If your child has attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD) or a learning disability, you may have gotten used to being the one who decides what he does, and when he does it. At some point, however, your child must learn to maintain his own schedule and set his own priorities. If he reaches high school without knowing these skills, he’ll have big trouble keeping up with assignments and extracurricular activities.
What does it take to get your child to assume control of his schedule? Create an ADHD school organization plan.
Step one is to get him into the habit of using a daily planner. Have him sit down with it after breakfast every morning, to review how his time will be spent that day, and which tasks he needs to accomplish. Make sure the planner accompanies your child to school, and that he writes down all test dates, due dates, assignments, and so on in it.
When your child gets home from school, sit down with him and his updated planner. Together, review the homework assignments for the evening. You may be tempted to tell him what to do and when. Don’t. Instead, pose a series of questions to help him set priorities. You might ask, “Do you think you should start with those math problems? Or would it be better to do your math after you finish outlining that chapter in your science book?”
Feel free to make a helpful observation or two: “Last week you chose to work on your math first because you like it, and it’s easy for you. But I’ve noticed that you’re better at tuning in to details when you’re freshest, so you may want to make proofreading your book report the first priority today.”
There is no hard and fast rule about prioritizing. For some children, the best approach is to get the hard stuff out of the way first. For others, breezing through something easy is a confidence-booster that helps motivate them to plow through harder assignments.
Make sure your child understands the difference between urgent tasks (those which must be completed by the following day, for example), and tasks that are important but not urgent. As he gains more experience setting homework priorities, let him assume more control.
How long will it take?
Some children have trouble gauging how long each assignment will take. If your child does, take him step by step through each assignment.
For example, maybe your child thinks he’ll need only 10 minutes to look up the definitions of 10 words and write a sentence using each — but you know it will take at least four times that long. Point out that it could take one minute to look up each word, and up to three minutes to write each sentence. If he doubts you, time him as he completes the assignment, and show him how long the assignment actually took.
At first, your child may resist your efforts to get him to plan and prioritize. Eventually, though, he should begin to see how helpful the process can be. If he continues to put up a fight, consider handing things off to a tutor or learning specialist.