School Organization Hacks for Kids with ADHD

3 simple strategies for easing the transition back to school for your child with ADHD.

Three students with ADHD and colorful backpacks walk to school on city street
Three students with ADHD and colorful backpacks walk to school on city street

Welcome to the new school year! Once again, our children are modeling new sneakers and getting excited to see their friends again. And we are happy for the structure and routine that comes with the Fall.

What we’re less excited about: the anxiety that plagues many families as they re-orient kids and accommodations to a new teacher. The teacher doesn’t yet know your child, his ADHD, or how he learns. It likely took a whole year of work to get to the point where last year’s teacher finally got your child. And now here we go again.

Don’t fret; here are some ideas for easing the transition:

Let’s Meet

Once the school year begins, contact your Case Manager or 504 Accommodation Plan Coordinator and request a meeting with your child’s team. This will allow you the opportunity to sit with each of your child’s teachers to review his accommodations, learning style, and emotional/behavioral/social needs.

This is your chance to give your child’s team the inside scoop because there is no need to reinvent the wheel. You know your child’s strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and signs that she has lost focus or is struggling.

This is also your time to establish a regular communication plan with the team — email, phone, communication book, or other. Also, before you leave that meeting, set a time to meet again in about one month’s time. You are clearly communicating to your child’s school staff that you are looking to create a team approach, and all parties will be held accountable for strategies discussed or plans established.

A Place for Everything

You know that once your child walks in through the door, his stuff is everywhere, and never in the same place twice! School items are often forgotten and you would like to see this change. Okay, I have a plan for you!

Pick up a bucket for each of your children; each one can have a different color or you can label each one. This will be the dumping place for all of your child’s things once she walks in through the door and as she is leaving in the morning. Backpack, shoes, jacket, umbrella and whatever else can fit sits in the same place all the time. The closer this bucket can be to where your child enters into the house, the better.

When it comes to iPods, iPads and phones, establish a time when all electronics need to be turned in. You can create an identified place where all family members must turn in their electronics and charge them overnight. Upon returning from school, you can ask for the same: Turn it in until homework is completed.

Color Code It

Your child with ADHD is most likely a visual-spatial learner. That is, he thinks in pictures and colors, not necessarily in words. If this is the case for your child, ask your child to assign each subject a color. Then, purchase a folder, notebook, and book sock that is all the same color.

For example, if the Math is red, then your child no longer has to process the letters “M-A-T-H”. Instead, he is processing the color red. If he is looking for something in his desk, his locker or his backpack that is related to Math, he is looking for the color red.

At the mid-year point, these materials will likely be pretty beaten up, so replace them all and encourage your child to re-create the system. The freshness of the new materials will peak your child’s interest in his school materials again.

Although the beginning of the new school year is an exciting time of the year, take the scary part out of it by trying some of these strategies to help make the transition into the fall a smooth one!