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Organization Tips for ADHD Students

Lydian Academy student with ADHD studying

Many very bright students have challenges with attention and may struggle staying organized with ADHD. These students can excel in academia, with the right support and guidance at home and in the classroom. These organizational tips for ADHD students, combined with a willingness to focus on more active and self-paced learning environments, can bring their innate talents and strengths to the forefront of their learning experience.

1. Utilize Technology Designed for Organization

There are many smartphone apps and digital reminder systems or paper datebooks that help students keep up to date with school deadlines and their upcoming milestones. One of the important ADHD organizational skills is to break large projects into smaller steps and set goal dates for each.

Reminder systems or even calendar whiteboards are useful as a visual tool for tracking important tasks. We all feel a sense of accomplishment when we can mark work as complete. If your school has portals and class calendars, be sure to access these and help your student keep track of competing and upcoming assignment deadlines and test dates.

2. Duplicate Essential Learning Tools

The hectic moments at the start and end of the school day are not ideal for those with attention challenges to organize and remember which books and important items they need to take home or pack up. Acknowledging this and stocking up on duplicate learning supplies that stay at home can relieve this stress and make sure your student has what they need to complete homework and studying as planned.

Some examples of duplicates that can be helpful at home include:

  • Notebooks
  • Calculator
  • Craft supplies
  • Used or digital copies of textbooks

3. Stock Up on the Right Supplies for Your Student

Many people with ADHD find some organizational school supplies to be very helpful, but which ones they favor may be very different. Engage with your child about what they would like to use, and check in regularly to see if what they have is working and if something else they’ve seen seems like an even better solution.

Many students with attention challenges prefer:

  • A 3-ring binder with pockets that holds all their notes and loose papers in one place, making it easy to remember
  • Unlined note paper that allows them to write without constraints when taking notes or drawing examples
  • Sticky notes or tags that help them prioritize and keep current goals easy to see and track
  • Color-coding systems for supplies and classes that make associations easy to recognize and keep together
  • Marker-style writing implements and squishy tactile fidget toys (as allowed in the classroom)

4. Obtain All Assignments in Writing

Neurodiverse students often have difficulties with working memory and executive functioning. It is a good policy for teachers to provide assignment instructions in writing which include due dates for all students. If that is not the norm in your school, it is a reasonable accommodation to request as the parent or family member of a student with ADHD.

Written communication (on paper or digital) allows the student, their instructor, and their parent or guardian to stay on the same page and helps eliminate miscommunications that lead to poor academic performance.

If instructions and deadlines are often given verbally and no accommodations are available, encourage the student to take detailed notes on a single sheet of paper or sticky note, and confirm with the teacher that they have all the essential information before they leave the classroom.

5. Assist With Planning Phases

Teacher working hands on with a ADHD student in class at Lydian Academy

ADHD students are quite capable of learning how to plan and follow through to reach their goals, but they may need additional guidance and modeling from parents and educators. Without completing any of the actual assignments for them, it is very effective to sit down and work through organizing their assignments and large projects together.

Use visual aids like a calendar or whiteboard, lay out assignment due dates and exam dates that are coming up in the next week or month. Working backwards from due dates and providing for days off and relaxing time, help them schedule their planned efforts in a way that works for them best. In daily life, share with them how you organize tasks, some examples being preparing a meal with a recipe or organizing a family outing using a checklist.

6. Reinforce Time Management Concepts

Your student might find time management and prioritization to be some of the most challenging aspects of the classroom, as opposed to the subject matter itself. Help them verbalize and recognize the limited and linear aspects of time, and their academic performance can improve. As you work on project planning, use the words that reinforce the correct order of things, like first, second, after, and before.

Demonstrate how to think through a project that is unrelated to schoolwork, like gardening, running errands, or putting something together. Make a point to talk about why some steps must come before others, and how long you estimate each will take. Then evaluate the results together and have fun discovering where you went off track and why your time estimates might not have been accurate.

7. Reduce Clutter and Distractions

Another important organization tip for ADHD students is to keep only relevant items in line of sight. The less clutter we have, the easier it is to be organized. At home and at school provide a proper place for everything. Bins and small boxes or baskets help keep school supplies and essential tools easily accessible but out of sight.

Bulletin boards are great for posting reminders and announcements or organizing those chaotic sticky notes. Once a week, encourage your student to remove anything no longer needed from their binder, then hole-punch, color code, and add new items of importance. Eliminating irrelevant items from view and storing keepsake projects and artwork in an underbed bin preserves accomplishments but keeps everything in their backpack current and relevant.

8. Celebrate Academic Success

Staying organized with ADHD is a noteworthy accomplishment and deserves to be recognized. As your student grows and advances in their ability to organize their work and meet their goals, celebrate their successes. If your child is failing to thrive in a traditional classroom environment, there are accredited alternatives that offer the kinds of accommodations they may need to succeed, including:

  • One-to-one teacher/student ratios that allow the pace and style of instruction to be tailored to the learner
  • Segmented assignments and lesson plans that focus on shorter timelines and achievable goals
  • Flexible class scheduling that places more challenging topics at their most focused times of day
  • Tactile or visual teaching methods that engage the senses and keep active learners engaged
  • Testing schedules with less delay that focus on specific topics and better reflect a student’s understanding of the material

Supporting the Goals of ADHD Students and Their Families

Happy students from Lydian Academy walking together

At Lydian Academy, we fully support those who learn differently with one-to-one classrooms both virtually and on our campuses in Menlo Park and Burlingame, CA. We create customized learning plans that help middle and high school students to leverage their strengths and master life skills that improve their academic performance and restore their passion for learning new things.

With rolling enrollment, you can make a change to a personalized learning experience at almost any time of year. Learn more with a virtual open house or tour of our campuses. Our mission centers around the needs and talents of each student, to overcome attention challenges and achieve their dreams for the future.

We offer a unique year-round one-on-one learning experience, personalized to you and your schedule.

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