10 Tips for Helping Students With ADHD Get Organized

Help Your Child Develop Better Organizational Strategies for School

boy doing homework
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If your child has ADHD you may be very familiar with his or her tendency to lose assignments somewhere between school and home, to forget to bring books home for study, to turn in school work late or incomplete, to create an overflowing locker (and desk and book bag) stuffed with endless piles of papers, books, half-eaten lunches, even notes from the teacher that never make it into your hand. And somehow, even after providing boxes of them, there is no pencil to be found when needed!

Sometimes kids with ADHD get labeled as irresponsible, careless, or lazy. This criticism is not only inaccurate and unhelpful, it is obviously quite hurtful.

Chronic disorganization can be debilitating to people with ADHD. Disorganization and forgetfulness are actually both included among the criteria for diagnosing ADHD. Impairments in these areas are often related to executive function deficits that make it harder to plan ahead, remember, prioritize, get started, self-monitor, and complete tasks.

Kids with ADHD often need a lot of structure and support to help with organization, but they can develop good organizational habits early on with your assistance. The first and most important step in helping your child with organization at school is to work closely and collaboratively with your child's teacher. Good communication between home and school is essential.

Organizational Strategies for School

Here are some tips for helping students with ADHD develop good organizational habits:

  1. Work with your child to set up a specially designated study area at home that is free of distractions. This work space should be kept well-organized. Help your child do this by leading him or her through the steps necessary to keep the area neat and cleared of unnecessary items. Know that you will need to supervise your child and help him through this process on a regular basis. Make this a part of your daily routine.
  1. Provide supplies needed such as pencils, pens, paper, ruler, paper clips, pencil sharpener, dictionary, calculator, etc. Label drawers in the study area desk or table and help your child place supplies in the designated drawer.

  2. Work with your child's teacher to set up a system for getting assignments down in a notebook that will travel back and forth from school to home with your child. This assignment notebook/folder should include a calendar or planner that can be used to keep track of longer term projects due dates and test dates. Review this calendar regularly with your child. Use the calendar to help your child break down longer projects into smaller segments. Keep in mind that you may need to be creative with your child to help him find a system that works for him.

  3. At school the teacher can offer support by gently reminding your child when it is time to write assignments in notebook, making sure he understands the assignments, and checking to see that the assignments are written down correctly in notebook. At the end of the school day it is also helpful for the teacher to check to see that appropriate books, papers, and the homework notebook make it into your child's book bag.

  1. If your child has difficulty with handwriting, ask the teacher about giving your child a printed handout of daily assignments that can be included in the homework notebook. Even better if the teacher can provide handouts that have already had three holes punched out in advance and the handouts can be placed directly into the homework notebook.

  2. At the end of homework time before the next school day review with your child the homework papers and books that need to go back into his book bag for school. Supervise your child as he gets these items zipped inside the book bag and placed in a designated spot near the door to the house. This way the book bag can easily be found in the morning.

  3. Ask the teacher about scheduling regular times for your child to organize and clean out desk and locker at school. Be sure to schedule regular times for your child to clean out school backpack and notebooks at home, as well. Understand that your child will need supervision and help in these chores. Guiding your child through these steps and practicing these skills again and again is necessary in order for good habits to form.
  4. It is often helpful to designate areas of the desk or locker for specific items. You can even "draw out" these areas with tape to indicate where items should go -- for example, notebooks, books, folders, writing utensils, etc. This will make it easier to place items back in the right spot so they can be found when needed.

  5. Purchase a set of color-coded book covers, notebooks, and folders for each subject area. Your child can organize his work by colors. For example, he may choose red for math, yellow for language arts, green for science, etc. Share with the teacher so she (or he) can support your child in using this system, as well. She can even highlight handouts for each subject by using the corresponding color somewhere on the page.
  6. Set up a motivating reward system to positively reinforce your child as he shows improvements in developing more and more organizational skills in his daily life!

 

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