Understanding Neurodiversity and Time Management
People familiar with neurodiversity know there is not one set of characteristics that is true for all people with neurological differences. A few diagnoses that fall under the concept of neurodiversity include the autism spectrum, Down Syndrome, and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
However, one characteristic that does appear often is difficulty with time management. People unfamiliar with neurodiversity may think those children, teens, and even adults are just lazy or unmotivated. This assumption could not be more wrong.
Procrastination does often seem to manifest frequently. This is especially noticeable when students reach junior high and high school. As academics become more challenging and more independence is expected from students, those neurodiverse students may begin to struggle more. This is typically due to the difficulty setting up and carrying out a plan to keep up with tasks, also known as executive functioning.
At some point, most young people will focus more on activities they find interesting and put off those they wish to avoid, but neurodivergent students may do so more often. But it is only part of the problem.
For example, neurodiverse children and teens often simply lose track of time and may be quite surprised when they run out of time to do their homework. These young people typically want to stay on track and become frustrated when they cannot do so.
Instead of losing patience with them, parents and teachers can support neurodiverse students find simple strategies to help them conquer time. Here are five tips that can easily be incorporated in to your teaching strategies to help children and teens stay on track.
- Follow a routine. This is helpful for anyone, really. The day, especially a school day, will go more smoothly with a set routine. Every day won’t be the same, of course, but neurodiverse learners are often better able to stay on track when they know what comes next.
- Create a schedule. One important point to keep in mind here is that everything needs to be included. Class, lesson plans, tutoring, and meal times will be included, but you also want to include tasks or activities that you might feel are intuitive. For example, include time for relaxing (watching TV or playing a game) and hygiene (brushing teeth and bathing).
- Find a method that fits the individual. What works for one student won’t necessarily work for another. Does your student need to write everything in a physical planner? Will an app work best? As students are learning how to create a schedule, a shared format like a Google doc works well because the student, parent, and even a teacher or tutor can edit the document.
- Teach students how to prioritize. Break tasks into must-dos and want-to-dos. Homework is one of those must-dos. Working with a tutor regularly can help students prioritize schoolwork, especially when the tutoring can be set to work with their schedule.
- Give your student the opportunity to talk about what works and what doesn’t. When a task isn’t completed, talking through what got in the way can help students avoid the same obstacle in the future.
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