The School Supplies Your Child Actually Needs: 10 ADHD Essentials

Anyone who has lost a paycheck to The Container Store or IKEA knows that organization systems, though supremely alluring, cannot cure ADHD. That said, equipping our children with smart school supplies and strategies for using them can give them a leg up — and some helpful new habits. Here are 10 of my favorite back-to-school supplies for kids with ADHD.

1 of 10

Accordion Folders


Simplify the supplies. I can’t stress this enough. With your child’s teachers’ permission, purchase multi-functional items. Less stuff to manage means fewer items to forget for each class. Think unfussy and streamlined, which is always better for a student with ADHD.

One idea that works well for students who like to keep each subject in a separate binder is an accordion binder that comes with a loose-leaf section for taking notes AND a 7-pocket accordion file for housing homework, tests, etc. The accordion even fits composition notebooks, an academic planner, and small books. This eliminates the need to carry all these supplies separately. And since it is available in 10 different colors, she can easily color-code all your child’s subjects.

If your child's has a block schedule (different classes depending on the day), an accordion folder will keep everything she needs in one place.

2 of 10

Desktop Hutch


A desktop hutch maximizes the room’s vertical space and, even more importantly, it puts essential items in your child’s eye line. Having books and supplies front and center also provides students with a visual cue to prompt them to get work done or to bring the right materials to class.

For more ideas on maximizing small spaces, grab some of my tips for organizing college dorm rooms.

3 of 10

Message Center


If you have ample wall space, hang bulletin or peg boards. They come in fun colors and provide space for notes, lesson plans, charts, schedules, or other visual teaching aids. Or use your wall space to create a message center. Use magnetic, cork, and dry-erase boards or clipboards to hold papers you need to quickly access, keep to-do lists in sight, and make the daily schedule easily visible to all.

If your child is learning from home, this message center is a must for homeschooling organization.

[Read this Next: School Organization 101: Clutter-Free Backpacks and Bedrooms]

4 of 10

Clear Folders and Drawers


Clear is king! If your child can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Clear, transparent folders, dividers, and binders are natural, visual reminders of the physical locations of his resources. Try using clear, transparent folders, bins, plastic sleeves or even magazine files for organizing papers. And don’t forget to label each one.

Keeping paper in a visible container also means you can say bye-bye to disorganized piles of paper.

5 of 10

Label Maker


Labels are your best friend… and your child’s! Make sure to label each container clearly. This will act as a visual reminder of what’s inside and also help you know where things go when you’re tired after a long school day.

6 of 10

Paper Planner


A paper planner is a time-management tool; not a “list keeper.” A proper academic planner also helps you also visualize what’s ahead so you can plan for and manage when you have time to do it. It should follow the academic calendar and leave subject descriptions blank for ultimate customization.

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.

No matter the method, the best school planner is the one that works for your child.

7 of 10

Desktop Divider


Does your child prefer sitting at the table with her siblings because it provides her with a much-needed energy boost, but seeing them is too much sensory stimulation for her? If so, then outfit her with an inexpensive three-sided tabletop presentation board to block her view while sitting at the table. This way she has privacy while reaping the benefits of being near her siblings.

Desktop dividers are also helpful for creating sensory-friendly spaces for online learning.

[Get This Free Download: Teacher-Approved Apps & Tools for School]

8 of 10

Noise-Canceling Headphones


Headphones and a white noise app are a must-have on EVERY college student’s list. These tools are perfect for when your teen needs to drown out noises while working anywhere, but especially in a dorm room. Plenty of white noise apps can keep her focused while also toning down the sounds of her roommates

9 of 10

Big Rings


The best way to keep spiral notebooks and folders together is to use big metal rings, available at any office supply store or online. For large lecture classes, it’s much easier to use a notebook and a folder in corresponding colors, held together by a ring, than to try to keep a bulky binder under control. Make sure to include this practical item in your child's college packing list.

10 of 10

Magazine Files Folders


Magazine files will be your student’s best friend for school supply organization; especially when dorm and bed rooms are short on surface space. If his desk has a hutch, place the magazine files on top, label one for each class and place all his books, folders, etc. in them when not in use. This makes finding what he needs easy so he can grab and go in a breeze.

School Supplies for ADHD: Next Steps

Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.

As an Amazon Associate, ADDitude earns a commission from qualifying purchases made by ADDitude readers on the affiliate links we share. However, all products linked in the ADDitude Store have been independently selected by our editors and/or recommended by our readers. Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.