• Organizational Skills
    Ideas from NYU Child Study Center
    September 2006
    Discussions with educators suggest that organization, time management, and planning skills may be crucial for success.

    In some situations, a child who does not have a clear set of routines for completing school tasks is hindered even if the

    child possesses all of the necessary knowledge for the tasks. For example, a child that has not established a procedure

    for writing down assignments may find that s/he is unable to complete homework assignments because required papers

    such as worksheets or reading materials have been left in the school locker. Parents find that many conflicts at

    homework time often result because children have not written down the complete assignments, they do not know how

    to complete the steps needed for the assignment, or they have not taken the correct actions to assure that they have the

    papers that they need. It seems that establishing routines for day-to-day school tasks is a goal of great significance.

    There are many ways children learn to organize their materials, time, and actions. Some children may develop

    organizational skills by watching others and thinking of a way to take care of their supplies, manage their time, and

    select actions that are needed. Still other children may gain the skills by being told what methods to use. A smaller

    number of children may need to receive direct instruction and practice for varied periods of time in order to adopt

    effective routines for organization. According to our research, this latter group of children consists of more boys than

    girls, and includes many youth with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and learning problems. Our clinical

    experience suggests that problems in organizational skills may emerge in the middle of elementary school and can

    persist throughout the school career, even into college.

    What can parents do to facilitate the development of organizational skills? Consider these ideas that are based on our

    experience and general principles of learning.

    *Demonstrate appropriate use of routines to manage the supplies you use in your life, such as your house keys,

    car keys, and important papers. Discuss how you manage your time, so your child learns how long tasks take

    and what you do to fit those tasks into your schedule. Include your child in discussions of family activities and

    routines, so s/he can learn that foresight is useful.


    *Help your child develop a way to transport materials back and forth from school. Consider books, papers, and

    other items such as lunch, money, and the school bus or subway pass.


    *Make homework a part of your regular evening routine. Consider how long it should take. If you are not sure,

    ask your child’s teacher for an estimate on how much time should be spent on homework and studying.


    *Discuss long-term projects such as book reports with your child. Children may not know what steps to take and

    how to complete assignments that take several days or weeks.


    *Develop ways to store school supplies and your child’s toys and equipment.


    *Determine a work area for school activities and stock it with needed supplies.

    If your child demonstrates major problems with organization that are interfering with school success and contributing to

    conflict about school assignments, consider these ideas:


    *Check with your child’s school. Many schools have added courses in organization and study skills to their

    curriculum, especially at the middle-school level. Additionally, your school may be able to offer a brief form of

    tutoring to overcome problems.


    *Private tutoring in organizational skills is also an option. However, be careful. An extensive review of

    educational and psychological literature shows that instruction in organization is an area that has received very

    little evaluation. Many practical, reasonable ideas and methods have been proposed, but there is little data to

    support their effectiveness.