Disorganized Teen/ Executive Function Impairment

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ADHD teen needs therapeutic tutor for organization

Oct 2013

My 13 year old is having a challenging time staying organized so we'd like to find a therapeutic tutor to coach him with organizational strategies as he's approaching high school. We'd like someone located between San Pablo and Oakland.

Molly Gales taught my teenage daughter organization skills. My daughter holds Molly in high esteem and recognizes the skills that Molly provided for her. There is still disorganization but my daughter has tools now and is willing to use a lot of them. No name to respect my daughter's privacy

Linda Lawton at the Center of Attention and Learning in Albany (www.centerofattentionandlearning.org) was extremely helpful when my daughter was in the same situation. She's warm and empathetic, and along with lots of strategies for getting better organized, she also helps you deal with the emotional fallout that can go along with ADHD. I really can't recommend her highly enough! Grateful Mom

Hello! We've been working with a great coach for this exact issue by phone. She lives in Seattle, so isn't local at all, but she works with the whole family, is super practical and supportive, and has great energy. She also has some specials available right now. Check her out online at: http://margitcrane.com/. Good luck! another parent in search of organizing help!

Renee Talmon is a wonderful ''executive functioning'' coach and tutor for an ADHD teen. She acted as an excellent advocate for my ADHD-ish son in our family discussions about how to best support him, and she brings both concrete behavioral / organizational suggestions and a thoughtful therapeutic outlook to every session. Contact her at BTI (Berkeley Therapy Institute) at 841-8484 x1137. She's a gem! Sooz, learning how to let go, and still be supportive

Personal Organizer for Teen Needed

Nov 2012

Hi, my son is extremely disorganized. He works hard at school and homework, but is hampered by losing important paperwork, losing work he's done, not knowing what is due when, chaos in binder and backpack, etc.

I would like to find someone who could meet with him weekly, either at our house, or not far from school or home, who could help him set up and maintain some systems to organize his schoolwork. (Of course, I could suggest these things, but, at thirteen, he's resistant to my advice.)

Can anyone suggest a personal organizer or tutor or the like who could help him go through his things weekly to organize them---preferably someone warm and good with teens, who would not come across as judgmental? Thank you. Mother of chaos

Dear Mother of Chaos, Your sense of humor will certainly help and so could Sabina Aurilio, 510-590-7037, whose office was on Solano when she worked with our son on this issue. When he started seeing her, our son used the jeans-pocket and writing on his arm organizing system on his good days, which had drawbacks and system failure due to hygiene, laundry and general wear and tear. Sabina is kind, organized and focused. Our son is now a National Science Foundation Fellow. Some writing on the arm persists. A laptop and iPhone helped, too. - Been there and back

Could've written your post! If you get some good recc's maybe we could organize a small group for teens who are challenged by organizational issues? Our son (now a sophomore) went to Classroom Matters in grade 8 and got some excellent support... but it didnt seem to stick and now the tech distractions (let along hormones) are stronger than ever! Eager to read what others say... and I do know someone who might take on such a group. sign me, looking for a balance between overbearing and ''natural consequences'' dearsooz

Hi, I coach people with attention deficit disorder, many of whom are very disorganized and don't know where or how to start getting things in order. In those instances I refer them to Pam Condie who is a residential and business organizer. She's a very good listener, works with each person to come up with systems that are comfortable for them, and would not think of judging. You can reach her at 653 7744 or email pam [at] pamcondie.com I'm sure she'd be happy to talk with you to see if she'd be a good fit. Sydney

Dear Mother of Chaos, I know someone who is really good with this kind of disorganization and age kid. She is very patient and works with kids at Berkeley high School. Not judgmental and very positive. She understands this and has had a kid of her own who had the the same situation. Her name is Tracy Child and email is tracybobr1 [at] yahoo.com Kids are a worry

How to teach 13 yr old time management

Sept 2011

My 13 yr old daughter is a great kid and bright too but she procrastinates and get distracted when it comes time to get homework done. I have lectured her endlessly about getting homework done quickly and efficiently so she can have time to relax at the end of the day rather than trying to cram it all in just before bedtime. I'd love to teach her how to be a better time manager but all of my talking doesn't seem to be getting through. Any suggestions?

