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Y7 tutors: please help me organise my dysfunctional/chaotic new starter!!

(15 Posts)
Moominmammaatsea Fri 13-Sep-19 15:10:07

Term started eight days ago and my new starter has already lost her locker key, left her ID/lunch lanyard at home twice, mislaid a piece of maths homework she'd laboured over for 2 hours, spent 3 hours completing an English homework task that should have taken 10 minutes, lost 2 hard copies of her timetable AND accidentally brought home not one, but two other children's exercise books.

I am spending ages scaffolding and supporting my daughter and work with her to order and pack her bag every evening. I organise her full uniform, help her manage her homework and planner and remind her to fulfil every single basic hygiene task every single morning. I am beyond exhaustion and exasperation and feel like I'm clinging to the wreckage of my sanity.

I've spoken to a few trusted friends and they seem to be of the opinion that my daughter's lack of organisation is pretty much par for the course; can they be right???

In the interests of preserving our family harmony, please share your top tips for helping your students to become more independent and responsible.

To avoid being accused of a lack of transparency, I should add that my daughter is registered blind and is also adopted from the UK care system. She is academically capable (she's at a super-selective Grammar school) but SO scattered.

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JoanieCash Fri 13-Sep-19 15:15:19

I was thinking sounds normal-ish, then you dropped in the registered blind and adopted, which makes me think she’s absolutely excelling!

TeenPlusTwenties Fri 13-Sep-19 15:25:46

Not a teacher, but an adoptive parent of a DD with dyspraxia here. smile

What's your system for taking homework too and from school? We have a good quality A4 envelope wallet and all loose sheets going too and from school go in there.

For exercise books, would it help to have a large coloured label stuck on hers so she can see more easily which belong to her in the classroom? (or even just a small red dot?).

Locker key - does it have to be a key lock? Would a combination lock be any better (or would that be worse with her eyesight?).

Otherwise if she has a blazer I would connect lunch lanyard to the inside of a pocket (with a safety pin?) and also maybe put the locker key onto that too.

The impression I have is that many y7s struggle to begin with until they get appropriate systems in place. But some continue to need support much longer.

LeekMunchingSheepShagger Fri 13-Sep-19 16:58:38

I would meet with the senco/inclusion team. They will be able to give ideas of how to help with organisation.

Moominmammaatsea Fri 13-Sep-19 19:32:46

@JoanieCash, thanks for your encouragement. Yes, I shouldn't lose sight of how well she has achieved to get where she is, despite some obvious hardships. Maybe I've been a bit guilty of worrying how the ripples of the losing & forgetting things reflect on me as a parent. In the nicest possible way, thanks so much for giving my head a wobble & reminding me how lucky I am to have such an interesting, engaging & quirky child.

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Moominmammaatsea Fri 13-Sep-19 19:47:13


I'll bet it was the dysfunctional & chaotic descriptors which attracted you to this thread?! These words seem to be almost synonymous with adoption these days as our children, whatever their individual circumstances and start in life, do continue to struggle more than their neuro-typical, non-adoptive peers. My friends with children my daughter's age, and indeed in her new form group, are shocked when I tell them the extent of the scaffolding and supporting I have to do every day in order for my daughter to go out into the outside world and put on a semblance of 'managing' among her peers. I also have a three-year-old adopted daughter and it is no exaggeration to say that I feel like the parent of two toddlers, even though one of them is ostensibly incredibly clever and in the body of a pre-teen!

You've given some great suggestions; I've invested a small fortune in plastic wallets in a myriad of sizes and colours, plus colour-themed stickers. It seems so obvious now, but she's my first child in secondary school, do it's a steep learning curve for me too. Especially as I'm an older mum so my experience of secondary school was pretty much sink-or-swim, with zero emphasis on pastoral care.

I'll keep you posted on how our organising goes!

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Moominmammaatsea Fri 13-Sep-19 20:05:03

@LeekMunchingSheepShagger, to be honest, I feel like I'm never off the phone to my daughter's SENCO! The entire SEND team is absolutely brilliant (I think there's a fairly high proportion of SEN students at the Grammar, but mainly ASD students, as far as I can make out). You are right; my daughter's SENCO intimated that the vast majority of the SEN students do struggle in one way or another with their organisational/executive functioning skills, so maybe I could suggest a lunchtime club where the students could learn some strategies/mechanics to help them cope with the everyday demands of the school?

