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!

(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.

An extract from this website

Some typical problems in school include:

difficulties following long instructions
finds planning and organising work a challenge
personal organisation can be problematic
difficulty copying text from book or whiteboard
variable ability – better some days than others and may get tired more easily
low self-esteem and frustration, which will sometimes result in disruptive behaviour
difficulty in ball sports
difficulty writing at speed or drawing neatly
slower getting changed for games lessons.

If you find his problems are persisting beyond the first few weeks and he is getting into a lot of trouble ( despite trying hard) or getting upset and frustrated, it might be worth seeing your GP to get a referral for a dyspraxia assessment. Depending on how severe they deem him to be and the area you live in it may lead to some support via an OT but also a report saying he is dyspraxic may help him to realise it isn't his fault he finds these things hard and may help the school to realise they need to be supportive!

racingheart Sat 31-Aug-13 23:51:11

Thank you so much educatingarti. He ticks seven of those boxes. Maybe I'd better get him a referral.

luxemburgerli Sun 01-Sep-13 06:50:00

Something that helped me at high school was securing an A5 envelope onto the back cover of my planner. I then put all the little bits of paper I needed to take home (letters, merits, etc) into this and they were not lost and easy to check.

Some people also attached a pen to the planner, with string, so that things could be written down easily.

Maybe some planners have something like this already!

breadandbutterfly Sun 01-Sep-13 12:27:28

If your dc doesn't have an obvious place to put school stuff eg a clear shelf, drawer etc, I'd recommend getting them a specific container - eg large plastic box etc, to put any of their school stuff you find lying around the house so it can easily be located. So whenever my dd would go 'Has anyone seen my geography book/homework planner/note/etc etc?' the answer was always 'look in the box!'.

It helped us with dc1 - am about to get another box for dc2 starting secondary school this week.

Think roisin's tips are great - esp no 6 - wish I'd done that as it would have saved me a lot of money!

racingheart Sun 01-Sep-13 13:10:28

Brilliant. OK, from your tips I have:

- Got a big storage box that will stay on the hall table into which all school things will go.

- Gone through his room and massively decluttered so it is easier to find things

and will

- Chat to teacher

-Make sure his planner has pen and folder attached

Thanks for all the brilliant, helpful ideas.

Vatta Sun 01-Sep-13 13:31:19

Racingheart just to say its really worthwhile seeing your gp for a dyspraxia referral, lots of support and suggestions available once you identify this issue!

BalloonSlayer Sun 01-Sep-13 16:59:41

Similar to breadandbutterfly I have a nice looking office in-tray in the kitchen, next to the kitchen table, in which all DS1's schoolbooks live. God only knows what would happen to them if he took them up to his bedroom. DD is starting this year and she has one too.

It works very well as DS1 takes his bag off the peg and comes in and sorts out the stuff for the day very efficiently - far more so than I expected.

It helps if the table is clear . . . DS has taken his pencil case/diary out of the bag to put books in then not put it back in again because he hasn't "seen" it on the cluttered table.

I don't worry about making DS wear a coat. He always loses it. The first time he lost it, after several weeks of nagging him to look for it, I was only able to motivate him to find it again by saying that he would have to pay to replace it, and confiscating some of his Christmas money "to buy a new one." He found it the next day! Last winter it was -4 and I felt bad that he went off to the bus without a coat. However I comforted myself that if he had worn a coat that day he would not have had a coat to wear the following day, as it would have been left at school.

BalloonSlayer Sun 01-Sep-13 17:05:44

Oh and I would add, you might want to think about:

- getting a few copies of his locker key made so you don't have to go through a great big rigmarole with the school if he loses it

- taking a photocopy of his timetable so that he has a copy at home if he loses his diary/planner

- check his pencil case from time to time to make sure he still has some pens/pencils etc. Make him pay to replace them by all means but you'd be amazed at how they lose stuff, and it's a shock when you look into what once was a well-stocked pencil case and suddenly realise that it's YOUR DC who is the "I ain't got no pen, Miss" child.

