Well, here we are in September with the kids back in school and teachers back in the classrooms. It’s a fresh start for everyone and kids and adults alike want to make a good first impression. One area that kids with mild to moderate disabilities will struggle with is keeping things in order.
We order things both in time and in space and you will find that kids may struggle with one or both of these. So much of what we do in school hinges on keeping things in their proper order and in their proper place. This is a real disadvantage for kids who are not strong in this area.
There are things within the curriculum that have a specific order to them – think the days of the week or the steps of long division. You will see problems such as students telling stories out of order or doing tasks like getting ready to go home in a random order. The same children will often have problems with managing time. You may see that they struggle to estimate how long a task will take, stretching out the first part and then having to hurry with the end of a task. They frequently run late, as they don’t have a strong sense of the passing of time.
Here are some things you can do to help. Number the steps in a multi-step process to reinforce the idea that there is a specific order to be followed. Put this on a visual aid that is large enough to be seen by the students when they are doing independent work. Follow this same numbered structure on assignments. For instance, if you are teaching the process of the scientific method buy or make a poster of the steps and label your lab sheets to match. This visual support will reinforce the sequence and will help the students complete the task without asking for more help. Another helpful thing is to use short, simple sentences when giving directions. You can also practice figuring out the first step of a problem with your students.
When it comes to managing the time needed and the order in which to complete tasks, it helps to make time as concrete a concept as you can. I teach kids the same steps that I use myself, I list the tasks I have to do, I give them each a priority of A, B or C, and then I estimate how long each will take. For me personally that last step is the hardest. A suggestion would be to reinforce the passage of time throughout the day, telling the class when they have five minutes left before recess or a half-hour to complete a task. Visual timers can help kids get a sense of what different time spans feel like. Many on-line timers can be downloaded to an interactive whiteboard for use.
Spatial ordering is the task of putting things in the right place and differentiating between similar things. Spatial perception include relative sizes and locations of component parts, an awareness of what’s in the foreground and what’s in the background, three-dimensionality, symmetry versus asymmetry, left versus right, and whole-part relationships. Children who have deficits in this area may produce sloppy work, have messy work areas and give the appearance of not caring about the quality of their work.
Help these kids by organizing space and objects through visual supports such as colored tape on the floor or tables to differentiate areas. Keep your room clean and as clutter free as possible, labeling shelves and storage bins. You can color code notebooks and folders. You can also use visual reminders for beginning and ending points in assignments.