Disorganized, Forgetful Teen/ Executive Function Impairment
Advice, discussions, and reviews from the
Parents of Teens weekly email newsletter.
Berkeley Parents Network >
Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults >
Disorganized, Forgetful Teen/ Executive Function Impairment
My 13 year old is having a challenging time staying organized so we'd like to find a
therapeutic tutor to coach him with organizational strategies as he's approaching high
school. We'd like someone located between San Pablo and Oakland.
Molly Gales, (510) 290-5656, email@example.com taught my teenage daughter
organization skills. My daughter holds Molly in high esteem and recognizes the
skills that Molly provided for her. There is still disorganization but my
daughter has tools now and is willing to use a lot of them.
No name to respect my daughter's privacy
Linda Lawton at the Center of Attention and Learning in Albany
(www.centerofattentionandlearning.org) was extremely helpful when my daughter
was in the same situation. She's warm and empathetic, and along with lots of
strategies for getting better organized, she also helps you deal with the
emotional fallout that can go along with ADHD. I really can't recommend her
Hello! We've been working with a great coach for this exact issue by phone.
She lives in Seattle, so isn't local at all, but she works with the whole
family, is super practical and supportive, and has great energy. She also has
some specials available right now. Check her out online at:
http://margitcrane.com/. Good luck!
another parent in search of organizing help!
Renee Talmon is a wonderful ''executive functioning'' coach and tutor for an ADHD
teen. She acted as an excellent advocate for my ADHD-ish son in our family
discussions about how to best support him, and she brings both concrete
behavioral / organizational suggestions and a thoughtful therapeutic outlook to
every session. Contact her at BTI (Berkeley Therapy Institute) at 841-8484
x1137. She's a gem!
Sooz, learning how to let go, and still be supportive
Hi, my son is extremely disorganized. He works hard at school and homework, but is
hampered by losing important paperwork, losing work he's done, not knowing what is
due when, chaos in binder and backpack, etc.
I would like to find someone who could meet with him weekly, either at our house,
or not far from school or home, who could help him set up and maintain some
systems to organize his schoolwork. (Of course, I could suggest these things, but,
at thirteen, he's resistant to my advice.)
Can anyone suggest a personal organizer or tutor or the like who could help him go
through his things weekly to organize them---preferably someone warm and good with
teens, who would not come across as judgmental?
Mother of chaos
Dear Mother of Chaos,
Your sense of humor will certainly help and so could Sabina Aurilio, 510-590-7037,
whose office was on Solano when she worked with our son on this issue. When he
started seeing her, our son used the jeans-pocket and writing on his arm
organizing system on his good days, which had drawbacks and system failure due to
hygiene, laundry and general wear and tear. Sabina is kind, organized and focused.
Our son is now a National Science Foundation Fellow. Some writing on the arm
persists. A laptop and iPhone helped, too.
- Been there and back
Could've written your post! If you get some good recc's maybe we could organize a
small group for teens who are challenged by organizational issues? Our son (now a
sophomore) went to Classroom Matters in grade 8 and got some excellent support...
but it didnt seem to stick and now the tech distractions (let along hormones) are
stronger than ever! Eager to read what others say... and I do know someone who
might take on such a group. sign me, looking for a balance between overbearing and
I coach people with attention deficit disorder, many of whom are very disorganized
and don't know where or how to start getting things in order. In those instances I
refer them to Pam Condie who is a residential and business organizer. She's a very
good listener, works with each person to come up with systems that are comfortable
for them, and would not think of judging. You can reach her at 653 7744 or email
I'm sure she'd be happy to talk with you to see if she'd be a good fit.
Dear Mother of Chaos,
I know someone who is really good with this kind of disorganization and age kid.
She is very patient and works with kids at Berkeley high School. Not judgmental
and very positive. She understands this and has had a kid of her own who had the
the same situation.
Her name is Tracy Child and email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Kids are a worry
My 13 yr old daughter is a great kid and bright too but
she procrastinates and get distracted when it comes time
to get homework done. I have lectured her endlessly about
getting homework done quickly and efficiently so she can
have time to relax at the end of the day rather than
trying to cram it all in just before bedtime. I'd love to
teach her how to be a better time manager but all of my
talking doesn't seem to be getting through. Any
I used to feel that my kids should get their homework done and
out of the way then they'd have free time. They would come home
and take an hour to have a snack, which I saw as procrastination.