MortifiedAdams Sun 01-Sep-13 17:08:05

Do yourself a copy of his timetable for the fridge.

Have him pack his back and put it next to the front door every evening. You can surrupticiously (sp) check it to ensure all is there and if anything is missing, remind the morning.

Our planner had to be signed every evening by our parents, so if you have to do that, check he has done the homework.assigned.

Get him to do the homework.the day ot is set

MortifiedAdams Sun 01-Sep-13 17:10:24

Oh and he really should have a desk to work at when at home. Tryibg to do homework on his knee infront of the tv or at the kitchen table while you are trying to lay it for dinner is not great.

breadandbutterfly Sun 01-Sep-13 19:10:33

If possible, try to get them into a routine of doing homework as soon as they come back from school, before dinner (after a quick snack if necessary) - wasn't strict about this with dc1 - wish I had. Have just told dc2 that's how it's going to be this year! Then everyone can enjoy the rest of the evening without stress and a good habit to get into.

MortifiedAdams Sun 01-Sep-13 19:25:32

Oh and ban homework.on a Sunday! Try and get them to do it Fri, at a push Sat, as Sundays can get pretty fraught so the last thing you want to be worrying about at 6pm is that essay.

racingheart Sun 01-Sep-13 19:51:43

These are even more great tips. Thank you.
Will get him an in-tray.
Will get extra locker keys cut
And copies of planner.

Bread&butterfly - the school suggested exactly that at induction. I'm going to do my best to get him to do it as soon as he gets in.

racingheart Sun 01-Sep-13 19:53:59

Mortified, I've heard different things about where to do homework. He does have a desk in his room, but on the few occasions he got homework at primary, if he went in there to do it, I'd find him 30 mins later staring at the ceiling saying he couldn't do it, when a v quick talk with him proved he could. I wondered if the kitchen table, with me keeping an eye on him, would be a better place to help remind him to stay on task.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sun 01-Sep-13 20:00:40

Laminate a copy of his timetable so it doesn't get wet.

A dyspraxic boy I teach has a small, coloured sticker on the spine of each of his exercise books. The timetable at home has been colour coded to match so he can grab the right book for each day. His mother says it helps a lot.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sun 01-Sep-13 20:03:28

With my DC the TV was not allowed on until they had had a snack and done hwk. It worked well. I did allow them to record anything they wanted to watch.

racingheart Sun 01-Sep-13 21:29:23

Georgeclooney - thanks - that's another great idea. (As is the TV ban. Very wise.)

tiredaftertwo Sun 01-Sep-13 22:11:19

I vote for kitchen table at first. Apart from anything else, their rooms then give them somewhere to go to to demonstrate independence later. And you can keep an eye and help him develop efficient work habits (not spending hours fiddling around making a poster look gorgeous for example).

indignatio Mon 02-Sep-13 07:44:31

Hi Racingheart

Lovely to put a face to the name last week.
I am also worrying about the same issues as you and so once again, thanks for the thread.

Quick wave to Bink.

racingheart Tue 03-Sep-13 19:36:19

Hi Indignatio,

Likewise! So is your DS also very disorganised? DS2 is a dreamer. Today we bought files and notebooks and organisers - most of WHSmith, basically, so I'm hoping this will help.

Only two days to go...

racingheart Wed 04-Sep-13 13:51:48

Hmm. hmm
He's already lost his mobile phone. Hunted the house top to bottom. We think he's left it at a friend's. Good start. Off to buy a new one this afternoon.

haggisaggis Wed 04-Sep-13 14:02:50

Once he has a new phone he can take a photo of his timetable with it so he has another copy. That's what ds did (and it came in handy on day back after summer when he remembered on way to school that timetable was in his bedroom..) DS has a lanyard for his phone like this which has stoppe dhim losing his phone.

angelinterceptor Wed 04-Sep-13 14:10:45

My DS is 13 and all the teachers have commented on how organised he is. Its a bit of a shock to me to be honest.

