability to understand others’ emotions
  • Relationship management – the ability to co-regulate and manage interpersonal conflicts.

Greenspan’s Theory of Emotional Development is cited as stating that a child’s knowledge that they have the tool that can help them stay calm instills upon them the confidence that can help them deal with potential disruptive emotions. Greenspan’s research has some implications for the classroom and for parents that are very helpful.

For Teachers:

  •  Be conscious of your emotions and attempts to self-regulate throughout the day.
  • Acquaint yourself with the many resources on emotional self-regulation (age-appropriate)
  • Look for ways throughout the day to encourage the development of self-regulation
  • Consider and be sensitive to how your students’ cultural and/or social backgrounds may affect their awareness of emotions
  • If possible, introduce yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises, or meditation
  • Help your students learn to express how they are feeling verbally so they will be less likely to act out physically.
  • Model self-regulation when faced with frustrating situations in your classroom.
  • Involve families in the students’ attempt to self-regulate by discussing the benefits of their child spending more time being physically active and reading and less time watching television and playing video games.

For Parents:

  •  Provide as predictable a routine as possible
  • Let their child take responsibility for tasks, and for monitoring their own success at completing each task
  • Help relieve the child’s stress by making them aware of upcoming transitions
  • Model self-regulation in their own behaviour

Of course, stressed time and time again by researchers is the idea that children (and all individuals working on healthy emotional well-being) should monitor their state of emotion. Several suggestions were made including cognitive behavioural therapy, keeping a journal of feelings with regard to certain times of day, situations and interactions or engaging in a variety of activities that develop self-awareness.

Happy regulating!