NLD & Losing Things


The Common Question:

Can anyone give me some good strategies for a NLD 7th grader to follow in regards to loosing everything ?   This is what we loose in school on a daily basis in school. 

I have always thought the first step in attacking this problem is to reduce the number of things  the child has to keep track of, until he is more capable of keeping track.  So as I approached DS's IEP we worked hard to reduce the number of things he had to keep track of each day. (BTW, I would never allow them to give him an additional notebook to carry around - even if it was related to his NLD - the goal was always to simplify, simplify, and then simplify some more) Here are some things that were very effective for us --

1 - 2 sets of textbooks.  One set stayed home; one in school.  We had to purchase part of the 2nd set, but were able to get 2nd hand and hand-me-down copies from older students.

2 - All written homework was submitted via email when completed.  Hard copies were turned in the next day. 

3 - Hard copy assignments were turned in by putting them in the teacher's mailbox upon arrival at school in the morning so DS didn't have to keep track of them all day.

4 - DS phoned assignments to us and left them as messages on the voice mail or emailed then at the end of each class period, before he signed off on the computer -- of course an aide or the teacher often needed to prompt him.

5 - In 7th and 8th grade, we arranged to pay lunch money weekly - so he only had to keep track once a week.  After that he decided he hated all school lunches and he brown bagged; he never forgot his bagged lunches.

6 - Weekly locker clean out -- our org coaches through the years believed this was critical step in keeping DS from getting overwhelmed and loosing things.  In elementary school I usually had
to come in on Fridays to do this, but by middle school the Special Ed staff did it or one of the coaches did.

7 - All school notices emailed or snail mailed to us.  (Again the goal was to reduce the number of things DS had to keep track of  until he got more competent.)

8 - We did go through an awesome number of gym clothes, but we also seemed to inherit clothes that other kids had lost!  It was amazing. Two of my children attended our high school; each was issued 4 gym shirts, but I now own almost a dozen.  Seriously, making sure everything is labeled can cut down on the loss.  Having someone at he school help your son establish a specific process for getting his sneakers and gym uniform away or in his gym bag and then prompting him through it for a month or so will help. 

Once you have whittled the list of things he keeps track of down to a more manageable few, then you can work on helping him keep track and remember things.  Our bag of tricks

A. - Make sure each thing has his name on it.  You can buy imprinted pens and pencils by the hundreds very cheaply (I had some shocking metallic pinks ones made that said MOM'S PENCIL so my kids would not take my pencils to school) and we put engraved metal dog tags (like you buy at PETCO) on everything we could -- his pack, the zipper pulls on his jacket, his key ring, his gym bag, his wallet and in later years his computer case, camera and camera bag.

B. - Work with the school staff to ensure he has a routine from the moment he hits the door in the morning and that they coach him through it. DS's was enter school, stop at office and turn in work, go directly to locker and hang up coat and pack. Be sure he has a specific assigned place (that he knows) to keep his gym clothes and sneakers and that the staff helps him return them to that place.
C. - Have someone in SpEd staff or his aide check him out each afternoon.  They should review what is supposed to go home and make sure he has it.  You would do the reverse in the morning.  We found we needed to be sure to show and tell for him to be able to keep track -- i.e. "Here is your lunch money, it is in the left pocket of your cargo pants." 

D. - Routinize things - We worked it out that lunch money was always in the same place, keys went from the key hook to the loop in his back pack, his calculator always rode in front left pocket of his cargo pants, and assignments to turn in in the morning were always in a red folder marked "HOMEWORK: TURN IT IN"

D. - Be just as organized at home.  At home you be sure he has specific dedicated places for his backpack, sneakers, school supplies, etc., and that each day he puts each thing where it that the expectation in school and the expectation at home are seamless.  The constant repetition of the routine will, eventually, help him improve his ability to manage more and more things...

His problem isn't just that he forgets its more likely that he can't organize himself to remember, so the SpEd team has to help him develop those systems and then continue to coach and prompt him through them until he gets on top of it.