By Ben Whitehouse

Originally published on

What does it mean for a child to have what mental health experts call “executive functioning issues,” and how can a parent help?

It basically means the child struggles to plan, organize and manage life at both school and home in an age-appropriate manner, says Odey Raviv of Glen Cove, an academic coach who has a Ph.D. in special education.

He or she likely has time-management problems, including deciding how long homework may take to complete, knowing how to break an assignment into parts, and resisting distraction, Raviv says.

Many kids are bright enough to overcome the deficit until the demands outstrip their ability to hold everything together in middle school, high school or even college, he says.

Parents can help in the following ways, Raviv says:

For issues such as getting out of the house in the morning, help the child construct a checklist of what needs to be done and post it in the bedroom and bathroom.

For homework, encourage the child to use an agenda. After school, help the child set priorities on what needs to be done and determine how long each task will likely take. Write it down so the child can follow the structure.

 If a child constantly forgets to write down homework assignments, for instance, award a check mark for each day he remembers and at the end of the week provide a reward such as extra time on the computer or renting a movie.
If an assignment doesn’t go well, give the child a chance to reflect on why. If it goes well, review what helped it go smoothly.

When a parent has been as patient and creative as possible and the child is still struggling, it may be time to have the child tested and/or coached by a mental health professional, Raviv says.

How to help a kid with organization issues

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