A Resource for Teachers, Clinicians, Parents, and Students by the Brain Injury Association of New York State.
Problem: The student appears to have difficulty organizing materials, language, and ideas; items in his desk and locker are disorganized; descriptions and narratives are poorly organized; written papers are poorly organized.
Cognitive / Self-Regulatory Possibility:
Specific Organizational Impairment

Step 1: Organize observations relevant to the problematic behavior/issue

  • Who is reporting the problem?
  • When does it occur? (Include time of day, activities etc).
  • Where does it occur?
  • What tends to precede the problematic behavior/issue?
  • What tends to follow the problematic behavior/issue?
  • What is the age and functioning level of the student?
  • Previous documentation/charts?

Step 2: Identify possible contributors to the problematic behavior/issue

In many cases, there are several contributors to the student’s identified problem. These contributors may interact with each other, therefore, it may be necessary to combine tests from different categories of possibilities. The existence of several interacting contributors may become obvious as you proceed through individual intervention experiments.

Specific Organizational Impairment: Some students may have difficulty with organization as a result of a specific organizational impairment. (See Tutorial on Organization.)

Relevant Observations: The student’s performance is related to the organizational demands of the task. If a task is not routine and/or has many components to be organized, the student may be unable to succeed. The student may appear confused and disorganized. The student’s materials may be poorly organized. (See Tutorial on Organization.)

Useful experiments for assessment and intervention:

  1. Observe and record the frequency and/or intensity of the problem behavior when a new teaching strategy or support is being implemented versus when it is not being implemented.
  2. Possible organization-related teaching strategies or supports (See Tutorial on Organization): Maintaining components of a task, deliver the task within a well understood routine versus within elements of novelty. Compare performance when advance organizers (e.g., picture cues, written outline) are used versus when they are not used. Compare performance when the teacher presents one task at a time versus a multiple component task that requires organizing.
  3. If the frequency and/or intensity of the targeted behavior decreases during intervention, it may be that this problem behavior is in part a result of specific organizational impairment. (See Tutorials on Organization; Advance Organizers; Instructional Routines)

Possible referrals: School psychologist for assessment; instructional support specialist for instructional strategies

A program of the Brain Injury Association of New York State, and funded by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

Copyright 2006, by
The Brain Injury Association of New York State
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