I used to feel that my kids should get their homework done and out of the way then they'd have free time. They would come home and take an hour to have a snack, which I saw as procrastination. But then I realized they really did need time between school and homework to decompress and transition. So we let them take half an hour to have a light snack, take a short nap, take a walk or just talk with us or each other (but not go on Facebook or turn on the TV). Giving them this down time allowed them to relax which helped a lot with their ability to be more focused and efficient once they started their homework.

Some families say they plan out their kids' evening hours but this never worked for us since some days the homework load really was light but other times it was overwhelming. However the kids learned to first review all the homework assignments before starting in. If they needed to talk to classmates about assignments, we had to monitor that so they wouldn't get sidetracked. Been there, too

I think you have done a lot of damage by lecturing. That just sounds like a lot of criticism to a teenager, and you are unlikely to get what you want by criticizing. I think you are going to have to start off by apologizing. Then try working with her. When you feel it is time to start doing homework, get her history book and start reading it. Then talk about anything interesting you read. Sit down with her and work beside her. You may feel that you don't have time. But this really take a whole lot less time than lecturing. And you may feel like it is her job not yours. However, if she feels like you are truly trying to help her, she is more likely to cooperate. I know it sounds crazy, but just give it a try. anon

There are two issues here: what are reasonable expectations and how to help instill useful behavior that will serve your child in the long run.

Expectations: My 13-year-old son is never going to run home to do homework. Actually, I'm not sure I even would, to be fair, and I am actually very good at time management as a self-employed person. Make sure you give your daughter some cooling-off, relaxing time before she has to do work upon returning home. She is a person, not a machine, and school is stressful. Let her relax a little bit.

Instilling useful behavior: What I have found most effective is to create the structure that will work for my son. So, no computer games before homework. Bedtime is firm; he can't stay up until 1 a.m. doing homework. Because he loves to get on the game, he will get down to his homework fairly quickly in order to play afterwards. Because of our son's other issues, we also used tutors last year four nights/week, mainly so that he knew that at 5 p.m., there would be someone waiting to do homework with him. He couldn't procrastinate (or, in his case, work himself into a panic zone). He just had to sit down and do it. You probably don't need tutors, but you can create a homework zone of certain hours, using her favorite activities (texting? phone calls? computer time) as the carrot. think long-term improvement

Evaluation for daughter with executive function issues

July 2011

We are struggling to figure out which direction to pursue in terms of getting help for our bright but very disorganized daughter who will be starting high school this Fall. She is a smart girl who was diagnosed with moderate level sensory integration issues in kindergarten, received 3 years of occupational therapy and several years of tutoring to address challenges with her writing, (mechanics, spelling and grammar.) She attended a private school K-5, and then we tried public school 6 and 7th, but for social reasons ended up removing her from public middle school and sending her back to private school for 8th grade. She is a bright girl and has mostly done well in school as long as she receives appropriate support. In 4th grade we were about to do a full neuropsych evaluation for several thousand dollars but just prior to the eval at a meeting with her teacher decided to hold off on the eval since she was doing so well in school and her test scores were so high except for the specific areas where we new she would have challenges and she was already receiving tutoring. Last year, upon returning to private school, she needed quite a bit of help organizing a major final year project. While she ultimately did well, the kinds of things that were occurring included her completing homework but then forgetting to turn it in, loosing things constantly, having a binder that is a fright to look at etc. etc. Definitely major challenges with executive functioning. She is about to start high school where the challenges for organization will only increase, and the expectation of increased independence will as well. We plan to hire a tutor to help support her but the confusing part is should we get her evaluated, and if so what kind of evaluation, the full 6,000.00 neuropsych evaluation? I have read reviews on this site about behavioral pediatricians who evaluate for ADHD and LD. I do not, however, think that we would be wanting to pursue medication, as she does too well to warrant this, but clearly has something going on and not sure how best to address this. A rambling confused post here but that is representative of our uncertainty about what is going on and what makes sense to pursue. Anyone have similar experiences? Its not that we need a label, but want to make sure we are supporting her in the most appropriate way possible to give our bright daughter the best chance of succeeded in high school and beyond. Confused

