By the upper elementary school grades, the message parents often get from the school is their child needs to do schoolwork on his/her own without parental support. For many children (those that can do work on their own), that’s exactly what should be happening.

Such children write their assignments down, take out their assignment book at home, do what they have to do for the evening, plan for the amount of time it will take, and stay with the task without too much interruption. When finished, the assignment goes back in the book bag for the next day. The child hands in her work the next day and hands it in without too much strife.

How nice!

Sometimes I feel like I can lead a parade of families of children who are the opposite of what is being described. Such children have tremendous difficulty getting started on a task and sustaining effort. For these children, telling parents that the children are old enough and need to do it on their own, leads to considerable frustration.

Much of my professional time is spent trying to coach parents in understanding how challenged their child is with regard to these issues. Too often, parents will fall to, "she’s just not trying hard enough."

The child’s problems are seen entirely in motivational terms.

The point is not to view the child as overly disabled or handicapped. However, looking at the skills of initiating, organizing and planning, the fact is many kids start to show these skills pretty well by middle school, but many do not. For those who do not, the ritual battles that ensue on a nightly basis can be horrific.

When the child has great difficulty with a sports skill, such as hitting a baseball, the mentality should not be "well you’re 11, you should be able to hit a baseball." The appropriate mentality would be conveyed by a supportive and patient coach – "Hey, let’s take our time. Let’s break this down. Let’s make this simpler for you. Let’s practice this at an easier level, so that you can start to hit a baseball."

The same mentality should apply to children and their organizational deficits.

Tags: learning disabilities, executive function deficits, organizational problems, shut down learners