Saturday, August 9, 2014

ADHD? How to GET & STAY Organized Throughout the School Year

School supplies bought? Check. Backpack purchased? Check? Back-to-school clothes ready? Check. Physical completed? Check. Organizational strategies in place? Not sure? We hope you and your child can say check to ALL of these questions now that most students will be returning to school in a few days. However, if your child is challenged with ADHD, the last question above here just might be the most important one---organizational issues.

Children and teens with even mild symptoms of ADHD will often struggle with organizing their time, their possessions and their activities. These students do need the help of parents and teachers who can provide the needed structure, tips and strategies to get and stay organized for the entire school year. This might involve helping a child or student create or access task lists, homework forms with check boxes, a book for assignments and other tools. However, even more parental or teacher assistance may be required if a student is severely affected by ADHD.

This week, we have created our own list of organizational strategies and tips to help your child or student with mild to severe ADHD prepare well for the new school year. In addition, we are also providing our readers with two additional lists that include organizational resources and apps for ADHD (to follow). We hope that once again, with these lists to assist, you will be able to effectively help a child or teen with ADHD get and stay organized for the entire school year!

Have a GREAT school year---and Happy Reading, too!

BEST ADHD Tips to GET & STAY Organized for the School Year

1. First and foremost, the key to helping children stay organized is frequent communication between teachers and parents. Students with ADHD need teachers and parents to provide support and teach them essential life skills, even if medication has been included in the management of the child's ADHD symptoms. Ask your child's teacher about his or her preferred method of communication. Then, respectfully communicate your child's needs and any pertinent updates when appropriate via this preferred method. Keep the lines of communication open and positive. This will be a critical contribution to your child's classroom success.

2. Secondly, your child will need basic supplies to GET organized. These must include a backpack (or equivalent), pencils, pens, folders, notebooks, binders, loose-leaf paper, highlighters, spare lead if you use a mechanical pencil, etc. Most of the time, teachers will provide a list of supplies needed at the start of the year. However, be sure to include a few things like a pencil and some paper for the first day if it is unclear exactly what to bring.

3. Thirdly, a binder with several, colored pocket pages can be most helpful, especially for a student with attention challenges who has difficulty sorting papers according to content or subjects. Color-code these with books and supplies by subject. This binder system (or large folder with 6-8 differently colored pocket pages) can help prevent a student from "stuffing" papers just anywhere (and increasing the chances of loss). Using a black marker, label each pocket page with the appropriate subject or class name. Proper sorting is an important step to organizing student work.

4. Always store and keep ALL supplies in the backpack to be ready for any assignment or learning activity---whether at home or at school.

5. PLACE the prepared backpack in the SAME location EACH morning before leaving for school. This might be on a particular doorknob or chair NEAR the door exited each day. Being ready for every school day means more than filling the backpack with the right tools. It is most important to ensure that the needed tools will always come WITH the student to the classroom---EVERYDAY.

6. Always use a daily planner or agenda to keep track of assignments. Some schools provide these automatically while others will not. If your school does not, consider it a priority to purchase one as soon as possible, preferably before the first day of school.

7. Use graphic organizers to help when trying to sort out information AND remember it. They help to visually categorize facts, dates, events, etc. so the facts are easier to understand, organize AND remember. These tools can be especially beneficial for visual learners. (See ADHD Resources to follow here.)

8. Set aside a quiet place at home for study and homework assignments. This might be located in the student's bedroom or family room. Be sure to include a good chair and table surface to help the student maintain good posture and sustained comfort. Regardless of the area chosen, the TV and other distractions should not be located in that same space or even nearby.

9. Plan to clean out the backpack and all folders or pocket pages every month (preferably on the same day of the month). Sometimes, homerooms will set aside a homework or study hall time, and you can clean out your binder during this time. Keep important papers in a separate binder or folder at home. Recycle any used or unneeded materials appropriately.

BEST ADHD Resources to Get & Stay Organized for the School Year

1. Create your own FREE customized graphic organizers with these online resources:

a. UDL Tech Tool Kit: Offers both low-tech and high-tech graphic organizers

b. Creately Templates Web-based software for creating interactive and colorful graphic organizers - Venn Diagram, Storyboard, Mind Map, Cycle Diagram, Fishbone Diagram, KWL Chart, T Chart, Y Chart and more.

c. 38 Examples of Graphic Organizers from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
A FREE service for students

2. FREE Back-to-School Printables (for Teachers & Grades Pre-K to 12)
These classroom management reproducibles, student worksheets, and activities will help you get organized for the school year.

3. What Parents Can Do to Help Their Children Get Organized
by Sandra F. Rief, M.A. and from Pearson Education
Important topics in this article include how to organize your child's work space & materials, helping with time management & awareness as well as other ways parents can help.

4. Back-to-School-2013: Helpful ADHD Resources from Help for Struggling Readers
ADHD Resources for Back-to-School included here. Use this guide to help your child or students get organized for the new school year.

BEST Organizational Apps for ADHD

1. iRewardChart: Parents Reward Tracker Behavior Chore Chart (FREE)
by Gotclues, Inc.
iRewardChart makes it easy to reward your children for good behavior and keep them motivated in an organized fashion and on a consistent basis. Winner of "Best Parenting App" three years in a row 2010, 2011 and 2012 (2nd), via

2. Evernote (FREE) (2014 version)
Save your ideas, things you hear, things you see and things you like. This application works with nearly every computer, phone and mobile device available today. Evernote makes remembering easy!
Download for Windows:
Download for Mac:

3. Google Calendar (FREE) (for Android---Updated April 24, 2014)
The Calendar app displays events from each of your Google Accounts that synchronizes with your Android device. You can also:
-Create, edit and delete events
-View all your calendars at the same time, including non-Google calendars
-Quickly email all event guests from a notification with a customizable message.

4. Things 2 (from $9.99 to $49.99) (for Mac, iPhone and iPad)
by Cultured Code GmbH & Co. KG
This is a task-management tool that's easy to use, yet has all the power when you need it. Projects, tags, repeat tasks – will all be at your fingertips. No matter what device you're on, Things Cloud keeps your to-dos updated across them all - automatically.

5. ADHD Organizer ($1.99) (for iPhone & iPad)
by Lexington Creative
The ultimate tool to help you lead a better life with ADD/ADHD! This app lets you set goals and record your success in achieving them. It also lets you find out what your main weaknesses are. This app can help you lead a better life with ADD or ADHD.

Helping ADHD Students Get Organized for School from ADDitude Editors

Back-to-School Checklist: 8 To-Do Items for ADHD Students by Jennifer Jones, Ph.D.

For more information on customizable reading tools for better focus & attention, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at


  1. Thank you for including us in a list of great apps. We are very fortunate and honored to be in a great company. To your readers: Pls install the free app, and give it a try, and let us know if we could improve in any manner.

  2. Dear irewardchart,

    It was our pleasure to include your app in our list of resources to help parents with organization and consistency. Thanks for ALL you do to create and provide tech products to assist many with various. We also appreciated the time you took to send your good message here!

    Please keep up your excellent efforts to produce helpful apps!

    Happy Reading!

    Joan M. Brennan
    Brennan Innovators, LLC