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Teachermaths Fri 13-Sep-19 20:06:49

Have 5 of those plastic a4 folder box holders, one for each day. Then when she comes home she puts her books in the right day for the next time she has that subject. You could even write the subjects on the box too.

Does she have a homework diary?

Definitely speak to the SENCO re extra support re homework. Perhaps something like a box she can put it in in the morning at school and someone else distributes it for her to save her losing it?

Laminate a timetable copy and attach it to her blazer with a lanyard or one of those springy clip things.

I have very little knowledge of how students cope being registered blind. Does she get large sized work and TA support?

In the morning could you have a laminated tick sheet of tasks she does to encourage independence? Use a whiteboard pen and wipe off daily.

kingsassassin Fri 13-Sep-19 20:18:45

My daughter is dyspraxic and very very disorganised and also very bright. She's in year 8 now but with school's help we've done the following:

Big plastic wallets for each subject so the textbook, exercise book and sheets can all go in

Copies of her timetable everywhere. She packs her bag with reminders but it has to be checked because she loses focus in the middle and forgets where she got to;

Agreement that essay homeworks can be typed rather than written; we're working on writing and spelling confused separately...

I went to the second hand sale and got loads of games kit which she packs for or lessons and then brings straight home - again, I can remind her if necessary. It means there usually isn't anything crucial in her locker!

Homework diary - writing her homework down is one of her chores for pocket money and the school give house points if she remembers so she is now managing that in her own.

It seems to be improving slightly as she gets older and she has a lot less to deal with than your Dd who sounds amazing - and you sound a great mum.

MsAwesomeDragon Fri 13-Sep-19 20:22:23

There are some excellent ideas here.

I'm a year 7 form tutor and have had some spectacularly disorganised pupils over the years. We really do encourage the system of having a folder/box for each day and checking with a parent every evening. A specific homework folder is also useful, so all homework goes in there when she gets it, then goes straight back in there once it's done so she can hand it in.

If she's registered blind she will need extra support as loads of stuff at school/in the world around is made much more difficult if you can't see very well. Large coloured stickers on her books so she can tell they're hers is an excellent idea. Lots of colour coding things as I assume large blocks of colour are easier to see than writing. Have you done a colour coded timetable? That might help with reading it, although it won't help her keep hold of it. Anything she needs at all times, like locker key, timetable, etc, I would attach to a keyring which stays attached to her school bag or blazer, Ann extendible one of some sort.

Mostly, develop a routine and prompt her to follow it, every day. She'll get it eventually, but it might take a while. She's had a lot to deal with in her life so far, and starting secondary school is a big change for ALL pupils, but even more so for pupils with challenging backgrounds like your daughter. School will hopefully cut her a bit of slack at the start of year 7, although that goodwill depends on her (with your support and the support of the senco/learning support department) developing some systems to try and work on the issues she's having.

Good luck grin

RainOrSun Fri 13-Sep-19 20:25:56

I'm not at secondary yet, but have a fairly absent minded Y6 (start of Y5 highlights were: day 1, no hat or water bottle, day 2 no PE kit, day 3 school bag left on bus).
I ended up with a list by day of everything that needed to go to school, and anything unusual.
So, it might say
Monday: PE, Homework,
Tues: recorder, afterschool activity

Might a more complicated version of that help- once done, it survives most of the year, with odd modifications for change in afterschool clubs.
Also, every morning, and as soon as he got off the bus in the afternoon: where is your hat? Where is your water bottle? And in winter, Where is your jumper?

I'd also agree a place for everything - so lanyard goes in front pocket of bag if it's taken off at home or school sort of thing?

TeenPlusTwenties Fri 13-Sep-19 20:59:40

Scaffold as much and for as long as you need.

(& Close your ears/eyes to other areas of MN where posters tell you that if your 11/12 yo isn't doing it all for themselves then they will never manage at university.)

