Organizational Coaches: What You Need to Know
By Kate Kelly
Kids with learning and attention issues may struggle in school because they have difficulty getting organized. They may have trouble keeping binders and backpacks neat, or find it hard to get homework done on time. They may also not know how to study effectively. If your child finds these tasks tough, an organizational coach might help.
What Is an Organizational Coach?
These professionals go by many names. In addition to “organizational coaches,” they may also be called
executive function coaches, ADHD coaches or organizational tutors.
These coaches often have backgrounds in psychology. Unlike tutors, they don’t work on specific school subjects like history or science. Nor do they work on specific skills like essay writing or reading comprehension.
Instead they teach kids how to become more efficient learners. Here are some problem areas they can help with.
A coach can help your child develop a system to keep his things orderly. That way, he can find homework, worksheets or directions when he needs them.
For instance, the coach may go to your child’s school and conduct a locker “makeover.” Simply having too much stuff is often a major source of mess. So she may sit down with your child and discuss which papers he can discard to control the clutter.
Keeping Tabs on Things
Developing a system to keep order isn’t enough. Your child needs to arrive in class with the right books and folders. And he has to get home with the correct tools to study and complete his homework.
A coach can help develop “cues” to remind your child to go his locker and switch out his notebooks for his next class. For example, a coach might put a picture of the locker on the cover of the last notebook your child needs before lunch to remind him to stop at the locker after that class to get his afternoon folders.
Some kids tend to give equal weight to every task and interest. Your child might spend the same amount of time on a science worksheet worth five points and a history project worth 100 points.
He might not budget enough time to finish papers. Or he may have trouble getting projects started or envisioning all the steps needed to complete them.
An organizational coach can take a big task and create a timeline for getting it done. She might also come up with a system using electronic calendars, apps, and cell phone alarms to help your child stay on track.
A good coach can help your child develop better ways to study and do homework. If your child’s notes tend to be scattered, the coach may give him tips on how to figure out what to write down.
For instance, she might show him how to focus on just the highlights when he’s studying by using things like bolded words and summary guides. She might also help him better predict what information might be on an upcoming test.
How to Find a Good Organizational Coach
Ideally, a coach should be familiar with your school system, so your best bet is to ask your child’s school for recommendations. Try the guidance counselor, a special education teacher or a classroom teacher. It’s likely they’ll know of someone.
There are also groups that certify coaches. Certification shows that the coach is committed to the field. But it’s no substitute for proven experience.
The most important qualification for a coach is a good track record working with kids. Ask potential candidates for at least three references. Try to talk to all three before making your decision.
You should also ask the coach to map out what will happen in the first five sessions. The answer should reassure you that this coach knows what she’s doing.
Costs for a coach vary, but typically run more than tutoring. Generally, you will have to pay out of pocket.
What to Expect
A good organizational coach will take things slowly at first. Trying to change too many things at once can backfire.
She may start by helping your child organize his binder and locker, and get the right materials home each day. Once that’s under control, the coach may work on study skills with him.
Building a rapport with your child is also important. You can expect that the coach will spend a significant amount of time during the first couple of sessions getting to know him and engaging him in the process. It’s common for kids to resist the idea of coaching at first.
By the third session, however, your child should generally feel more open to change. Ideally, he’ll be willing to try new strategies. If you’re not seeing any progress, that’s a sign that this coach may not have the right strategies for your child.
Planning and time management may not come naturally to your child. But you can help him learn organizational skills like these. And organizational coaches can help him develop strategies he can use for years to come.
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