Want your ADD/ADHD child to finally get organized? Ask them what they need! They may not know yet but I can guarantee you it is not what you think will work for them - particularly if you do not also have ADD/ADHD.
Post-it notes and various lists are not the ‘love language’ of people, like me, who have ADD. A short list in the bathroom for morning and bedtime routine is a quick check. However, lists for school just look like more school work. What makes absolute sense to other folks becomes a blur of stuff that ADDers have a difficult time tracking.
Organization for the ADD brain must be Simple, Repeatable, Accessible and Quick. It also helps if it has an element of visibility. The less thinking about the process makes the system more workable.
Here are 8 ideas that have been successful for the children I work with as an educator, counselor and advocate. Some are paper/pencil and other tech friendly.
- Establish a bedtime that reflects when your child is tired. I can not stress this enough. Lack of activity plus the ‘demand’ of going to sleep makes an ADD/ADHD brain more active. Lying in bed until sleep comes is counterproductive. Let your child listen to something they are already very familiar with. Keep the volume very low so the brain is distracted but not terribly interested. I still lull myself to sleep this way. If you use the computer for this, turn the screen off. No comedy as laughter wakes you right up. Nothing with commercials - they get louder and can have peppy music.
- Clean out the backpack with your child EVERY DAY. Discuss what stays home and what goes back to school.
- Repack the backpack together. Have your child repack the bag, telling you what they will do with each item. This needs to be done the night before, not the morning of.
- Color code everything related to one subject. Notebooks, folders, book covers, etc. all need to be the same color for one subject. This easy system eliminates your child’s having to think about what to take to class or take home. For example, everything science-related is red then goes to class and comes home for homework.
- Take Home and Take to School Folders. These should be taped to your child’s desk(s). One quick look, by you, or the teacher(s) insures the materials are on the way to where they should be going.
- Take a photo of assignments that are written on the board - phone or computer.
- Call, email, and text a classmate for the assignment. This is something your child needs to do. If they are young you certainly should assist them but it’s important they do the asking.
- Have one homework folder that is turned into one teacher at the start of the day. The idea is to get the homework handed in. Homework on the computer? Make the screen saver HAND IN THE ASSIGNMENT!
I am going out on a limb here and much of what we say is a lack of executive functioning in our students. This is a demand for our young children to do things their brains are not yet able to manage. Many of our youngest children have multiple teachers for academic subjects. Regardless of how cohesive a team of teachers are they do not do everything the same way, at the same time. Handing in homework is a classic problem as teachers ask for it at different times and in different ways.
What is the link between the doing and realizing success? The child with ADD/ADHD often does not see the connection between doing any of the above and overall success. Help them to see that. Whether it is having more time for choice activities at the end of the day, a small monetary reward for success, or the best option, success in school (grades), make the link repeatedly for your child.
One last tip... for school-based accommodations you may need to open your child’s IEP/504. If you’re unsure of how to approach this, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org