Many children with special needs have poor organizational skills. Disorganization makes school difficult. Disorganization causes problems such as lost books, school supplies and school notices, missing handouts and assignments, and forgotten homework. These problems increase children’s stress levels and decrease their ability to do well at school.
PART TWO - SCHOOL
In the first part of this two-part series, we looked at ways to help children with special needs get organized at home. Now we will look at some tips to help your children’s schoolwork stay organized.
Set up a study area
Children need a designated place for homework and study. Find an area where your children are less likely to be distracted. Put a desk with drawers and a chair in the study area. Make sure the area is well lit.
- Stock this area with pens, pencils, papers, crayons, rulers, etc. A well-equipped study area means your children do not need to leave their study area to get something they need for their homework.
- Get a desktop organizer to hold the objects your children use most often. Store other items in the desk drawers. Label each drawer with both a word and a picture showing what is in it. If the desk does not have drawers or you are using a table, put a set of clear plastic drawers beside or under the desk or table.
- If you don’t have enough space for a desk, use a cardboard box to make a three-sided partition and place it on a table to make a study station. You can also use this cardboard partition if your child is easily distracted or if you have several children working at the same table. Alternatively, you can buy a Pop-Up Partition.
- Put a clock and timer in your child's homework area. Even if your child cannot tell time or has trouble with the concept of time, having a clock nearby allows you and your child to see how much time different tasks are taking.
- A timer is helpful for several reasons. If your child is supposed to spend a set amount of time doing homework, use the timer to measure this. If your child's homework has several steps or questions, use the timer to set the amount of time your child spends on each question.
- Keep a supply of scrap paper in the study area that children can use to draft answers, work out math problems, do mind-mapping, etc. Many children with special needs use mind-mapping techniques for schoolwork. Mind-maps are visual outlines of thoughts and ideas. Children draw mind-maps on paper. In addition, some educational software programs help students develop and use mind-mapping techniques.
Example of a Mind-Map
|Source: Inspiration Software Inc.|
Consider getting two of everything
Sometimes the best solution to disorganisation is to get two of everything. The less your child has to bring back and forth between school and home means objects are less likely to be lost or forgotten. This solution is costly. Alternatively, think of the things that your child forgets or loses most often and get duplicates of those items.
|Credit: EvelynGiggles on Flickr|
- If your child uses any unusual or special tools (compass, T-square, coloured pens) for school get two of each tool. Have one set for home and one for school. Your goal is to reduce the number of objects your child has to bring from school to home. In addition, having two of each tool saves you from an emergency trip to the store for a certain colour marker.
- Depending on the level of your child's disability, consider getting two sets of school books - one for home and one for school. Alternatively, check if any of your child's books are available in an electronic form and get electronic copies for home use.
- Give your child a clear pencil-case for school so he can see exactly what is in it. Keep another set of these school supplies at home so your child can leave his pencil-case at school or in his school bag.
Many occupational therapists recommend color-coding books to help children with organizational deficits. Color-coding is helpful, but is most effective if you have the cooperation of your child's school.
|Credit: Nemo on Pixabay|
Color-coding is just what it says. You give each subject a color and all books, notebooks and folders for that subject are the same color. For example, all books related to science are green and all English books are blue.
Use colored folders at home to keep any loose papers in and continue with the color-coding scheme. Some families extend the color-coding concept to cover all of their children.
Some children find it too difficult to manage all the books, notebooks, handouts and folders. In this situation, talk with your child's teacher and work out a mutually agreeable solution. For example, could your child use one notebook for all his school notes? Then when your child comes home from school, your child put the notes into color-coded files for each subject.
Use a Diary or Planner
|Credit: OpenClips on Pixabay|
Teaching your child to use a diary or planner is particularly important for older children. When their class schedules are different every day, children need a system where they prioritize their homework and make sure they have done the homework for the classes they have the next day.
Children also need a study plan. Ask your child's teacher(s) about the areas of study your child should prioritize.
Instead of (or in addition) to using a diary, get a whiteboard or large planning calendar to put on the wall in the study area. The whiteboard shows the child's homework and study schedule.
Look into accommodations
Look into accommodations
|Credit: John Bolland on Flickr|
Some children with special needs are entitled to accommodations on the amount of homework they need to do. If for example, your child is supposed to do 45 minutes of homework on school nights, help your child use this time most efficiently. Allocate a certain amount of time for each subject that he has homework in - this is when having the timer mentioned above can come in handy.
If your child struggles to get homework done every evening, talk with his school about modifying his homework. The extra stress on your child and your family outweighs any potential benefit of forcing your child to do more homework than he is able to. (See Managing homework when your children have special needs.)
Include schoolwork in routines
In part one, we looked at developing visual routines for children with special needs. Add school related tasks to your children's routines including:
- Packing school bags the night before school
- Charging tablets, phones and/or laptops at night
- Double checking school bags in the morning
- Times for homework
- Getting uniform or clothes ready the night before school
Get an easily accessible locker
|Credit: Clemns v Vogelsang on Flickr|
If you child has a locker at school, make sure it is easily accessible. Since it may take your child longer to get her things in and out of her locker, she needs to have easy access to it. Before the school year starts, talk to the principal and request a locker in an easy to reach location.
If the locker has a key, get a duplicate key made and keep it in the school office so your child can get the duplicate if he cannot find the original. If the locker has a combination, make sure someone else at the school has the combination so your child can still access her locker if she can't remember her combination. It is also helpful to tape a copy of your child's schedule to the inside of her locker.
If you haven't already, look at the first part of this series that focuses on organizing your child at home.
Keep in mind that some or all of these tips may not apply to your child depending on the level and type of his or her disability. Please share any tips that you have found helpful.