Crisp white paper is on the shelf, teachers are stocking up on coffee, backpacks don’t have questionable smells and stains on them yet, and we’ve probably all made one too many Target trips – this can only mean one thing: we survived! Ha, I’m kidding…kind of…but seriously, let’s all give ourselves a big pat on the back for making it through the summer. As much as we love our kiddos, we may be all too ready to send them off to school. Let’s just make sure they’re ready for their new classes when we do!
Throughout my journey of professional organization I’ve assisted clients with a wide array of personalities and needs. Some of my most challenging, yet rewarding tasks have been helping the families of children with ADHD. I’ve found that while ADHD students have specific needs, what works for them typically works for other school-aged kids as well, so feel free to share this with every mother or father in your life.
Now let’s dive into my top tips for back-to-school organization for children with ADHD.
Rest & Brain Food
Children with ADHD (all kids, really) perform best when running on all cylinders. This means early bedtimes, getting a full 8 hours of rest, and having a healthy breakfast before beginning their day. The key to a smooth morning begins the night before; allow your child to choose how they want the next morning to go, “good”, or “not good.” Giving your child the responsibility of deciding how the next day will go can be incredibly empowering. While we can’t control everything that happens throughout their day, we can do our part to ensure they’re given everything they need to succeed before stepping into the classroom.
Establish Consistent & Simple Routines
Calendars are an ADHD child’s best friend. Read that last sentence again. And once more. As parents we need to make sure our kids have access to visible and up-to-date calendars at all times. Placing one on the fridge or on the mirror in their bathroom is a great way to ensure they stay on task first thing in the morning. I’ve also found success in placing printable weekly calendars in their class notebooks (and in their phone calendars if they’re tech savvy). They need calendars available at any point of the day, especially with the chance of encountering confusion or frustration.
Calendars are a great way to keep your child updated on what’s happening this week, and a visual tool to clear up any changes/diversions from your usual schedule. However, a consistent routine is key, down to the breakfast they eat and which shoe is put on first. Practice these routines before the school year starts so that you can work together on the new school routines without being overwhelmed with everything all at once. It may be helpful for some to meet teachers ahead of time and to walk the halls according to their class schedule a few times before the year begins. Assigning a buddy to walk with your child from class to class will also help with consistency, feeling safe, and will encourage new friendships and interactions. If needed, this buddy can be anyone from a classmate or sibling to a teacher or counselor, etc.
School Material Organization & Color Coding
Many children with ADHD are visual-spatial learners. That means they think in and comprehend visuals (pictures, colors, etc.) more easily than words. For these children it can be incredibly helpful to color-code their school supplies. They can assign a color to each class, meaning all writing utensils, notebooks, and folders match. This assists with their organization and the speed at which they are able to keep up, since ADHD students are able to process colors faster than the words/class titles themselves.
Keeping their folders, notebooks, and materials organized in their backpacks or lockers is great, but sometimes too many items can become overwhelming. If this sounds like your child, consider using one master binder (each class separated by a colored tab, of course) to limit the amount of materials needed overall.
School can be an exciting, yet intimidating place for an ADHD child and their parents. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone; the entire administration and school staff is committed to your child’s success. Lean on them, give them insights to your child’s behavior tendencies and needs, and feel free to ask for meetings prior to the school year. Together you are a team, and with preparedness and teamwork your child will find success in his/her education!
I hope this post has you feeling more settled and ready to take on the new school year. What tip was most helpful for you? If you’re the parent of an ADHD student and have tips to share, please leave them below so we can all learn from one another!
Looking forward to hearing from you,