Ask a Behaviour Consultant

Q. We have a school-age child who struggles with organizing their personal items. For example, they will place their toys, books or school work on their table and not have space for their snack. They have a hard time finding things in their cubby when it’s time to get dressed to go outside. What can we do to help him?

A. It is important to consider why the child may be struggling with organizing their thoughts. Is it due to too many distractions? Is it due to a stressor in the environment? Could it be a challenge with processing directions or information? We need to understand what the child can do and what part is more difficult in order to decide which skills to teach or develop. Then we need to actively teach it, so the educator is an integral part of the strategy.

To help support children with organizational skills, offer lots of visuals including a visual checklist for them to do a self-evaluation of their items in and around the classroom. Make the expectations clear and consistent so they know what is expected.

If the child is struggling with organizing their cubby area or clothing, place a visual task strip so their dressing routine can be broken down into smaller, easier to manage steps. It may help the child if they physically remove the pictures of the article that they have taken off or put on so all they see is what is left. Educators can help keep the child on task by giving verbal  and/or gestural prompts to support their attention and focus.

During snack time, place a bin on the ground where the student can put their items. It will be safe and away from the table so they can enjoy their snack. Offer visuals to support understanding such as a First/Then – “First have a snack, then you can complete your school work or play with your toy.

Resources:

First Then Tip Sheet
School Age Visuals Video

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