But then I realized they really did need time between school and
homework to decompress and transition. So we let them take half
an hour to have a light snack, take a short nap, take a walk or
just talk with us or each other (but not go on Facebook or turn
on the TV). Giving them this down time allowed them to relax
which helped a lot with their ability to be more focused and
efficient once they started their homework.
Some families say they plan out their kids' evening hours but
this never worked for us since some days the homework load really
was light but other times it was overwhelming. However the kids
learned to first review all the homework assignments before
starting in. If they needed to talk to classmates about
assignments, we had to monitor that so they wouldn't get
Been there, too
I think you have done a lot of damage by lecturing. That just
sounds like a lot of criticism to a teenager, and you are
unlikely to get what you want by criticizing. I think you are
going to have to start off by apologizing. Then try working with
her. When you feel it is time to start doing homework, get her
history book and start reading it. Then talk about anything
interesting you read. Sit down with her and work beside her. You
may feel that you don't have time. But this really take a whole
lot less time than lecturing. And you may feel like it is her job
not yours. However, if she feels like you are truly trying to
help her, she is more likely to cooperate. I know it sounds
crazy, but just give it a try.
There are two issues here: what are reasonable expectations and
how to help instill useful behavior that will serve your child in
the long run.
Expectations: My 13-year-old son is never going to run home to do
homework. Actually, I'm not sure I even would, to be fair, and I
am actually very good at time management as a self-employed
person. Make sure you give your daughter some cooling-off,
relaxing time before she has to do work upon returning home. She
is a person, not a machine, and school is stressful. Let her
relax a little bit.
Instilling useful behavior: What I have found most effective is
to create the structure that will work for my son. So, no
computer games before homework. Bedtime is firm; he can't stay up
until 1 a.m. doing homework. Because he loves to get on the game,
he will get down to his homework fairly quickly in order to play
afterwards. Because of our son's other issues, we also used
tutors last year four nights/week, mainly so that he knew that at
5 p.m., there would be someone waiting to do homework with him.
He couldn't procrastinate (or, in his case, work himself into a
panic zone). He just had to sit down and do it. You probably
don't need tutors, but you can create a homework zone of certain
hours, using her favorite activities (texting? phone calls?
computer time) as the carrot.
think long-term improvement
We are struggling to figure out which direction to pursue in terms of
getting help for our bright but very disorganized daughter who will
be starting high school this Fall. She is a smart girl who was
diagnosed with moderate level sensory integration issues in
kindergarten, received 3 years of occupational therapy and several
years of tutoring to address challenges with her writing, (mechanics,
spelling and grammar.) She attended a private school K-5, and then we
tried public school 6 and 7th, but for social reasons ended up
removing her from public middle school and sending her back to
private school for 8th grade. She is a bright girl and has mostly
done well in school as long as she receives appropriate support. In
4th grade we were about to do a full neuropsych evaluation for
several thousand dollars but just prior to the eval at a meeting with
her teacher decided to hold off on the eval since she was doing so
well in school and her test scores were so high except for the
specific areas where we new she would have challenges and she was
already receiving tutoring. Last year, upon returning to private
school, she needed quite a bit of help organizing a major final year
project. While she ultimately did well, the kinds of things that were
occurring included her completing homework but then forgetting to
turn it in, loosing things constantly, having a binder that is a
fright to look at etc. etc. Definitely major challenges with
executive functioning. She is about to start high school where the
challenges for organization will only increase, and the expectation
of increased independence will as well. We plan to hire a tutor to
help support her but the confusing part is should we get her
evaluated, and if so what kind of evaluation, the full 6,000.00
neuropsych evaluation? I have read reviews on this site about
behavioral pediatricians who evaluate for ADHD and LD. I do not,
however, think that we would be wanting to pursue medication, as she
does too well to warrant this, but clearly has something going on and
not sure how best to address this. A rambling confused post here but
that is representative of our uncertainty about what is going on and
what makes sense to pursue. Anyone have similar experiences? Its not
that we need a label, but want to make sure we are supporting her in
the most appropriate way possible to give our bright daughter the
best chance of succeeded in high school and beyond.
