Children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are notoriously disorganized; they need systems and routines in place for everything, and often need extra coaching in organizational skills. This can prove challenging when it comes to dealing with schoolwork. Younger children will need more coaching and parental follow up. For older children, encourage them to stick to the established systems and routines on their own with your supervision.
As a mother of two boys with ADHD, I have discovered some great ways for getting children with ADHD organized at home, managing paper flow, and setting them up for success for the school year. Here are my 5 tips toward better success at school:
- Establish an organizational system to manage paper flow. Newsletters, permission slips and homework sheets are easily misplaced or crumpled up in the bottom of a school bag. Provide your child with an organizational binder or a folder system for “Homework To Do”, “Homework Completed” and “Notes”. Encourage your child to put loose sheets in the appropriate folder right away, and check folders nightly.
- Be hands-on. Don’t rely on your child to “find” all her homework in her bag or pass on important notes; instead, check backpacks, agendas, and homework packages every day when your child comes home. Do a quick inventory and follow up on homework assignments, notes from the teacher and other paperwork. Even if your child is at an age where you think they “should” be able to do this themselves, they may in fact need continued supervision or assistance.
- Get the teacher on board. Make sure your child’s teacher is aware of any organizational challenges, and ask them to provide extra copies of important papers – by email if possible – and to follow up if they don’t receive something back from you.
- Set up a homework station. Keep a case in one place at home, with all the homework supplies your child might need (pencils, pens, erasers, scissors, glue stick and other supplies). This enables your child can sit down and get to work right away. A three-hole punch and some plastic page protectors for his binder will ensure that important papers can be immediately put away. Restock frequently.
- Empty, purge and re-organize. On top of being disorganized with forms and paperwork, children with ADHD are often “collectors”. At the end of the day or week (depending on the volume of paperwork), take everything out of their school bag, throw out garbage, put away anything that doesn’t belong and reorder their backpack.
Bonus Tip: If you have multiple children with ADHD in school, assign each child a colour. Buy school bags, lunch kits, water bottles, hats, mitts, and any other supplies in each child’s own signature colour. This makes it easy to tell at a glance which items belong to which person, making organizing a snap. My children also have a laundry basket in their colour on the closet floor to make it easy to separate bags, hats, etc. We have been using this system for years and it works beautifully for us.