Many children with LD and ADHD have difficulty managing their time, especially as they reach adolescence when more is required of them socially and academically. It’s important to empower your child with the skills necessary to manage and organize herself. Doing so will give her a sense of self-control, which in turn will foster independence. Start early to develop these important skills to ensure that by the time she’s in high school, they’re second nature. Use the following guidelines to get you started.
Step-by-Step Skill Building
- Create a schedule
When children arrive home from school, they often need time to relax and unwind before starting homework. During this down time offer to help your child write out a schedule for the rest of the night to ensure that she accomplishes everything she needs to do.
Start by making a list of homework assignments for that night (including work on long-term projects). Next to each assignment, fill in the amount of time she estimates it will take to complete the task. Encourage her to pad her estimates with extra time as underestimating is a common problem for children who have yet to master the skill.
- Estimate attention span
The next challenge is to determine how long she can sit before she’ll need a break. This is generally a function of age and attention span and is likely to require your guidance in the early stages.
- Plan breaks
After establishing a reasonable break schedule, find out what she would like to do during her breaks and how long each break should last. Young children or highly active children may sit for 20 minutes and then need a break, but they may only need five minutes to run around or do some jumping jacks. Older children might work for 60 to 90 minutes or more and then need a break for 30 or 40 minutes. Any schedule that works for your child is fine. It may take some trial and error to find the best flow, and it’s likely to change as your child matures.
- Manage weekend work
It’s not unusual for students to ignore their schoolwork until Sunday night. You can avoid the last-minute stress by making a weekend schedule on Friday that shows how her time is allotted for recreation and homework throughout the weekend.
Teaching time-management skills at a young age will help lead to self-regulation, and learning how to prioritize—both skills necessary for success in life.
The ideal tool for kids learning time-management skills is a planner—either a notebook style or electronic version. Every child should have one to keep track of homework, play-dates, appointments, chores, and other responsibilities. Even the simple act of consistently entering scheduled activities is a step toward organizing her life.
Lisa Rappaport is a neuropsychologist that specializes in working with children with learning disabilities and ADHD.