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Does Your Child Have the Planning Skills to Succeed?

By Tierney Thompson, PhD | Contributor

Among the many tricky skills that we hope our children master before they go off on their own is time-management.  Whether we call it “organization,” “long-term planning,”or “time-management,” preparing to do a task is vital to its success.  Often what parents call their child’s lack of time-management and organizational skills is actually a struggle with executive functioning.  Executive functioning is the ability to analyze, organize, decide, and execute. Many students often get caught in one phase or another without a clear plan, and often those with learning differences and/or ADHD are not even sure where to start!


Determine what needs to be accomplished in order to complete the task. This can be as simple as figuring out what needs to be done to get to soccer practice on time or as complex as applying for colleges. Asking the questions of “How long the task will take?” and “When does it need to be completed?” are the best ways to start.


Determine any materials needed to complete the task. In the case of soccer, it might be cleats, shin guards, uniform, and water. In the case of a project, it may be art supplies, books, paper, pencils, and a computer.


Determine if the plan is a good one or if there is a better option. Re-examine if all the pieces are in place for the final step. Make a checklist to help stay on track.


Put the plan into action. In the beginning of teaching this process, students will need extra reminders to stay on task, but they should refer to their plan and check their list, whether it is physical or mental. Using their phones is a great way to help them keep track of their plan.

For high schoolers, planning ahead for busy weeks is essential to creating a balance between things they want to do and things they need to accomplish. These skills become increasingly important as we send our children off to college where they go from 35 hours a week in school to just 15 hours of classroom time. Some think this extra “free time” can become just “free time” and not study or work time.

If your child has significant issues with executive functioning, it may be time to take a deeper look by having a psychoeducational evaluation. This type of evaluation will examine strengths and weaknesses while determining what type of accommodations and strategies will help your student reach their potential. It will give them insight into how they can create balance in their life before they have to adjust to the “free time” in college.  Developing these skills early can be a huge help later on.

Tierney Thompson, Ph.D. is an educational diagnostician and founder of Thompson Diagnostics. She has been teaching, tutoring, and evaluating students with specific learning disabilities and ADHD for 20 years, helping them reach their true potential. You can reach her at 214.394.0929 or 


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