15 Ways to Teach Better Organization to Kids with ADHD

How teachers and parents can help children with ADHD master better organization and time-management skills at school and at home.

Wooden desk with school supplies neatly laid out belonging to ADHD student
Wooden desk with school supplies neatly laid out belonging to ADHD student

Work with your student or child to build systems or routines that encourage better organizational skills. Here are some ideas for getting started…

Classroom Solutions

1. Color-code academic materials. Use green for all science notebooks, binders, and folders, plus keep related classroom materials in matching green bins.

2. Post steps for routines. Hang colorful signs to show where homework, lunchboxes, and parent-teacher correspondence should be placed. A reminder about dismissal might read: Did you clear off your desk? Did you pack your book bag? Do you have your jacket, lunchbox, and homework assignment?

Post procedures for special periods, such as library time or computer lab, and hand out copies for students to keep in their binders.

3. Simplify the flow of papers. Provide each student with three clear, pocket-type folders — labeled “Mail,” “Homework to Do,” and “Completed Homework.”

[Get This Free Download: 10 Solutions for Disorganization at School]

4. Schedule a class clean-up. Provide time for students to declutter their binders, backpacks, and desks. Hold periodic inspections, and award prizes for tidiness.

5. Post a master calendar showing all upcoming activities, projects, and deadlines.

6. Use an analog clock, which makes it easier for students to track the passage of time. Make a game out of predicting how long various activities take.

7. Provide structure for long-term projects, and break projects into manageable steps. Post deadlines for each stage and refer to them frequently. Let parents know about these due dates, as well.

[Click to Read: School Organization 101 — Clutter-Free Backpacks and Bedrooms]

Home Solutions

1. Help your child categorize his school materials — notebooks/binders, workbooks/texts, pens/pencils — and assign each category its own compartment or pocket in his backpack. A three-ring binder with colored tabs for separate subjects and inserts with pockets for notes, works well for many students.

2. Separate ongoing projects, finished work, and school and art supplies into labeled bins, folders, file cabinets, or an under-bed box in your child’s room.

3. Provide a shelf for books and a bulletin board for reminders. Give your child a stapler, a three-hole punch, big binder clips, and other ADHD-friendly organization tools.

4. Fill a supply cabinet with pencils, rulers, tape, binders, and other essentials. Post a checklist in the cabinet that your child can mark when she takes an item.

5. Keep an extra set of textbooks at home. Make the extra books part of the IEP, or request them from the teacher at the beginning of the term.

6. Prepare for the next day. As your child packs his book bag each evening, make sure that homework is in its folder and that everything he’ll need — violin, sneakers, lunch money — is ready to go in the morning. Reserve a shelf or cabinet by the front door for items that your child takes to school every day. Label it with colored stickers, so that glasses, wallet, and bus pass can be easily found. Hang a hook underneath for a backpack or sports bag.

7. Give your child a pad of sticky notes, and encourage him to post special reminders on mirrors, doors, and elsewhere.

8. Give your child a daily planner to keep track of deadlines, appointments, events, and so on. Encourage her to keep a daily to-do list, and teach her to prioritize by dividing tasks into two groups: Important (do it now!) and Less Important (do it anytime). Go over the next day’s schedule together every night.

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