Organizational Skills Training at the NYU Child Study Center
Children who develop a solid foundation of organizational, time management and planning (OTMP) skills are likely to be better prepared to face academic and social challenges. However, most schools do not rely on a systematic curriculum to teach these skills, but use an assortment of methods. For example, some educators may remind their students to use checklists and a master calendar detailing upcoming assignments; others might encourage children to clean their backpacks and desks weekly.
While certain children receive support during the development of OTMP skills, others receive little, if any, direction from adults. Children differ in their acquisition and implementation of these skills. Some youngsters may learn organizing techniques simply by observing others or listening to advice, whereas other children do not acquire organizational techniques so readily.
Organizational skill training methods used by educators, mental health professionals or parents have not been systematically evaluated to determine their effectiveness. The ability to track changes in children’s organizational skills has been limited because little has been done to quantify these deficits. To provide this needed information, Drs. Howard Abikoff and Richard Gallagher at the NYU Child Study Center developed the Children’s Organizational Skills Scale (COSS). The COSS evaluates each child’s OTMP skill level and compares it with that of same age and sex peers. Additionally, the COSS pinpoints areas in which the child needs further assistance. To date, teacher ratings of over 900 3rd to 8th graders indicate that children vary in the extent to which they 1) use organizational tools, 2) are able to plan tasks, and 3) experience lapses in memory and materials management.
Within clinical populations, a sizeable percentage of children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have OTMP skills deficits. They often have trouble keeping track of assignments, organizing paperwork, meeting deadlines and coordinating social activities, which can lead to conflicts at home, school and with peers. To address these problems, Drs. Abikoff and Gallagher developed a clinic-based, 10 week, 20-session manualized organizational skills training (OST) program designed to target the specific OTMP deficits associated with ADHD. A pilot study found that children with ADHD who received the OST program experienced significant improvements in OTMP behaviors at home and at school.
This fall, the NYU Child Study Center and Duke University, supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), will conduct a large, controlled trial of children aged 8-11 with ADHD and OTMP deficits, to compare the efficacy of the OST program with other organizational skills training approaches.#
For Information regarding participation in the NIMH study and services available for children with ADHD, contact the NYU Child Study Center at (212) 263-2734. The NYU Child Study Center is dedicated to advancing the field of mental health for children and their families through evidence-based practice, science, and education. For more information on the NYU Child Study Center, visit www.AboutOurKids.org.