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Ways to Help and Ways Not to Help

While it’s tempting to seek out articles on helping disorganized learners for ways to help your child, our first question is this: Is helping the right call?  If your hope is for your child to develop into an independent and resilient learner, too much hand holding might be counterproductive.

And so the gist of this article is to focus on the types of skills and tips a disorganized learner can internalize, to help foster learning independence.

As opposed to the kind of help that ends with you become a teacher’s aid, doing your child’s homework, day after day, and not giving him a chance to develop independent study habits.

Yes, there are assignments due, tests to take and yes, you find it difficult to see your child floundering, so you want to help.  And yes, sometimes you have no choice – the test is tomorrow, and your child has done nothing. But it’s not always the right instinct to dive in and help.

To Learning Independence

Learning to learn, learning to study, learning to think, can look like sausage making. It’s not pretty.  But if you want your child to grow into a robust and creative learner, we recommend defaulting to a hands off approach, and only using the first set of tips to help your child see what learning independence looks like, but using the second set of support tips sparingly.

Secondly, if your child is disorganized it could be a clue that there is an underlying learning delay that needs attention. Nobody likes doing things they are not good at, and that includes learning.  In this case, your first move is not take control of your child’s study habits, but rather seek out a learning intervention to try to resolve the underlying learning difficulties – reading, learning or executive function.

And then, once that’s resolved, default to a hands-off approach, giving your child a chance to develop self-reliance and learning independence.

Tips To Help a Disorganized Learner Develop Independence

Here are some strategies and tips to assist a disorganized learner. While there are some basics, like providing your child with a quiet study space free of distraction (more study help tips here), this list focuses on life-time study skills that once developed will help your child become an independent learner:

      1.  Establish a structured routine:  Creating regular chores and routines with consistency, is known to help children develop good study habits.
      2. Making it visual:  Most learning glitches relate to language knowledge and language processing. And so your child will benefit from visual organizers like calendars, planners, or to-do lists to keep track of assignments, due dates, and important events.
      3. Break tasks into smaller steps:  Disorganization is often procrastination related to being overwhelmed by the amount of work to do. Teaching your child to break assignments or test study into smaller, more manageable tasks is something that will be helpful for the rest of their lives.
      4. Prioritize and set goals:  It’s helpful for a disorganized learner to learn to prioritize tasks based on deadlines and importance. Encourage the child to set specific, achievable goals, which can motivate. And then, encourage your child to tackle high-priority items first.
      5. Use reminders:  Help your child figure out how to get into a routine of setting reminders that work for him.  That might be digital reminders or paper notes for important dates, appointments, and deadlines.

    While many many children develop these skills independently, either from peers, mimicking teachers or from you, some will benefit from having these best practice study habits pointed out.

    Other Support for a Disorganized Learner

    If your child is dealing with a learning delay and finding homework and study difficult, then you may need to adopt a more supportive, hand-holding approach to help your child maintain some level of confidence.  These strategies should be used in combination with learning interventions to try to resolve your child’s underlying delays.

      1. Offer support and guidance:  Be available to answer questions, provide help with challenging assignments, and offer guidance without taking over the tasks entirely.
      2. Promote self-awareness: Encourage your child to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses as learners, helping them develop strategies that work best for their individual needs.
      3. Foster a growth mindset:  Encourage your child to view mistakes and setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth rather than as failures.
      4. Be patient and empathetic: Understand that becoming organized is a skill that takes time to develop. Be patient, offer support, and celebrate your child’s progress along the way.

    Final Note

    If your child is struggling, your best course of action might be to seek professional help.  If your child has any of these symptoms, there might be a processing delay present.  Other possibilities are ADHD or executive function deficits, which can often be treated.

    Every child is unique, and it may take time to identify the specific strategies and tools that work best for them. Tailor your approach to the child’s individual needs, and continue to provide guidance and encouragement as they work toward becoming more organized learners.