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

The bottomless backpack. The always-messy desk. And, oh, the forgotten homework. These are all common problems among kids with ADHD and executive function deficits. Punishment won’t make a difference; this organization system might!

Young students with ADHD going to school with organized and color-coded school supplies
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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.

Students like this one with a good paper management system, a good school organization idea, will be much more prepared.
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Stop Pushing Those Papers

Come up with a paper management system at the beginning of the school year. For younger children, the organization system 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 his school organization ideas, because he will be the one using the system.

A child writing in a notebook with larger than usual spaces, a good school organization idea that helps adhd children.
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Choose the Right Supplies

Kids with ADHD and LD 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.

[Download: Your free Guide to Solving Disorganization at School]

A student writing her assignment down, a good school organization idea.
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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 in her planner, to ensure accuracy. Encourage your child 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).

Two students reviewing filing systems, one good strategy for school organization.
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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.

Reminders, like this one, are good school organization ideas.
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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.

Many different school supplies shown here must be on available when needed in a good school organization system.
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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.

[Free Checklist: Common Executive Function Challenges — and Solutions]

A good school organization idea is to have a container for everything like this student has for her pencils.
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Everything Needs a Home

Keep school supplies organized by providing a place for everything: a box for pens, pencils, and markers; 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 posterboard) out of sight to avoid distractions.

Two students work on homework together in a well organized and clutter free environment, a good school organization idea.
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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 out and reorganize backpacks, assignment notebooks, and work binders.

A girl with a well managed backpack, which is a good school organization idea.
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Set a Backpack Routine

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

A student easily finds her books in a clean locker, a good school organization idea.
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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 school materials 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.)

[Listen to “Practical Organization and Time Management Strategies for Middle and High Schoolers with ADHD” with Michelle Cooper and Michelle Grey]

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