I have a friend with a DD with HFA at a different school. After various PE kit losses, her PE kit is actually now looked after by the PE Department!

BringMoreCoffee Thu 19-Sep-19 13:07:43

I'm not a teacher but I have a Y8 and an autistic Y6 who will need a lot of help next year, so I'm on the lookout for scaffolding ideas.

With DD we have one lever arch file at home with a tab for each subject. All pieces of paper get pulled out of her working folder regularly, hole punched and filed away. Keeping clutter out of the bag is hugely helpful.

I disagree with your friends - your DD is doing fantastically especially as the problem with her vision must make everything massively harder, BUT I don't think many Y7 parents will be organising full uniform and worrying about so many other people's books being brought home. It's ok for you to be finding this hard. (Things are relatively ok here and I'm still going round the twist!)

My children are at different stages. With DS we use silly mnemonics and a timetable, and I prompt him on the mnemonic rather than the task. Piggyback one task into another - dressed then hair, breakfast then teeth. Go through the whole routine and see what the barriers are to her doing it herself. Is her uniform all in one place, and why does she need you to get it? Would a numbered list or mnemonic stuck on her drawer help? Move out of season clothes away so anything she pulls out will be ok. Can you reduce the number of transitions she has, Eg do everything upstairs first, then come downstairs for breakfast, teeth downstairs, go. Put her keys on her lanyard or maybe attach them to her bag (get an extendable keyring fob like those dog leads).

With homework, at our school I would absolutely stop it after a certain time and put a note in the logbook that they'd spent well over the allotted time, and I'm afraid we do encourage DD to just get it done rather than worrying about it being amazing.

If she is panicky and anxious then concentrating on reducing anxiety might be a good investment. Maybe encourage her to take a break before starting homework, or schedule in a night off, or leave it all until weekends. Make her a hot chocolate, watch a film with her. Make sure her tutor/SENCo have got her back and she is reassured that she is not going to get detention or whatever. It's a bit counter-intuitive when you are already spending so much time and energy finding her socks, but reducing anxiety (if she is anxious) might give her more capacity to take on some of the details herself. Also as PPs have said, see if SEN dept can help take some of the load off her while she is finding her feet, Eg could her homework be written down for her for a while, so that's one less thing she needs to work harder than everyone else on?

Phineyj Thu 19-Sep-19 20:47:49

Some great suggestions here. I have one more to add, which is that some teachers may allow her to email her homework straight to them. I would. Worth asking. You could also get into the habit of photographing loose sheets, letters, timetables on your phone (I've learnt this from my sixth formers!) Finally, there is a book called The Organised Mind that you might find useful.

Moominmammaatsea Thu 19-Sep-19 22:12:24

Thanks so much everyone who responded to my plea for help with such brilliant (and, dare I say it, obvious - but not to me - suggestions). Nearly three weeks in, and one (slightly expensive) trip to the stationers, plus several separate conversations with the SENCo & form tutor later, and I feel really buoyant that we appear to be winning at life! Today was the first day that my daughter left for school and didn't look like she'd got dressed in the dark, made a pretty good stab at tying her own tie (and it was actually in the vicinity of her shirt collar wink), and she ONLY managed to lose her pencil case (in science), but later (with the help of her SENCO, who will be bought THE biggest bar of chocolate and a fancy bottle of wine at Christmas) tracked it down to lost property.

I've chilled out massively, taken all of your advice on board (stretchy dog tag cable for bus pass/endless plastic wallets/box files galore/colour-coded neon sticky labels to personalise her exercise books/and staple gunned her lanyard & locker key to her neck (wink, well, not quite, but it was an idle threat in week 2, as was me dressing up in her school uniform, boarding the bus and attending all her lessons, as I felt like I was absorbing all the stress of being at school but none of the pleasure of the actual learning.)

I'm also still learning what is 'normal' and 'normal for us' as my daughter was not born blind and her sight loss has been very sudden and unexpected - and has happened only within the last nine months. Thank you to everyone who reminded me what an amazing achievement it is for a severely sight impaired child to manage the hustle and bustle of a busy mainstream high school every Monday to Friday. And still get off the bus smiling.

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