Published on ADDitudeMag.com

11 Ways to Get Your ADHD Child Organized for School

ADHD children have impaired executive function, leading to forgotten papers, missed deadlines, and perpetually messy desks. Punishment won't fix the problem; a great organization system might!


Double Up on School Supplies

Remembering to tote school supplies and books back and forth every day can add significant stress for children with ADHD. Request a second set of textbooks to keep at home (some schools provide this as an IEP or 504 accommodation) so she doesn't have to do this. Stock a cabinet or closet with supplies. Post a checklist inside the door, and have your child make a note whenever she removes an item.

Stop Pushing Those Papers

Come up with a paper management system at the beginning of the school year. For younger children, it might be something as simple as putting three pocket-type folders in a binder. Label them “Homework to Do,” “Homework Done,” and “Notices.” Teach your child to put homework and notes from the teacher in the right folders. Ask your child for input, because he will be the one using the system. 

Choose the Right Supplies

ADHD and LD kids may have motor-skills difficulties that make handwriting a challenge, so provide an assignment notebook or planner with larger-than-usual spaces in which to write. If your child tends to cram and stuff papers in her backpack and binder, add pocket-type inserts where she can slip papers, or give her an accordion folder.

Write It Down!

Ask the teacher to give assignments in writing (or post them to the school's website), or check what the child has written himself, to ensure accuracy. Encourage him to keep a daily to-do list, and divide tasks into two groups according to priority: "Important" (do it now!) and "Less Important" (do it anytime).

Coordinate Filing Systems

Color-code books and supplies by subject. For example, use yellow for all geography book covers, notebook dividers, and files. Use red for everything related to history class, and so on. Set up a home-filing system with matching colors on your child’s desk. She can then easily store papers that don’t need to be toted around every day.

There's No Such Thing as Too Many Reminders

Make multiple copies of permission slips, event announcements, and other paperwork, and post them in several areas of the house. Give your child a pad of sticky notes, and encourage him to post reminders on mirrors, doors, and other places he’s likely to see them. These will serve as visual reminders of important dates and deadlines.

Keep the Right Tools Handy

Keep a three-hole punch, stapler, and paper clips on your child’s desk to make sure that important papers can be easily inserted into his school binder. Provide a shelf for books, and a bulletin board for important reminders. Keep a case full of standard supplies (sharpened pencils, scissors, etc.) in your child's backpack, so that she doesn't waste time re-sharpening her pencil or digging for a highlighter.

Everything Needs a Home

Provide a place for everything: a box for school supplies, a shelf for books, a bulletin board for announcements, an under-bed box for old artwork and papers. Use colorful signs to show where homework, lunchboxes, etc., belong (for pre-readers, use drawings or photos). Keep items that are seldom used (such as old art projects) out of sight to avoid distractions.

Schedule Frequent Clean-Ups

Take two minutes to organize papers every day. As your child begins homework each evening, have him use the first two minutes to clean papers out of his bag and organize them into folders. This simple habit helps students transition into doing homework. Check belongings daily and hold a weekly clean-up when you clear our and reorder backpacks, assignment notebooks, and work binders.

Set a Backpack Routine

Before bedtime, sign any notes and have your child pack his backpack. During the weekend, go through his backpack to organize the past week's residual papers and prepare for the week ahead.

Keep a Clean Locker

Make a list of everything she needs in her locker (textbooks, dance shoes, class schedule, etc.), then make sure everything has a spot. Have separate spaces for textbooks and personal items, and organize textbooks and notebooks by class. If need be, add extra shelves or hooks. Get rid of trash and anything that is not useful. Then, decide on a regular time to clean it out. (This could mean a weekly straightening or a once-a-semester deep clean, depending on the child.)

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