The development of effective organization skills is crucial for children to ensure that they have structure, focus and good time management skills, as these abilities are important as they mature from infancy, begin school and become young adults. Organization skills (also known as executive functioning skills) are skills of cognition that are necessary to complete and manage an activity. To be able to achieve a task, such as preparing for school and the weather for the day, requires being able to control one’s emotions, keeping focus and following through with the task.
How do I know if my child has organization skills issues?
While each child is different and mature at different paces to one another, below are some common signals that may indicate that your child has issues with executive functioning:
- Difficulty following rules or directions
- Generally disorganised – poor awareness of time or what’s needed to complete an activity
- Difficulty preparing for school, such as packing their school bag
- Issues with recollecting correct details or sequence of a story
- Unable to plan or complete assignments from school
- Difficulty with recounting information when attempting to complete a task
- Poor ability to manage time
- Easily distracted
- Appears unmotivated or lazy to complete work (which may be because they do not know how to begin the task)
- Often loses or misplaces their belongings
What may be affected if organization difficulties are not addressed?
If not regarded, executive functioning deficit often lead to issues in other areas, such as:
- Poor self care skills and daily activities
- Poor self esteem and confidence
- Problems with behaviour and emotional regulation
- Poor performance or under-performance at school
- Poor social skills, which might lead to isolation
How does OT help improve children’s organization skills?
An occupational therapist (OT) can help enhance a child’s executive functioning skills by assessing their behaviour and identify particular areas of deficits (also using corroborative history from parents/carers and other family members). Specific strategies and techniques OTs might use include:
- Using a clock and blocking or marking out parts of it to help the child to visualise and manage time
- Using a sketcher or planner to plan tasks and assignments, or developing a calendar with post-it notes
- Using different colours when choosing school supplies (e.g. folders, notebooks) to organise their work. For instance, all math-related materials can be covered in red contact paper, and English-related materials in blue. Moreover, homework can be organised into different sections on the child’s desk/workspace, such as “doing”, “done” and “preparing” areas.
- Using visual cues (e.g. lists of pictures or words) to aid them to complete a specific task, such as the steps involved in showering or packing their school bag
- Establishing a daily routine and be as consistent as possible – a routine promotes memory
- Where possible, simplify large tasks into smaller tasks
- Using a diary, planner and/or To Do list so the child gets into the routine of writing down important dates or events
- Cooking with the child, as cooking enables the child to foster their skills of following instructions, organising/sorting and time management
- Give the child household chores and activities that require sorting items, such as grocery shopping or cleaning out a closet
- Involving the child in developing a shopping list
The OT will often develop ways that the child’s parents/family can integrate various activities that promote organization skills in the child’s daily home life.