Any tips on helping a disorganised child get organised at secondary?

(55 Posts)
racingheart Fri 30-Aug-13 22:22:21

DS2 about to start secondary and is a bit of a dreamer. He forgot something almost every day at primary school - homework, clothes, kit, forms, none of it came home on the right day and even if he did homework he was proud of, he often took it to school then forgot to hand it in.

At his secondary, I'm told teachers are much tougher on disorganisation. It's also a long way from where we live, so I can't drop by and deliver anything left at home.

Any tips on helping them focus, especially when they are at school would be really useful. I can help him check when he's at home, but it's that end of the day moment when he has to run for a train and will be chatting with friends that makes me concerned.

Tigerstripes Fri 30-Aug-13 22:38:51

Do they get a planner? That's the main thing that our kids use to keep them organised. They have their timetable in it, they must write down their homework in it and when it's due. They can also write down when they get a letter although not all form tutors make them do that.

racingheart Fri 30-Aug-13 22:45:42

Hi Tiger,

I think they get a planner and a mini notebook. DS managed to lose his primary school planner and hide the fact form teachers and us for a few months, then got a new one which he constantly forgot to bring home. Ideally, I'd put a message on his phone or Ipod but they have to have everything switched off during the school day.

Copy of timetable plus lists of things he needs on each day of the week plus homework to be handed in on particular days etc stuck to the inside flap of his backpack?

mirry2 Fri 30-Aug-13 22:51:43

I don't think people become organised until the they want to or need to.

Nerfmother Fri 30-Aug-13 22:53:13

There's a tag thing you can get for bags. Will have a google.

fridayfreedom Fri 30-Aug-13 22:53:44

Get him a rucksack big enough for everything. Ie books and pe kit. He only has one thing to pick up and is less likely to leave a kit bag behind . Worked for my DS.

Wolfiefan Fri 30-Aug-13 22:58:32

Get him to pack his bag the night before.

Get copies of HW timetable and timetable so you can prompt if necessary. (What Science HW do you have is much more likely to get a response than got any HW?)

Bag emptied of lunch, letters, dirty gym kit on arrival home.

Insist he uses a planner or diary. (Ask teachers to prompt if necessary)

Let him do detentions and accept the consequences if necessary.

What are you worried about at the end of the day?

Nerfmother Fri 30-Aug-13 23:02:22

Can't find it now. Was through national autistic society. Small thin tag - very discreet.

Speak to his teachers if it's a problem. We have a list of pupils whose planners we need to check to make sure they have written down HW etc.

Don't be one of those parents who refuses to let him do detentions. Make him take the consequences of his actions (or inaction). He'll learn!

racingheart Fri 30-Aug-13 23:23:29

Nerf - that sounds interesting - can you explain it more. What does it do?

Wolfie - what I'm worried about is that his disorganisation is like mild ADD -not something that he can control. He can forget a simple instruction within seconds of it being given to him, with eye contact and him having repeated it. He's not unwilling. IN fact he gets deeply frustrate dat himself for being so forgetful and gets very low indeed when others tease him or are frustrated, because he seems unable to remember. He's good academically when he focuses, and he can focus well on a set piece of work, but it's all the incidentals - the physical stuff of picking things up and handing things. He seems almost to lack the ability to process this stuff the way others do.

racingheart Fri 30-Aug-13 23:24:44

Meant to say - all these tips are very good. We will go through everything together the night before, as suggested. Hadn't thought of discussing it with his teachers, but if after week 1 he hasn't improved on primary school, I'll go in and chat with them.

Poor organisational skills can be experienced by dyslexic and dyspraxic students as well as those with ADD and those on the autistic spectrum.

Does your ds have any other signs of dyspraxia? If he had ADD, I think it would also affect him while he was working on specific tasks and I'm guessing autistic spectrum and dyslexia would most likely have already been picked up.

cory Sat 31-Aug-13 00:10:34

He sounds exactly like my ds, whom I have always suspected of being mildly dyspraxic. In his case, letting him take the consequences- usually in the shape of detention but occasionally being put on report for not completing homework- has actually worked. It has made him realise that if things are extra difficult for him he has to come up with a plan to deal with it- he can't mess everybody about because he forgets.

I have a neurotypical 13 year old who would forget his own head if it weren't attached to him, and an 11 year old with ADHD/ASD who is the most organised person I know!

These are some of the strategies that have helped DS1:

Packing his bag the night before, including games/PE kit.

Giving each subject a colour, then colouring his timetable in those colours so he can easily see what lessons he has each day.

Doing his homework the same day as it's set (or at least starting it, in the case of large projects).

I agree with letting them experience the consequences of disorganisation; don't be tempted to bail them out.

kateandme Sat 31-Aug-13 02:28:48

is he the type of child would discuss things with you.,maybe you could then come up with a planner chart together for his room or fridge or something.just so you can remind eachtoher what the plan is for the day what needs handing in,anything of note to remember.if you think this is something more than forgetfullness then could you speak to someone.either a school head of year,friend or gp.

having the consequences though will sometimes help.they often get a shock moving to secondary school but often take it and adapt quickly.if he has many peer friendships that will help too.

Alonglongway Sat 31-Aug-13 02:34:52

I have a 13 yr old dd who has always been like this. Secondary school tutor/subject teachers can't do much too help IME. She carries all her books all the time so she can dig the right things out of her bag at any given moment. And I police her journal as best I can - though hard when they fail to write things down. She gets top grades and has a good time so I don't give her too much hassle

roisin Sat 31-Aug-13 03:35:12

I was really worried about ds1 starting secondary, because he was just as you described.