My son also has executive fuction disorder. We had him tested in
8th grade, and he has no other disability. He is also very
bright, but was struggling with every aspect of school
organization. The best thing we ever did was get him involved
with Student Organizational Services, based in Walnut Creek.
Beth Samuelson, the founder and director, absolutely changed my
son's life. SOS offers a fabulous weekend seminar, ''Nailing
Ninth Grade'', which addresses the very issues you mentioned.
The seminars fill up quickly though, and if you have missed them
for this summer, I highly recommend the one-on-one coaching. My
son worked with Beth throughout high school, and developed all
the skills necessary to succeed in college. He just completed
his freshman year with flying colors. Check them out:
www.sos4students.com. Good luck!
I have taught freshman comp at community colleges and also work
as a tutor for high school students. Most teachers like to know
as much as they can about their students before the classes
begin. In a class of 30 students, I won't always know the
difference between someone with an executive functioning
challenge and someone who is just not trying. Evaluations,
though expensive, do help teachers to specifically support
individual students. They also allow for things like extra time
taking tests, etc. I've seen this help my students immeasurably
-- and have also found that students are more confident when
they know their specific stumbling blocks and know that it is
okay to ask for what they need. That's my two cents!
I just read your post now.As you are not necessarily interested
in a label or medication for your daughter, I offer this as a
possible option. Interesting coincidence = I am reading this new
book ''Transcendence'' by Dr.Rosenthal, the psychiatrist who
pioneered the work done on SAD/Seasonal Affective Disorder. Last
night I read on page 122 ''Executive Functions: Keys to
Effectiveness'' in which he states,''the biggest surprise to me,
after listening to the stories of dozens of people was the
impact of TM (Transcendental Meditation) on their personal
organization, effectiveness, and quality of thinking---in short,
on their executive functions.'' Interesting alternative??
Traditional medication is not the only option. My son has
specific diagnoses, including a late diagnosis of ADHD, but
could not tolerate traditional medication. He has worked with a
naturopath on neurotransmitter testing and is taking
supplements. He will be changing those supplements shortly
following a recent test. The website is neurorelief.com
(Neuroscience), and they will refer you to a practitioner. The
supplements have helped and we a hoping the new supplements will
My son has had neuropsychological testing, which he
needed for accommodations. If your daughter needs
accommodations, a neuropsychological evaluation is the best
option, particularly for the testing bureaus and colleges.
However, testing for accommodations needs to be current, so
timing is key. There are many options for testing for ADHD that
are less costly. Her pediatrician should be able to give you a
referral. If you suspect learning disabilities, it probably
would be.better to do the neuropsychological testing. Good
''Its not that we need a label, but want to make sure we are
supporting her in the most appropriate way possible to give our
bright daughter the best chance of succeeded in high school and
This is the very reason I **finally** took my teenage daughter
to have a neuropsych eval. I am so very glad we did it.
After extensive research, we went to the Eide Clinic in Seattle.
What impressed me the most about our visit was that, while one
of the doctors was testing my daughter, the other doctor was
chatting with me. This was the first time in my life I got to
sit with a doctor for hours at a time discussing my child! I
came away with pages and pages of notes.
You might want to read the book The Mislabeled Child by Fernette
and Brock Eide. I found it very helpful and it gave me an idea
of their approach to LD's. BTW,the Eides are neurologists
(M.D.'s), not psychologists. There is a lot of info about them
on the internet. Their website is www.neurolearning.com.
The bad news is that my daughter does have a learning
disability. The good news is that it is very specific, so no
further testing is necessary. At least now we know what we're
up against and how best to help her. BTW, my daughter is very
glad to know. It helped tremendously to have the doctors
explain it directly to her.
The total cost of the trip to Seattle, including the evaluation,
airfare, hotel, car rental, etc. was $5000. To keep costs down,
only the two of us made the trip.
Best wishes to you and your child.
I commend you for all you've done to discern how best to serve
and support your daughter and and for keeping her successful so
far. In my professional role as an educational therapist I often
think of the neuropsych eval as the thing you do next as a
parent when there are still unanswered questions. It sounds like
that is where you are. It may be that your daughter doesn't need
a comprehensive eval since many things are working well for her.
