Organize Your Child With Special Needs - Part One Home Organization

Organization poses a huge problem for many children with special needs. Poor organizational skills can have a detrimental effect on children's performance at school as well as causing distress in their home lives.

Poor organizational skills often result from deficits in executive function. Executive function refers to mental processes which allow us to:

  • Manage time and attention
  • Switch focus
  • Plan and organize
  • Remember details
  • Curb inappropriate speech or behaviour
  • Integrate past experience with present action


  • This two part series will explore techniques parents can try with their children to make organizing things a bit easier both at home and at school.


    Before you teach your child how to be organized at home, you need to do two things:

    Declutter their room by getting rid of anything which they have outgrown or which is broken including clothes, toys, footwear, books etc. (I wouldn't recommend getting rid of something your child has a strong attachment to.)  

    After decluttering, ensure that there is a place for everything - dresser and closet for clothes, shelves for toys, bookcase, etc.

    (You will need to do these steps periodically to help your child stay organized.)

    Remember you will have to train your child to be organized. What might seem obvious to you and I may not be obvious to your child.

    If your child is old enough and able enough, involve her in the organizational process. It will teach her organizational skills and make your life easier if she knows where her things are stored.

    Space can be an issue in children’s bedrooms so be creative at making more useable space. Clear plastic drawers on rollers can fit under beds, hooks on the back of the bedroom door can act as more closet space or you could use something like a plastic shoe holder hung on the back of the door to keep small toys, socks or shoes in. You can also put hooks on the inside of your child's closet door. Look for usable space both under and over furniture if needed.  Remember, shelves and cubes can be mounted on the walls and storage containers can fit under furniture.  

    Use clear containers or baskets on shelves for storing your child's toys. On the outside of each container put a label of what goes in the container. Since visual cues are more effective for a lot of children with special needs, put both the word and a picture on the label. You can cut pictures out of catalogs or magazines for the visual clues. (Cars, Lego, dolls, arts and crafts etc.)

    Make sure your child has a laundry basket or hamper in their room to put dirty clothes in.

    Label the drawers of their dressers using pictures and words. (Socks, underwear, tops etc.)

    In your child's wardrobe, hang similar things next to each other-tops all together, trousers together etc.

    Put a chart in your child's room showing what her daily routine is. The chart entries should use words and pictures. For example:

    Morning:  Wake up
    Bathroom, wash hands and face, brush teeth, floss teeth
    Get dressed
    Put pajamas under pillow
    Have breakfast

    Have dinner
    Put on pj's
    Dirty clothes in hamper
    Bathroom, wash hands and face, brush and floss teeth

    A white board or magnetic calendar is also helpful. Note activities and appointments on the calendar/whiteboard so your child knows what to expect each day.

    Find a place for your child to put his coat, hat, boots etc when he comes into the house.

    The second part of this series will look at organizing your child for school.

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    ©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action

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