Organizational Skills for Children with ADHD: Tips for School

What are the most important organizational skills for students with ADHD?

Students with good organizational skills have the ability to create and maintain systems to keep track of information or material. A young child may, subject to a reminder, deposit the school material at a designated place. A teenager can organize and locate sports equipment. Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) have problems with these tasks. Being organized takes time, effort and sustained attention. Of these, your children may only have time – and they would rather do something else with it.

How can students learn organizational skills at school?

  • Make office cleaning part of the daily routine. Half an hour before departure, a teacher might say, “OK, let’s do a quick cleanup!” to her freshman class, encouraging the kids to tidy up their desks and other common areas. When the class is packed, they can play a small group game before getting ready to go home for the day.
  • Talk about that. Organize a class discussion about what it means to be organized. Have the children design a system to clean their lockers or a common play area. Talk about how to organize class routines to make them flow more smoothly. Prepare a suggestion box that the children can use if they think of other ideas.
  • Explain to the class how to prepare and organize a notebook and binder. Whenever you tell students something that should go in the notebook or binder, tell them exactly where it’s going and watch them to make sure they get there. Work in pairs to make sure everyone is following the plan.
  • Use brightly colored paper for project assignments, providing details and due dates. Give each student two copies – one for the notebook and one to display at home.

[This School Year, Get It Together (and Keep It There)]

  • Stay organized yourself. Set up classroom systems for daily routines – turning in homework, collecting lunch money and permissions, etc. Teach systems to students and appoint student monitors to ensure routines are followed as much as possible.
  • Make organization a team effort. Divide the class into two teams, appoint team leaders, and award points for keeping desks clean, lockers or lockers organized, or notebooks tidy. With the class, create a checklist that can be used for inspections. Perform daily or random spot checks and award points based on the checklist. The team with the most points at the end of the week can choose the class reward from a rewards menu.
  • Provide documents that are punched three holes in advance.
  • Keep class systems simple. Use two color-coded folders – red for incomplete assignments, green for completed assignments. Also use it for class work and teach the class to move their work from red to green as the morning progresses. Make sure they pack up the files before they go home. In the morning, have them pull out their green folders with completed homework and place them on their desks to review.
  • Give bonus points, or some other reward, for improving organization skills. Reward disorganized students when they are able to quickly locate a certain book or paper in their desks or notebooks.

[Free Resource: How Teachers Can Manage Common ADHD Behaviors]

How can children learn to organize themselves at home?

  • Label where things need to go. Attach pictures or text to clear plastic containers to show what is going on in each container.
  • Schedule a cleanup after dinner. Set aside five minutes after supper to clean the common areas of the house (living room, counters, locker room). Set a timer, put on some upbeat music, and get the family involved. Make it a daily routine!
  • Ask your child to stay put while cleaning their work area. Instead of picking up what belongs to other rooms, ask him to make piles. One for the bedroom, one for the kitchen, one for the playroom. If he wanders off to another area, chances are he’s getting distracted.
  • Buy your child a cork board and pins — to hang important papers that could get lost on a cluttered desk.
  • Assemble a homework supply kit. Place in a clear plastic container, with a lid, everything she’ll need to complete her homework – from pencils and a glue stick to a calculator and dictionary. With this system, it doesn’t matter where your child chooses to study. The necessary supplies can accompany it everywhere.
  • Provide plastic sleeves for notebooks — and insert them into your child’s notebooks or binders to store important papers that aren’t three-hole punched.
  • Color-coded entries on a calendar — one color for school-related stuff, another for sports, a third for social activities.
  • Take a picture of what cleanliness should look like — whether in a backpack or in your child’s workspace. Ask your child to compare their work to the photograph and critique themselves. Did it do a five-star job (its job looks exactly like the picture), a three-star job (just a few things out of place), or a one-star job (it made an effort but seemed to run out of steam)?
  • Set up a large whiteboard that includes space for a calendar. Give each family member a different colored marker to jot down chores and events for the week, so everyone can easily spot their own.
  • Ask your child to design a system that works for him. An organization system that works for you is unlikely to work as well for your child.
  • Remove the academic component. When helping your child organize their backpack or workspace, don’t say anything about their terrible handwriting or a paper their teacher has annotated with comments. Keep getting organized. You work on the organization, not the academics.
  • Ask permission before going to her backpack to help her organize it. You wouldn’t want it in your purse or briefcase without asking first.
  • Make organizing a family affair. Sometimes entire families face organizational challenges. If so, acknowledge your difficulties and ask the family to choose one problem to solve. Design a system and get commitment from family members to follow the program for a few weeks to see if it helps. Have a meeting after one week to evaluate and refine the system, and decide on a reward if everyone passes the second week.
  • Tackle one mess at a time. The biggest disadvantage for parents is that children organize their room, their backpack and their homework space at the same time. Pick a task, run that system, and after a month or two move on to another task.

[Free Download: Routines for Morning and Night]

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