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How to Help Students With Organizational Difficulties

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Many students have struggles with organization, and this may be especially true as a child reaches the middle and high school grades. It is during these years children receive more information and assignments for multiple classes simultaneously. As a result, organization can become a problem, especially because education expectations increase as a child grows.

Student using laptop
Credit: janeb13 via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/computer-pc-workplace-home-office-1185626/

Students who have special needs, a learning disability or other medical diagnosis, may find they have additional problems associated with the ability to organize and/or interrupt thought patterns. 

There are many ways you can help your student get organized. Here are a few tips you might find help to aid your student in developing and maintaining organization skills:

Tools and Strategies

Learning good organizational skills can be strengthened through strategies and tools. Approaches you can take to reach the goal of getting things put in order can include using binders, folders and crates in everyday routines - these might help promote better organization.

Binders:  Binders are ideal because they help keep papers more organized. If possible, try to create an individual binder for each subject. For some students, different colored binders associated with each class are very helpful.

For other students, this may be too many binders to remember, or perhaps too heavy to carry. If this is the case, one large binder with dividers which clearly identify the different subjects is a good alternative. Or, one with separate hole-punched folders may be easier for your student. 

Folders: Folders are sometimes more helpful than binders, but these also are sometimes hard because papers are difficult to keep in order. However, folders with three prongs will hold papers and notes secure. If both binders and folders are required by the school for different classes, this is a place where the aforementioned color coordination is a good organizational strategy.

Color coordination/office
Credit: Orlando Seppip vis Pixabay CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/office-regulation-paper-paper-goods-1466390/

Color coding can help students organize their notes, handouts and other class materials.

Crates: Does your child's school run off the "A Day" and "B Day" system? If your child's school runs on alternate days when certain classes are held, it might be helpful to have different colored crates in their room (or closet) where they can keep materials for each day's classes separate from one another. For instance, if a student has math, English and science on "A Day" and history, foreign language and health on "B Day", the former classes would go into a red crate and the latter in a blue crate. For years, my daughter struggled with organization, but at some point someone suggested to me to try using crates, so we gave it a whirl and found this solution to be extremely helpful. All she needed to do when getting ready for school was to pull out the crate she needed for the day.

Additionally, notebooks, planners and calendars which have a clearly marked space to write down short and long-term assignments are useful. By using this strategy, students have a focused and concise view of what tasks need to be done.

Credit: Betsy Finn via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/office-regulation-paper-paper-goods-1466390/

Use Cues and Reminders

Cues and reminders are some strategies used to promote good organizational skills. Cues can be used in the classroom and it may be a good idea to have this added to his or her individualized education plan (IEP). This way any teacher or aide who works with the student will know organization is an issue for him or her and can find an appropriate approach to remind the student during class to take out his or her notes or put papers in their designated location.

Keep Lines of Communication Open With School

You can support your child with his or her organizational difficulties by keeping in regular contact with any teachers and aides who work directly him or her. Communication with your child's teachers on a routine basis helps decrease the odds of homework or other important assignment materials getting lost because you'll be informed of what's going on in the classroom.

Using email or, if your school uses designated assignment books, jotting down acknowledgments in these are a good way to stay in touch. Email is convenient for teachers, but if assignment books are used by the school, these are even better. This doesn't put too much pressure on the teacher and you can quickly learn what tasks should be on your student's radar with a quick glance. Another benefit to assignment notes is a classroom aide or other school personnel involved with your child's case can add notes too and everyone sees the stream of communication and are all on the same page.

Early Preparation

Another good approach is to encourage early preparation the night before each school day. This way more time can be taken to put papers, books and assignments together. Additionally, your child can avoid the morning rush where they are more likely to mix papers up or forget important assignments. If using the crate (or bin) method, pull this out the night before and give it a double check to make sure the proper materials were filed in the right box.

Color coordinated notebooks
Credit: Orlando Seppip via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/leave-ring-binder-notepad-block-1448074/

Show Patience

Patience is an important facet of helping your child overcome organizational difficulties. Don't reprimand, instead rely on whatever strategies you and/or your student's education team come up with. If you scold too harshly about a lack of organization, this is likely to bring on bad feelings and may have the opposite effect because your child may get discouraged. Positive reinforcement is the better way to go when trying to help your child develop strong organization skills.

Overcoming problems with organization can be frustrating at times, but even for students who have significant difficulties in this area, developing better organizational skill is possible. Repetition is key and by using strategies, tools, cues, communication, patience and preparation, over the course of time organization will come more naturally for your student.



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