Understanding Child’s Trouble With Organization and Time Management - Understood

Understanding Child’s Trouble With Organization and Time Management - Understood

What Can Cause Issues With Organization and Time Management

Problems keeping organized and managing time aren’t signs of laziness. But they are signs of certain learning and attention issues. The most common one is executive functioning issues.
But there are other conditions that can make kids scattered and
disorganized. Here are some reasons why kids struggle with organization
and time management.

Executive functioning issues: These are weaknesses
in a key set of mental skills that help kids plan, organize, prioritize,
memorize, pay attention, and get started on tasks. Having a weakness in
one or more of these skills makes it hard to do certain tasks.

Executive functioning issues
aren’t a disability or a formal disorder. But they often occur in kids
with learning and attention issues. That’s especially true of kids with ADHD.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: This is the most common brain-based condition in childhood. Kids with ADHD
have trouble with focusing, controlling their impulses and keeping
still. Not all people with executive functioning issues have ADHD. But
about one-third of people who have ADHD also have executive functioning

Dyslexia: This brain-based condition is known for its impact on reading. But dyslexia can also cause issues with organization and time management. Kids may have trouble telling time and sticking to a schedule. Other brain-based learning issues can also lead to trouble with organization and time management. These include learning issues that cause weak writing or difficulty remembering math facts.

Other possibilities: Fetal alcohol syndrome,
poverty, neglect, and other childhood stresses also can cause memory
problems and executive functioning issues.

How You Can Get Answers

There’s no official way to diagnose executive functioning issues. The
first step to helping your child may be to rule out other possible
causes such as ADHD and dyslexia. Here’s how you might start.

  • Talk with your child’s teacher. This is a great
    place to start gathering information. Knowing what the teacher has been
    seeing in class will be helpful when you talk to other professionals.
    And the teacher may be able to try different strategies to help your child get organized and stay on track.
  • Look into an educational evaluation. If you
    think dyslexia or ADHD is causing issues with organization and time
    management, you or your child’s teacher can request that the school
    evaluate her. If the school agrees, you won’t have to pay for it.
    Depending on the results, your child may be able to get supports and
    services to meet his needs. The school would commit to providing them in
    writing, through a 504 plan or an IEP.
  • Talk with your child’s doctor. Share your
    concerns and observations with the doctor. Together you can make a plan
    for moving forward. This will likely include ruling out medical causes
    like epilepsy, trouble hearing and ADHD. The doctor may refer you to a
    specialist for some of this testing. Consult with specialists. Your
    child’s doctor may refer you to a neurologist to look for medical issues
    like epilepsy or ADHD. He may also refer you to a developmental
    pediatrician or psychologist trained to look at how kids think and
  • Talk to a learning specialist. This
    professional does education evaluations using the same tests the school
    would use. But you will need to pay because it’s a private evaluation.

What You Can Do Now

Identifying the cause of your child’s issues and the skills they affect
may help you figure out how to help her at home. But even before you
know the cause, you can help your child manage the challenges at home.

Determining your child’s issues is a group effort involving you, your
child, the teacher, and your child’s pediatrician. You can help by observing and taking notes
on your child’s symptoms and behavior. That information will help the
professionals when you begin looking for answers. Here’s how you might

  • Learn as much as you can. The more you know
    about what’s causing your child’s issues with organization and time
    management, the easier it will be to find the best help possible. There
    are also simple things you can do at home to help her stay on top of things.
  • Observe and take notes. By observing your child’s behavior
    you may notice patterns in when and how she loses track of time or
    can’t seem to start things. Taking notes will also be helpful when
    you're talking to your child’s doctor, teachers and specialists.
  • Create to-do lists and checklists. Break down a
    task into manageable chunks or steps. That can help your child get
    started and lessen her anxiety about decision-making. Checklists with
    specific instructions and visual reminders can help her get started
    again if she gets distracted.
  • Establish and stick to regular routines for your child.
    Kids who struggle to manage time often find security in having a
    regular routine. If the routine will change for any reason, try to
    prepare her in advance.
  • Try calendars, planners, and apps to manage time.
    Depending on your child’s age, have her use a calendar or planner to
    map out chores, school assignments and activities. She might need help
    learning how to fill it out. Post a big family calendar to show her how
    it’s done. You can also try free or inexpensive mobile apps to help your child manage time.
  • Try new strategies. It can be frustrating to
    deal with a child who regularly loses things, doesn’t finish chores and
    is late. See if some of the behavior advice in Parenting Coach can help.
  • Connect with other parents. Issues with
    organization and time management are fairly common in kids with learning
    and attention issues. Many parents have an idea of what you’re going
    through. Understood.org can help you connect with them. It’s a good way to find support and helpful strategies.
If your child has issues with organization and time management, it’s
not something she can control. But there are ways she can build her
organization skills. Knowing what’s causing these problems lets you find
strategies that can help.

Key Takeaways

  • Executive functioning skills help us plan, organize, pay attention, and start and complete tasks.
  • Weak executive functioning skills are common in kids with ADHD and learning issues like dyslexia.
  • There are strategies that can be used at home and school to help your child learn to organize thoughts and belongings.


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