If you have a child with ADHD, you witness their normal daily struggles. School poses even more challenges when a child juggles personal organization, getting homework done, keeping track of permission slips, managing hygiene, participating in activities, etc. PsychCentral.com says, “... ADHD affects the very skills that are required for success in school. Kids with ADHD have difficulty getting started, prioritizing, planning, managing their time and emotions, staying on task and focusing... It’s the nature of the disorder, which impairs the executive functions of the brain.” So where do you start when it’s time to head back to school?
Make a fresh start... every month
Start with a massive cleaning session to clear out the clutter from last school year. Clear out the backpack, the closet, the bookshelves. Put regular (monthly) cleaning sessions on the calendar to keep up with the paper monster.
Your child won’t keep up with any system they didn’t help to create themselves. One mom of three shared, “... your kid needs to do what works for them — they should be the one to come up with an organizational method.”
Limit choices and decision fatigue
“One helpful tip a teacher told me (and has worked) is less is more. I got my son all these binders with tabs, but she said one simple folder is sometimes more helpful,” says a mom who wishes to remain anonymous.
Dr. Lisa Adams, Ph.D. and school psychologist for 10 years, suggests, “Depending on age, organize and color code binders. Use the same color for all math, etc.” Choose colored binders with clear front/side areas for easy labeling. Staples has a great line of colored 2-inch binders with a large attached pocket in the front cover with customizable front and sides.
A spot designated just for doing homework and nothing else is key. No phones or other distractions are allowed. Start with the most difficult subjects first and take frequent activity breaks. Dana Baker-Williams, mom of an ADHD child, says, “She and I would set up a quiet place for her to study and set a schedule for homework. She had pens that she could use on her mirror closet doors to write out assignments and due dates. Then she could prioritize better. We’d also break assignments into more bite-size pieces, if they were large or long projects.”
Dr. Adams adds, “Develop a system of retrieving assignments, a time for doing them, a time for turning them in. Provide continuous parent oversight until the system is learned.”
If you still need a helping hand, check out the various tutoring services found on our site so your child can catch up, stay on track, or get ahead.
You can help make school more exciting for your ADHD kid by teaching them organization skills and working with teachers for long-term success throughout the coming school year and beyond. These are skills they can use their whole lives to help them out in college, jobs, and relationships as well.
ADHD Organizational Tips for Kids
- Work that planner! Have your child commit 15 minutes each morning to preparing for the day and 15 minutes at night reviewing and thinking about what could have gone differently. Rebelling against the planner is normal; create rewards for sticking with it. (There are a zillion different planners, so review a bunch on YouTube first.)
- Do things in small chunks. Instead of them sitting down until they are done with all of their homework, try setting a timer for 15-20 minutes and then allow them to get up, move around and come back to it. Just don’t let them wander too far!
- No paper explosions. Have them keep a small notebook for jotting notes and transfer the little jots over to that ONE SPOT (the perfect planner) in a timely manner. This goes for notes created on phone apps as well. If reminders aren’t put in the right place, they are lost forever.
- A place for everything. Once the homework is finished, get them into the habit of putting their binder/textbook back into their backpack. Keep the backpack in the same spot all the time. File papers in a milk crate system so there is always a spot for them. Once the mess is filed, they don’t have to worry about constantly losing things and trying to find them again, wasting precious time.
- Can’t stress color coding enough! Post-it notes and tape flags in various sizes and colors; bins in various sizes and colors; flat drawer organizers; Washi tape for extra personalization; pens, pencils, Sharpies and highlighters they love and will actually use.