The Secrets of an Organized Student – Part 1

Boy with BackpackStaying organized is difficult for adults, let alone young children who are just starting to navigate their academic life. Sometimes, the organizational demands we place on our kids can have a negative impact on their school and even personal life.

Those students with good organization skills (which doesn’t happen over night!) have the ability to create and maintain systems to keep track of information and/or materials. A young student can (with several reminders of course!) put school materials in a designated place. An adolescent can often easily organize and locate sports equipment. Students with learning disabilities, however, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), will more often than not have problems with these tasks and this sometimes has serious consequences on their overall academic performance. To be organized requires time, effort and sustained attention and sometimes children are lacking in these areas and need some help.

Why are our students failing at organizing? What is the impact of these routine failures? What can we do to help them improve their organization skills?

Diane O’Reilly, an ADHD Coach in the GTA, shares her tips and tricks for staying organized in her Organizing 101 program.

Here, Diane shares her top three reasons why students don’t organize well with Beyond the Classroom:

  1. Organizational demand on students is too high: Students are expected to manage a locker, binders, duo-tangs, agenda, homework deadlines, etc. with more than one location to keep organized (i.e. at home versus at school). Are we setting them up to fail with this overload of expectations? Diane believes so
  2. Kids and Teens are just not ready: Pre-teen and teenage students, with ADHD or not, are not developmentally ready for the organizational demands we place on them. The frontal lobe, which is involved in organization, motivation and more, is the last part of the brain to mature (between 20-25 years of age). With ADHD students, full development doesn’t likely happen until they are 25-30 years old! How can we expect kids to be super organized when their brain isn’t developmentally ready?
  3. Organizing is a lonely business: Most people believe students can and should be able to handle all their organizing alone and that one can only learn by doing it themselves. We know that is certainly not the case, especially for students with learning disabilities. Students of all ages, especially younger ones and ones with learning disabilities, need support and guidance on how to be organized and stay that way

What are some effects of not being organized? What happens when students lose control of their organizational-selves? According to Diane O’Reilly, the effects are far-reaching and hard-hitting:

  • Students blame themselves for their failures
  • They lose confidence in their own abilities to handle things
  • They begin to hate school and homework
  • Their grades suffer as a result
  • They become overwhelmed/shut down and procrastinate
  • They give up trying to organize themselves
  • Their self esteem is affected
  • They avoid challenge and their goals become limited

Our next article will dive deeper into the secrets of an organized student!

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