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Disorganised boys

Professor Raj Persaud is a consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley hospital and senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry in London

"Teachers have to decide if disorganisation in a child signals a motivational problem. They need to find out if it affects every aspect of the student's life. I have known children who seem very disorganised but who have, say, a perfect catalogue of cards of FA Premiership players, because that is what they are most interested in. Those children are not disorganised. If a child is always late for business studies but always on time for football, that child is not disorganised but demotivated about business studies. The disorganisation is localised.

"But a child who is too muddled to accomplish even his or her favourite activities must be taught how to prioritise, how to do the right thing at the right time, to do the most important thing first, and to plan the day accordingly. Of course, underlying a lot of disorganisation is procrastination: putting things off until it's too late. People procrastinate because they get immediate benefit - for example, watching the telly when they should be doing their homework or revising. They have to be shown that they are storing up worse problems for the future, such as failing their exams. One way of tackling this is to bring the future nearer; get pupils to sit tests or mock exams each week and so lessen the opportunity for procrastination."

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