My son also has executive fuction disorder. We had him tested in 8th grade, and he has no other disability. He is also very bright, but was struggling with every aspect of school organization. The best thing we ever did was get him involved with Student Organizational Services, based in Walnut Creek. Beth Samuelson, the founder and director, absolutely changed my son's life. SOS offers a fabulous weekend seminar, ''Nailing Ninth Grade'', which addresses the very issues you mentioned. The seminars fill up quickly though, and if you have missed them for this summer, I highly recommend the one-on-one coaching. My son worked with Beth throughout high school, and developed all the skills necessary to succeed in college. He just completed his freshman year with flying colors. Check them out: www.sos4students.com. Good luck! SOS fan

I have taught freshman comp at community colleges and also work as a tutor for high school students. Most teachers like to know as much as they can about their students before the classes begin. In a class of 30 students, I won't always know the difference between someone with an executive functioning challenge and someone who is just not trying. Evaluations, though expensive, do help teachers to specifically support individual students. They also allow for things like extra time taking tests, etc. I've seen this help my students immeasurably -- and have also found that students are more confident when they know their specific stumbling blocks and know that it is okay to ask for what they need. That's my two cents!

I just read your post now.As you are not necessarily interested in a label or medication for your daughter, I offer this as a possible option. Interesting coincidence = I am reading this new book ''Transcendence'' by Dr.Rosenthal, the psychiatrist who pioneered the work done on SAD/Seasonal Affective Disorder. Last night I read on page 122 ''Executive Functions: Keys to Effectiveness'' in which he states,''the biggest surprise to me, after listening to the stories of dozens of people was the impact of TM (Transcendental Meditation) on their personal organization, effectiveness, and quality of thinking---in short, on their executive functions.'' Interesting alternative?? Good luck. aurrea

Traditional medication is not the only option. My son has specific diagnoses, including a late diagnosis of ADHD, but could not tolerate traditional medication. He has worked with a naturopath on neurotransmitter testing and is taking supplements. He will be changing those supplements shortly following a recent test. The website is neurorelief.com (Neuroscience), and they will refer you to a practitioner. The supplements have helped and we a hoping the new supplements will help more.

My son has had neuropsychological testing, which he needed for accommodations. If your daughter needs accommodations, a neuropsychological evaluation is the best option, particularly for the testing bureaus and colleges. However, testing for accommodations needs to be current, so timing is key. There are many options for testing for ADHD that are less costly. Her pediatrician should be able to give you a referral. If you suspect learning disabilities, it probably would be.better to do the neuropsychological testing. Good luck. Anon

''Its not that we need a label, but want to make sure we are supporting her in the most appropriate way possible to give our bright daughter the best chance of succeeded in high school and beyond.''

This is the very reason I **finally** took my teenage daughter to have a neuropsych eval. I am so very glad we did it.

After extensive research, we went to the Eide Clinic in Seattle. What impressed me the most about our visit was that, while one of the doctors was testing my daughter, the other doctor was chatting with me. This was the first time in my life I got to sit with a doctor for hours at a time discussing my child! I came away with pages and pages of notes.

You might want to read the book The Mislabeled Child by Fernette and Brock Eide. I found it very helpful and it gave me an idea of their approach to LD's. BTW,the Eides are neurologists (M.D.'s), not psychologists. There is a lot of info about them on the internet. Their website is www.neurolearning.com.

The bad news is that my daughter does have a learning disability. The good news is that it is very specific, so no further testing is necessary. At least now we know what we're up against and how best to help her. BTW, my daughter is very glad to know. It helped tremendously to have the doctors explain it directly to her.

