What is organisation?
Organisation involves the ability to establish the tasks that you need to do, by when and how. Part of organisation is understanding the requirements of the task. Being ‘organised’ is a crucial skill not only for academic success but for life.
Why is organisation important?
Organisation is an important aspect in play, language, social interaction, personal management (e.g. self-care tasks or bringing home all their belongings from school), and academic task performance (e.g. homework, project planning and performance).
Organisation is typically a skill that needs to be specifically modelled, supported by sensible structures (such as diaries or visual charts, labelled storage containers) and reinforced by realistic routines (pack away one toy/task before commencing another).
Organisation is important to develop a structured and consistent approach to tasks at all times, but is even more important for those with poor planning and sequencing, language challenges, attention difficulties and learning difficulties.
Building blocks necessary to develop organisation skills:
- Executive Functioning: Higher order reasoning and thinking skills.
- Self Regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change one’s emotion, behaviour, attention and activity level appropriate for a task or situation in a socially acceptable manner.
- Sensory processing: Accurate registration, interpretation and response to sensory stimulation in the environment and one’s own body.
- Attention and Concentration: Sustained effort, doing activities without distraction and being able to hold that effort long enough to get the task done.
- Motivation: The desire to be involved in interventions and improve skill level.
You can tell there are problems with organisation if the child:
- Is generally ‘disorganised’ (lacks awareness of time frames, the materials needed for a task).
- Struggles to get themselves ready on time.
- Has difficulty collecting materials for school (e.g. getting out material such as the right book for a classroom activity).
- Has difficulty collecting the materials needed for play activities.
- Has difficulty packing their bag for school.
- Has difficulty putting multi-step tasks together (e.g. construction).
- Appears lazy and not completing work (when in fact they may not know how to start the task).
- Gets distracted easily or shows poor attention to the task.
- Has difficulty getting thoughts down on paper.
- Has difficulty using language in an ordered and logical way to give instructions, tell a story, to re-count an event or express ideas and thoughts.
When you see difficulties with organisation, you might also see difficulties with:
- Visual processing
- Sensory processing
- Limited play repertoire
- Self care and independence
- Expressive language skills (how they use words and put them together)
What can be done to improve organisation skills?
- Use visual cues to support memory to the tasks.
- Break large tasks into smaller ones wherever possible, even if it seems silly (not only does this support skill development, but also reduces anxiety).
- Recognise that additional practice is often required on an on-going basis to recall a previously mastered task.
- Establish self instruction strategies including self questioning.
- Backwards chaining.
- Use visual cues to support organisation.
- Get ready the night before so that the child can focus on what they need to do without the stress and time limitation often present during morning routines.
Activities that can help improve organisation include:
‘To Do’ lists: Are a helpful way of keeping track of what needs to be done. Get the child to tick activities off as they complete them.
Diary: Assist the child to get in the habit of recording important information and dates in their school diary to be presented to a parent or guardian each night.
Sequencing activities: To help the child understand that things need to be completed in the correct order for the desired outcome.
Breaking activities into smaller steps: Ask the child to write down the steps of an activity so that they can plan how to complete the task.
Assign chores that involve sorting or categorising: Grocery shopping, emptying the dishwasher, sorting photos, cleaning out a closet, and other tasks that involve pre-planning, making lists, or arranging things are great choices.
Cook together: Cooking teaches measuring, following directions, sorting ingredients, and managing time, all key elements in organisation. Involve the child in meal planning too, challenging them to help you put together a shopping list.
Use containers and closet organisers: Help the child to organise their room. If there’s a place for everything, they will find it easier to find items, keep neat, and clean up. Include ‘pack up time’ into the daily routine to make sure things stay organised.
Why should you seek therapy if you notice difficulties with organisation?
- To enable a child to be successful in demonstrating their true academic ability.
- It is a key ability required for a successful school transition.
- Helps develop and model executive functioning skills that are required for many higher level activities
- Organisation is important for developing self-care and independence skills.
Left unchecked, difficulties with organisation can lead to:
- A child being unable to reach their full academic potential. In many cases organisation is the key to success. If a child fails an assignment because they were not organised enough to get it done and hand it in on time, they are not giving themselves the best chance to achieve.
- Challenges with daily activities. As organisation is a skill that to some degree needs to be explicitly taught and modelled, it is important that they have access to strategies such as the use of visuals to allow them to be successful in daily activities.
- Avoidance and poor behaviour. Children with organisation difficulties are often very aware of their challenges and quickly learn to subtly (or not) avoid them. This only reinforces any skill delays that are emerging from lack of practice.
- Poor self esteem and self perception as children find it difficult to differentiate between being bright and having difficulties with organisation.