But the 'executive function' piece is where things seem to be
falling apart for her, and learning more about that one piece
could help all of you, including and especially your daughter,
better understand how her brain works, as well as help you
determine on how and what skills to focus on to best prepare her
for not just school, college, etc, but her life.
Hi - Your daughter and my son sound like they have very similar
challenges. We are just entering sr year - and might actually
make it! I would recommend not spending the $ on more evals use
it for tutors, coaching, therapy - real world ''point of
performance'' (as Dr Barkley says) behavior awareness and
creation of HABITS. Would love to talk to you about this- hard
to find fellow travelers on this exec function deal. It is very
tough. Email me if you would like. Another Mom
You might try getting an evaluation at the Ann Martin center in
Oakland. It is less expensive, but high quality. You could
work with the psychologist to get an evaluation that is more
targeted at educational issues than psychological/medication
issues. We did that during the summer before high school, and
it was very helpful.
That being said, if your daughter's functioning requires this
kind of intervention, wouldn't you want to get as complete a
picture as possible? Why not get a full evaluation? Like any
parent would be, we were very reluctant to consider medication,
but if you have a child with ADHD, we have found it can really
be helpful in a way that nothing else is.
Best of luck!
My 14 year old/8th grader is continually turning assignments in late - and has
recently "forgot" about a take home test. His actual work is good - usually an A
or B+, but he is marked down a letter-grade for lateness, and so his morale is
down and his overall GPA is really suffering. We have tried everything we can
think of to help him get organized - offering bulletin boards, and date books,
and printing out class weekly assignments. We have taken away privileges or
had calm discussions, we have left him alone to take the consequences or have
intervened to give him structure. NOTHING seems to help. I know this
hormonal and somewhat age appropriate - but it is really concerning us. He
wants to go to Berkeley High next year rather than private school, but I am
reluctant because he doesn't seem to be able to be responsible and handle his
basic obligations - and I know he needs to be "self-motivated and
self-disciplined" in order to do well there. PLEASE offer any suggestions on how
we can help him get his act together.
Re: forgetfulness. I wonder whether your child has ADD or some other
kind of similar problem. It might be good to have your child tested
by a neuropsychologist to find out. Then it might be clearer how to
handle the situation. If you want recommendations, I'd be happy to
give them to you. Good luck. S.
I also have a son (now 13) who tends to be forgetful. In reality, he
is not "forgetful" he just has a tendency to become spacey and
ungrounded. Sugar and fatigue are what make him very spacey.
Therefore, what we do is ensure that his diet is as sugar free as
possible (no soda, no candy, no ice cream on a school night, and no
white flour or white rice), that his diet includes lots of vegetables
and fruits and is primarily whole grain, and that he gets a good
night's sleep every night. This makes a big difference. The diet
part has been a challenge, and was implemented over 4-5 years. But,
he is now willing to participate in both the diet and the sleep
because he can tell the difference, amd he doesn't like it when he has
a hard time focusing and remembering.
I need some advice on how to handle my daughter's lack of organizational
skills. Mainly she needs help in getting her school work and supplies
together. We have tried almost everything...therapy, lists, folders,
organizers, etc. etc.... Because of this problem, she is getting very low
grades in her classes since she is forgetting her homework, equipment, books
and other things she needs for classes. I should mention that my daughter is
16 and is a sophomore. She has had this problem since she started school. I
have had her tested and she doesn't have ADD or any other "disorder". We are
at our wit's end. Punishments don't seem to help, neither does praise or
positive reinforcement. She and I can sit down and talk about this, and she
always says that she wants to do better, but nothing seems to last. Also, I
should mention that she is very responsible and together when she babysits and
people like her to take care of their children. Any advice or help would be
greatly appreciated. I have run out of ideas.
My very smart 12-year-old son inherited my husband's disorganizational
apptitude, which means that he has somewhat low executive functioning
skills when it comes to school work.
We hired a "coach" who not only helps with organizational skills, but also
helps work through how to approach homework, strategies for finishing
assignments and for getting the assignment turned in on time and to the
this page was last updated: Nov 9, 2013
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network