How to Make the Most of Your Child’s Locker and Prevent a Black Hole

October 18, 2014

in Ask Dr Lisa, Autism Challenges

Dr. Lisa, my son has started middle school and has his very own locker. At first, he was super excited about this, but as he got use to middle school, he has been coming home complaining that he has to carry all his books around in his backpack all day because his locker is impossible to open and he keeps losing his work in it. I noticed also a few incomplete/missing assignments on the parent portal system we use.  I sent an email to his guidance counselor, but is there anything that I can do to help him overcome his frustration and avoidance of his locker?”  Nancy

Lockers. In our house we call them black holes, assignment eating monsters, and useless metal noise makers.

Well, at least we did call them that until we implemented a few adaptive locker strategies to help our sons overcome the locker challenge.  I have talked about this one before, but you can never talk about locker insanity too much. Honest.

Bottom line is if the locker wins, your child is carrying a huge load of books on his back all day, which from the chiropractic point of view, is not a good thing for the spine.  So, let’s lasso this locker problem for you.

Lockers can create a huge amount of anxiety for kids with sensory problems and/or kids on the Spectrum. Typically a child has to navigate from one class, down crazy crowded hallways, to his next class. This alone is enough to overwhelm his nervous system and create an overtilted neurological response such as poor behavior, social skills, academic performance, melt downs and anxiety problems.  Add the child stopping off at his locker where other students are slamming their lockers as he struggles with the combination to open his locker and you have a train wreck in progress. If we look at this closely, his nervous system is now overstimulated, and unfortunately if he cannot self-regulate it back to a balanced state, problems in areas of social, behavior, emotion and academics can result. No wonder many overtilted kids avoid lockers!

 What Can You do to Help Your Child?

Choose the Best Locker Location

Call your child’s guidance counselor and/or Child Study Team to discuss your concerns regarding his locker and missed assignments.  Find out if your son’s locker is placed on the end and above (not below) other lockers. The placement of his locker at the end and on the top row actually avoids the slamming of other lockers above his head and ears. Also, find out if your son’s locker is easily accessible for you son to get to throughout the day.  It is very common for students to not have enough time to get through crowded hallways, to their lockers and onto their next class. Therefore, making sure your child’s locker is in a central location is super helpful, but this may not always be possible. Try to figure it out.

Use a Number or Word Lock

If your child is having trouble with the combination locks, you can have the original lock taken off by the school custodian. You can replace it with either a thin combination lock that you can practice with at home together, a key lock, or a word lock.  My son prefers the word locks instead of number combination or key locks. He also uses another word lock for his gym locker too. This is a huge win for overtilted kids because sometimes half the locker battle is overcoming that dreaded combination lock.

Teach Your Child How to Use a Locker

I strongly urge you to also teach your child the skill of how to use his locker most efficiently. Lockers seem to suck up books, homework assignments, hall passes and school IDs. You name it; it is probably in that black hole of a locker. Try the following strategy to help your child use his locker wisely.

THE TOP SHELF:  Designate the top shelf in the locker as the spot your child places only his books and folders to go home.  As he goes about his day and makes trips to his locker, tell him to place only his homework books and folders for that night on the top shelf and to place all other books not going home on the bottom. Now when last period arrives, all he has to do is go to his locker and grab the homework ready books and folders and go.

THE BOOK BAG HOOK:  If you child’s locker has hooks, use a hook to hang your child’s book bag on. This way he does not carry it around all day with him. Tell your child that his book bag must  on the hook and it now is  the place where he will put the books and folders that need to go home that night in. All his other books that are not going home can be tossed on the top or bottom shelf.  Now your child can go about his school day without a book bag and instead, place his homework books and folders into his book bag. When it is time to go home all he has to do is open his locker, grab his book bag and go!

Remember, we cannot expect a child who struggles with organizational skills to put his books and homework in his locker, relocate them at the end of the day, and/or have the resurface the following day.  Organized teachers, administrators and parents must teach the concept and skills of organization. They never expect it. So go and help your child overcome his black hole, assignment eating, useless metal noise maker monster locker.

Is your child not using his locker? Share you story here.

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Resources: * Always read disclaimer and photo is by Dollar Photo.

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