The one thing he does, which has helped him is:

He puts all textbooks, notes or homework books relating to each subject into a clear folder - he uses the ones with a zip across the top (you can get them in A4 size, or stronger ones which are bigger and hold books/papers etc).

So, he has a 'folder' for each subject - when he is packing his bag at night, he just checks with the timetable and puts in the folders he needs.

Means he never leaves homeworks or textbooks at home by mistake, or forgets anything for a particular subject.

Works for him, anyway

indignatio Wed 04-Sep-13 18:29:26

Folders ordered.
Public transport Timetables in notebook.
List of those things necessary to bring home also in said notebook.
Fingers and toes crossed.

I have bought lovely sticky labels in multicolours, but I think that is probably for my stationery fetish rather than for ds!

Racingheart, if you search under "Dreamer of dreams" in talk, you will see that ds's disorganisation is nothing new...

mymatemax Wed 04-Sep-13 18:30:41

Its an impossible

sassymuffin Thu 05-Sep-13 00:20:54

My DS has dyspraxia and started secondary school today. One of his main issues is disorganisation it was the red flag that lead to his diagnosis.

The main advice we have had is photocopy his time table multiple times keep copies in his blazer, bedroom, kitchen (or by calendar) etc. get different coloured plastic coverings for his books and colour in his timetable with corresponding colour ie chemistry - yellow - english blue etc.

Have a clear plastic box in the hall or somewhere similar where he can completely empty his bag EVERY day then repack for the next day (this also helps school newletters find their way to you.

Keep a secondary supply of pens, pencils etc because inevitabley he may loose something and it is best to avoid panic as this distracts from tasks such as homework.

Finally don't be afraid to mention to the school that your DS has issues regarding remembering things but that he is working on this area - you never know it may save him from a reprimand in the first couple of weeks.

BalloonSlayer Thu 05-Sep-13 07:03:52

I think another important thing is to accept that some children need more support than others and to keep discreetly helping, reminding, checking, in the background. A lot of parents think "well he's at secondary now, he'll have to sort it for himself" and just bow out. Which is fine when the child is an organised person, but when they are not they can end up with no diary, no PE kit, no books etc in a very short space of time. And teachers lose patience with the child who never has their book/a pen/a calculator. None of us want a child who is still depending on us to fill their pencil case at the age of 18 but it is daft to suggest that every child is capable of managing this for themselves at 11.

Another thing worth teaching them is: what to say when they are late for a lesson, and what to say when they do forget homework. A children who comes in late and grunts at the teacher will not go down well. A child who comes in late who clearly says to the teacher without prompting: "I'm sorry I'm late Mrs X" is a different matter. Similarly if they DO forget their homework, saying nothing until asked for it, looking blank, denying any knowledge then finally when pressed saying in a surly fashion that they have done it but forgotten it, is a common but tiresome practice. Going straight to see the teacher at the start of the lesson to say "Mr S I am really sorry but I forgot my homework, I did do it but I left it at home" is likely to get a far more sympathetic approach.

racingheart Fri 06-Sep-13 15:45:09

Sassy - thank you for all those tips. I'm PMing you re diagnosis.

racingheart Fri 06-Sep-13 15:50:51

Balloon slayer, this is so true. Primary school took the attitude: you just have to sort this out now you're in Yr6 but it became clear to me that he just can't, not that he can't be bothered, but he's not wired to remember what he was asked to do ten seconds ago, let alone three lessons ago. He just isn't set up to remember in that way and no amount of sanctions and shouting helps. Understandably he gets upset when others (including me) get frustrated at him.

OInterestingly he has superb memory in other areas. It's definitely linked to organisational skills. He can recall entire plots of books and movies in minute details and has photographic memory when it comes to spellings.

sassymuffin Fri 06-Sep-13 17:36:45

Sounds exactly like my DS, I have replied to your PM racing.

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