As a parent and teacher of children with attention deficit problems and various special needs, I have encountered many children who need help with basic planning and organization for school and home. These are some of the ideas I have used over the years to help children begin to complete tasks and organize their materials for better daily functioning.
Color coordinate school supplies for easy organizing.
When buying notebooks, binders or folders, match up the colors in a way that makes sense. This seems like a no-brainer, but some children won’t naturally gravitate toward this method unless taught. Look at your child’s textbooks, and find a main color scheme and use it. For example, if the child’s math book is blue, then the child’s notebook and folder for that subject should also be blue. It just makes finding the needed materials much easier.
Prepare a homemade planner for homework assignments.
Although school planners that can be bought in the stores work well for some students, other children will need a more tailored planner. Most children will notice that homework assignments are written on the board, but may not be able to get all of the assignments written down before leaving for the school day. My daughter had difficulty with this task due to several needs, and we finally worked out a planning situation that allowed her to remember her assignments.
We talked with the teacher about the subjects and the order in which they were listed on the board. I constructed an 8 x 10 assignment planner at home, bound together for each quarter. Each sheet inside the planner had one square for each day of the week. The subject names were typed with lines next to each name. This gave my daughter the time she needed to copy down a page number or additional assignment information right next to each subject. She didn’t have to worry about not getting an assignment written down due to the time it was taking her to copy the subject name or losing the information with the visible tracking issues she had. With all of the subject names written on each daily square, she also had time to go back to make a quick dot next to the name to check to see if she had written down all the assignments for the day.
Make a “launch pad” for backpacks and other school necessities.
Once a child comes home from school, it is easy for her to throw her backpack, jacket and other school supplies just wherever she may happen to drop them. Make sure that you have an area, such as a bench by the front door, where she is required to put her down her things and hang up her jacket. A child will often need frequent reminding to put things in this designated spot, but it will become more of a habit with time. A child with attention issues will need to be reminded to put her own papers back into her folder, and to return the folder and other homework materials right back into the backpack. The sooner you get out of the habit of putting things back in the folder or backpack for her, the better off she will be. Just watch to see that she does it.
Create personalized, detailed wipe-off to-do lists for home.
Using 3 different colors of paper, create at least 3 to-do lists for your child. The routine lists can be labeled as “Morning/Before School”, “After School” and “Before Bed.” When my daughter was able to read, I sat down with her and discussed all the simple things she needed to do when she got up in the morning, right down to putting soap on a washcloth and washing her face, along with brushing teeth after eating breakfast. I talked about what were the most appropriate after school things she needed to get done, and in what order. Then I made it clear that I had expectations for her to complete several tasks within the hour before bedtime, which included things like picking out her clothes and making sure her folders were in her backpack and back at the launching pad.
After typing out the agreed-upon routines, I put each routine sheet inside of a page protector and inserted the pages into a folder with brads. A key part in allowing these to-do lists to work for your child comes by modeling how to use the lists with a wipe-off marker. Each day for a week or so, go over each thing on the to-do list with your child, following through and seeing to it that she completes the task and marks it off when completed. After you feel as if your child is catching on, step back and see if she is able to remain on task in a timely manner with this method. Periodically check in with task completion and change items on each list as needed. Lists such as these help with chore completion, as well. If your child is too young to read, you can make simple picture wipe-off sheets to keep her on task.
Being disorganized, not handling time wisely and not completing tasks are issues that can crop up with any child, but especially those with attention issues or other special needs. Your child needs your guidance in the form of simple help in order to organize her things. Help her establish good organizational habits which will put her on the path of helping herself as she grows into a young adult.