Ask the Experts

Q: “What’s the Best Planner for a Student with ADHD and Dysgraphia?”

The best planner is one that works with your child’s unique ADHD brain and learning style. Here’s why paper helps many students, and alternatives to accommodate writing challenges.

Q: “I have trouble pushing a paper calendar or planner for my son, who has dysgraphia. When we’ve tried in the past, it’s gotten messy very quickly because it’s hard to keep up with changes and details. I use the phone calendar, which is not perfect but much neater and better at handling changes. What do you think?”

I’m never a fan of pushing any type of organizing or time-management system on anyone. How we learn is how we organize our time, our spaces, and everything in between. Different systems work for different brain types. I’m a paper planner girl; digital simply doesn’t work for me. And I know I’m never going to change no matter how much my husband would like to sync our calendars!

That said, I do favor paper planners for my students for many reasons. (And in the interest of true disclosure, my company, Order Out Of Chaos, makes academic planners.)

Here’s my philosophy: Your student needs some type of planning tool to… well, plan! It’s all well and good for him to write what he needs to do in a digital calendar, but a proper academic planner helps you visualize what’s ahead so you can see your time and plan the time to do it.

Trust me when I say one of the most frequently asked questions I get from parents is how to get their student to use a paper planner. I get buy-in by asking my student coaching clients not what they have to do today or tomorrow or even next week, but when they have time to do it. Simply, a paper planner is a time-management tool; not a “list keeper.”

If your child has dysgraphia and struggles with writing in a planner, then please find an electronic version of a planner that is laid out in a grid system, that shows both weekly and monthly views, and that allows him to write down both his assignments and any additional activities that require his time. This will give him the big picture — the sum of all his moving parts.

And just some food for thought: I have plenty of students with writing challenges and they still use a paper planner. Many of them have devised their own shorthand or abbreviations or use “texting” language.

Good Luck!

Best Planners for Students: Next Steps

ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!

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