Late homework? Messy locker? Lost papers? Children and young adults with ADHD/ADD know these problems all too well and here’s why. There is a neurological process in our brains to help us with self-regulation called “executive function.” Executive function skills allow us to organize, plan, analyze, memorize and prioritize. Children with ADHD/ADD have impaired executive function skills, in part due to dopamine not being produced at normal levels in the brain. Because of this, messages between the neurons for executive functioning skills are being interrupted, and thus symptoms of ADHD/ADD occur. That being said, there are ways to make organization easier for someone living with these symptoms.
Color-Code by Subject
Color-code books, folders, and supplies by subject, and use a separate color for a take-home folder. For example, you can color-code all things for math class blue, by either using blue folders and notebooks or placing a blue sticker on all things math related. This will serve as a quick visual reminder when you’re looking for material for each subject, rather than having to search through folders and notebooks to determine what subject they are for. If you are using a binder, color-code the tabs the same way. Use a separate colored folder for take-home letters and announcements.
Keeping a “live” master calendar that shows all upcoming activities, projects, assignments, and deadlines works as a visual reinforcement. Think of this calendar as a live document, writing down and crossing off items as they come up and as they are completed. This will help you to keep track of your responsibilities and make sure your work is done on time. Keeping this calendar in a place that is easily seen and accessible is key, as you want to be able to refer to it as needed.
Have an Extra Set of Textbooks
Having an extra of textbooks at home is helpful because remembering which books you need on which night, for each subject, in the midst of a hectic school day can be exhausting. Requesting an extra set of textbooks can be included in a child’s IEP, or it can be a request put in to teachers at the beginning of each semester.
Keep a Daily Planner
A daily planner can be used to keep track of specific times for deadlines, appointments, classes and events. A planner is also a great opportunity to make lists with different priorities, such as “urgent, do it now,” and “less urgent, do it later.” You should use your planner to write down assignments as they come up, and cross them out as you finish. It is helpful to buy a planner that you can organize by subject, such as this student planner sold on Amazon.
Clean Out and Throw Out
At least once a week (probably more often!) go through your folders and binders and get rid of papers that you no longer need. It is easy to get lost in a flow of papers and this will only add to the chaos and disorganization. It is helpful to have a space in your house for papers that you want to keep, so that you can just transfer them from your folder to that spot during your weekly clean-out. Don’t get sentimental with your schoolwork; be willing to throw things out when they are no longer needed!
Plan the Night Before
Don’t leave the organization for your school day until you’re running out to catch the bus in the morning. Designate a spot by the front door for things that you bring to school everyday (e.g. backpack, lunchbox, gym shoes, etc.), so that you can grab them on your way out. Likewise, check that homework and correspondences are placed in your folder the night before, so that it’s ready in the morning.
Written by Marlee Chizhevsky
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