ORGANIZATIONAL STRATEGIES TO MANAGE EXECUTIVE FUNCTION DEFICITS
These strategies are adapted from Morse,P. A. and Montgomery, C.E., Neuropsychological evaluation of traumatic brain injury, in R.F. White (Ed.) Clinical Syndromes in Adult Neuropsychology: The Practitioner's Handbook. The Netherlands: Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., 1992)General Strategies to Facilitate Learning and Memory. While many of these strategies are addressing the needs of students, they are also adaptable to adults with ADHD.
Organizational skills become increasingly important as the child with ADHD progresses to higher grade levels. The curriculum in the higher-grade levels is of greater complexity and therefore demands the use of more efficient organizational skills. The student is asked to understand information from more complex text and reproduce this information in written form. The student is expected to do so in an increasingly independent manner. The tasks which students can have difficulty with are those that 1) are long-term in nature and require the planning of time, 2) require the organization of a significant amount of detailed information and 3) are to be completed in a predetermined time frame.
Although it may appear that the student with ADHD may often "forget" what has been learned, this is often not the case. It is more likely that the information can be recalled successfully when the student receives a relevant cue. The problem is often that they did not adequately organize this information so it is not available to them at the time that they need it. Therefore, specific instruction in a variety of study skills techniques for appropriate organization and to facilitate retrieval at a later time, is necessary.
The Optimal Educational Program
It is important for a parent to understand what is the best educational program for this type of student. The best educational program for a student with ADHD is one that capitalizes on the student's strengths while providing the necessary structure and support for their executive/organizational difficulties. This is a difficult concept for some teachers and parents to grasp. It is necessary to challenge the student at their academic level while also providing them with the necessary support and structure to assist their difficulties with organizing material. Educational support services should be solicited for help. These support services should focus on developing ways to compensate for their organizational problems so that the student is able to focus their energy on learning the material.
The introduction of certain study techniques or study skills may be needed to handle increasingly complex information. Learning this information from a one on one tutorial situation is often best. The focus should not be on learning specific content areas but on the development and application of learning strategies. Strategies for reading and writing assignments, note taking, test taking, etc. can be of use. As the student with ADHD learns and applies these strategies, encouragement and reward should be given.
The use of a word processor can be an effective, useful tool. The use of an outline program can be of assistance in structuring assignments. The use of a spell checker is also a useful tool.
The use of a timer can also be a method of structuring work. Students with ADHD often find it easier to get started on a time-limited task, particularly if the task is one that is perceived as stressful. Using a timer to both limit the duration of the task and to break it task into smaller segments can be very useful.
Helping yourself or your student with ADHD develop routine work habits at home can be of significant assistance. Developing a homework routine by studying at the same time, in the same place, and with a familiar structure each day can develop into a very important habit over the years.
Don't forget, the use of the above-mentioned strategies by the student with ADHD should be explicitly rewarded. Although the content of their homework assignments shouldn't be ignored perhaps, the most important thing for a parent to attend to is the application of newly learned study skills and nightly homework completion.
The use of a clearly defined reward system may be both important and necessary.
One final note, make sure to involve the student with ADHD in this process. It is of critical importance if they are to be personally invested enough to implement and follow through with the helpful suggestions.