Top tip #1 get a bag with plenty of pockets in so that everything has a home. Plan the bag packing for him, then talk him through it and get him to do it.

Top tip #2 Make sure he has a secure and consistent place to store his wallet and a specific place to put his rail ticket/pass in every time, immediately. Also house key if he needs one and a pendrive - both ideally attached to bag using a lanyard or keying.

Top tip #3 have two pencil cases. One small one with the basics - pen, pencil, small ruler - that is stored with his planner in the most accessible pocket in his bag. The second has "other stuff" - calculator, coloured pencils, scissors, glue. (My boys find having their own gluestick invaluable, cos they're not waiting in lessons to use class ones.)

Top tip #4 Label everything with his name and form.

Top tip #5 Have an emergency envelope with spare cash for if he loses his dinner money, wallet, trainfare home etc. Plus 20p coins to make a call if he needs to.

Top tip #6 Tell him you will replace the first item he loses, the second you will pay 50% and anything subsequent he is responsible for. With this rule my boys took much more responsibility for their stuff AND when they did mislay anything, were motivated to spend their break/lunch tracking it down.

Top tip #7 Get an opaque A4 plastic envelope. Tell him any letters home or loose sheets for homework go straight into it. That way they get home in one piece and he can get in a routine of checking it every night.

Top tip #7 Plan and expect to spend a LOT of time with him in the first couple of weeks. I was astonished at how much time I spent with ds1, discussing his day, helping him organise his school bag and the shelves in his room, getting him to tell me the tips and advice they were given in form and assemblies, making copies of timetable for his room, the hallway and spare copy for his bag.

Top tip #8 When you first see him at the end of each day initially, find out about his day. And ask about each lesson individually, ask if he got given homework and check if he has recorded this in his planner.

This may seem like overkill, but this investment of time and energy will pay off hugely in future. After the first few weeks, I rarely had to give either of my boys any support in getting organised: they just got on and managed it all themselves.

And my little space fairy? Well, he's 6'3" now, very self-reliant and independent, just about to start sixth form and got astonishingly high GCSE results in all subjects. Good luck!

Bink Sat 31-Aug-13 09:24:47

roisin - great tips - and what a lovely update on your son!
xx

(My space fairy is about to start year 10 and we still need all this help - I think he has always had less will-to-overcome-the-issues than yours.)

tiredaftertwo Sat 31-Aug-13 09:41:31

Top tips indeed from Roisin, and I particularly agree with the time investment at the start. Our space fairies need it to fly. Mine is 17 now, and for school at least extremely organised and doing well. Ignore people who say leave t to them, they have to learn: they do, but you can help make that process simple, efficient and relatively pain free.

PickleFish Sat 31-Aug-13 11:45:36

Routines are key. Getting into the habit of checking the planner at fixed times of the day, several times a day. Always checking, not assuming that he knows the afternoon lessons because he thinks he looked earlier or thinks he remembers. Routine of checking the bag the night before, even if he's sure he already has things. Etc. Most of the time, when he thinks he's remember everything, he probably has, but it's those times when something different is happening that the routine is so important. If you've written in the planner 'bring protractor' for a specific lesson on a specific day, but then aren't actually in the habit of looking at the planner because 'it's always maths on Friday, I already know that', then you'll miss the reminder. Loads of people write appointments down but still miss them because they're not in the habit of actually looking at the diary often enough. It needs to be an absolute routine, developed even in the days when there's hardly anything written there.

tiredaftertwo Sat 31-Aug-13 11:48:58

If you see him at breakfast, help him remember the things he has to sort that day - which will often involve going to lost property IME - and then count them. Then, as he leaves, say four things to remember, have a good day. Then if he remembers three, that may jog his memory of the fourth. Or get him to write them on his hand (this sytem does rather show up lack of hand washing....). Both those have worked well here.

Madmog Sat 31-Aug-13 15:04:39

When my daughter started comprehensive, there were quite a few threats of detention is something was forgotten, not done. I think this was to get them focussed - as the year went on she found it was okay to occasionally forget a book/homework/item of PE kit as long as she wasn't doing it all the time.

It will certainly help him the first couple of weeks if you yourself can allow an extra 5/10 mins in the morning and be aware of what's happening at school, what lessons he has each day, what homework has been set and when it has to be in, PE kit days, if there is personal info for parents on their children accessible on the website. It's worth making sure he has the telephone numbers of other boys, so they can help eachother outside school if they're not clear on any thing.

My daughter loved her first couple of weeks but was worried about getting detention, even so she forgot a couple of things, wasn't quite sure when homework had to be in. Her school actually give them planners so they can make notes.

Hope he has a great time - I think I was the one stressed about comprehensive school, not my daughter, so try not to let it show.

roisin Sat 31-Aug-13 17:54:07

[thread hijack] Hi Bink! WAVES!

racingheart Sat 31-Aug-13 20:21:37

Roisin that is an ace post, and very reassuring. Thank you. And thank you everyone else for all your tips.

*Educatingarti - that's really interesting because he is a bit dyspraxic I think, and so am I. We can't catch a ball. I can't drive. He has quite noticeably poor co-ordination. I used to suspect ADD but he really can focus for hours if he wants to and he's almost the opposite of dyslexic. He can read fast and has a photographic memory, so his spelling is good.

Don't think I realised disorganisation was linked to dyspraxia. I always thought it was more a physical thing. And at his age, I was exactly the same - really hopelessly disorganised, not for want of trying. I got there in the end, but it took decades, not weeks, to learn what comes fairly naturally to most people.

Poor DS 2 is very like me physically and mentally. DS1 got his dad's genes.

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