How to Teach a Child with ADHD Planning and Organization


Many children with ADHD have persistent problems with planning, organization and time management, irrespective of whether they are on medication or not. Problems with prioritizing, making decisions, thinking ahead and having a concept of time are common and can cause a great deal of difficulty in the school setting. Children with these difficulties need as much structure, support and ‘scaffolding’ as possible. In particular, there needs to be a recognition that these problems are part of the child’s ADHD.

Remember that a pupil with ADHD will need the sort of support typically used for a younger child (as much as a third younger than their chronological age), so, for example, a twelve year old needs the level of support and understanding normally given to an eight year old, such as the parent and teacher taking responsibility for checking and organizing their backpack.

Pupils with ADHD tend to live entirely in the present. They are not able to efficiently bring the experience from the past to decision-making today, nor are they able to think of possible outcomes in the future based on current performance. In short, planning, setting priorities and carrying through a long-term project to completion are challenging for ADHD pupils and become increasingly disabling as they rise through the school system. Such difficulties do not typically respond to medication, although they do continue to improve into early adulthood. However, in the meantime, skills need to be taught and the pupils supported with strategies to compensate for their weaknesses if their work is not to be affected.

Persistent organizational difficulties can often appear to be within the child’s control and such children are often regarded as lazy or unmotivated. It is important to understand that these weaknesses are part of the ADHD picture and are not the ‘fault’ of the child, the teacher or the parent.

Try to be aware of and minimize the impact of a child’s disorganization on his schooling and life difficulties. If a child is receiving recurrent detentions or punishments for not completing homework or having other organizational difficulties such as being late for lessons, identify the main reasons this is happening and put in place strategies to help minimize this. Specific strategies will depend on exactly what the problem is. They may involve support with a home-school diary, making sure the child writes his homework down in class, emailing the homework back to the teacher, liaising with the parents, or possible medication changes. It is therefore important to institute appropriate strategies to try to prevent the difficulty recurring, rather than punishing the pupil and risking a negative effect on his self-esteem.

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About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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