The total cost of the trip to Seattle, including the evaluation, airfare, hotel, car rental, etc. was $5000. To keep costs down, only the two of us made the trip. Best wishes to you and your child. Anon

I commend you for all you've done to discern how best to serve and support your daughter and and for keeping her successful so far. In my professional role as an educational therapist I often think of the neuropsych eval as the thing you do next as a parent when there are still unanswered questions. It sounds like that is where you are. It may be that your daughter doesn't need a comprehensive eval since many things are working well for her. But the 'executive function' piece is where things seem to be falling apart for her, and learning more about that one piece could help all of you, including and especially your daughter, better understand how her brain works, as well as help you determine on how and what skills to focus on to best prepare her for not just school, college, etc, but her life. Good luck! Educational Therapist

Hi - Your daughter and my son sound like they have very similar challenges. We are just entering sr year - and might actually make it! I would recommend not spending the $ on more evals use it for tutors, coaching, therapy - real world ''point of performance'' (as Dr Barkley says) behavior awareness and creation of HABITS. Would love to talk to you about this- hard to find fellow travelers on this exec function deal. It is very tough. Email me if you would like. Another Mom invivo

You might try getting an evaluation at the Ann Martin center in Oakland. It is less expensive, but high quality. You could work with the psychologist to get an evaluation that is more targeted at educational issues than psychological/medication issues. We did that during the summer before high school, and it was very helpful.

That being said, if your daughter's functioning requires this kind of intervention, wouldn't you want to get as complete a picture as possible? Why not get a full evaluation? Like any parent would be, we were very reluctant to consider medication, but if you have a child with ADHD, we have found it can really be helpful in a way that nothing else is. Best of luck! Been there

14-year-old forgets to turn in assignments

Dec 2001

My 14 year old/8th grader is continually turning assignments in late - and has recently forgot about a take home test. His actual work is good - usually an A or B+, but he is marked down a letter-grade for lateness, and so his morale is down and his overall GPA is really suffering. We have tried everything we can think of to help him get organized - offering bulletin boards, and date books, and printing out class weekly assignments. We have taken away privileges or had calm discussions, we have left him alone to take the consequences or have intervened to give him structure. NOTHING seems to help. I know this hormonal and somewhat age appropriate - but it is really concerning us. He wants to go to Berkeley High next year rather than private school, but I am reluctant because he doesn't seem to be able to be responsible and handle his basic obligations - and I know he needs to be self-motivated and self-disciplined in order to do well there. PLEASE offer any suggestions on how we can help him get his act together.

Re: forgetfulness. I wonder whether your child has ADD or some other kind of similar problem. It might be good to have your child tested by a neuropsychologist to find out. Then it might be clearer how to handle the situation. If you want recommendations, I'd be happy to give them to you. Good luck. S.

I also have a son (now 13) who tends to be forgetful. In reality, he is not forgetful he just has a tendency to become spacey and ungrounded. Sugar and fatigue are what make him very spacey. Therefore, what we do is ensure that his diet is as sugar free as possible (no soda, no candy, no ice cream on a school night, and no white flour or white rice), that his diet includes lots of vegetables and fruits and is primarily whole grain, and that he gets a good night's sleep every night. This makes a big difference. The diet part has been a challenge, and was implemented over 4-5 years. But, he is now willing to participate in both the diet and the sleep because he can tell the difference, amd he doesn't like it when he has a hard time focusing and remembering. Y.

Daughter needs help organizing school work

Dec 2000

I need some advice on how to handle my daughter's lack of organizational skills. Mainly she needs help in getting her school work and supplies together. We have tried almost everything...therapy, lists, folders, organizers, etc. etc.... Because of this problem, she is getting very low grades in her classes since she is forgetting her homework, equipment, books and other things she needs for classes. I should mention that my daughter is 16 and is a sophomore. She has had this problem since she started school. I have had her tested and she doesn't have ADD or any other disorder. We are at our wit's end. Punishments don't seem to help, neither does praise or positive reinforcement. She and I can sit down and talk about this, and she always says that she wants to do better, but nothing seems to last. Also, I should mention that she is very responsible and together when she babysits and people like her to take care of their children. Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated. I have run out of ideas. Thanks,

My very smart 12-year-old son inherited my husband's disorganizational apptitude, which means that he has somewhat low executive functioning skills when it comes to school work. We hired a coach who not only helps with organizational skills, but also helps work through how to approach homework, strategies for finishing assignments and for getting the assignment turned in on time and to the right place.