Books, papers, electronics strewn across the desk, clothes on the floor, room like a danger zone… Does it mean anything?
If your middle school or high school student lives in a state of disarray, frequently forgetting papers or textbooks in the school locker, or the finished assignment on the kitchen table, disorganization might be indicative of a problem that’s more than adolescent carelessness.
Executive functioning involves the management of oneself or one’s resources to achieve a goal. It consists of behavioral skills that impact on mental control and self regulation. To some degree the external organization of our possessions can reflect the internal management of our thinking.
When a student has difficulty keeping track of his or her belongings — books, papers, clothes, money, keys, cell phone, clothing — the cause may not be solely adolescent sloppiness. For some students, just getting through the day may be a reflection of a larger problem of self monitoring and self regulation.
Is this always the case? Not necessarily. Some students, some adults for that matter, aren’t neat and organized. But when a student has difficulty in planning tasks, allocating sufficient time for assignments, organizing his or her life to achieve required goals, the external disorganization might be a clue to what’s going on mentally.
Dealing effectively with deadlines, time requirements, and mental transitions requires a set of skills that must begin during childhood and mature with age. The development of strong executive functioning carries over for success later in life.
Can a parent fix the problem? Assisting with organization and planning skills can be valuable but parents often end up doing too much and the student may not develop the skills required for independent thinking. Intervention with a professional skilled in cognitive training may be a more effective way to help your student develop a set of critical life skills.
Check back next week for more thoughts on executive function skills, speech and communications