School Organization Tips for Students with ADHD or Learning Disabilities

Help your child with ADHD or learning disabilities develop school organization skills that will bring success – and end clutter.

by Donna Goldberg  as written in

ADHD or no ADHD, organization isn’t easy for kids. But for children with attention deficit disorder, organizing, prioritizing and managing time are especially challenging. Become your child’s organization coach, and engage her in setting up a process to stay organized. Help your child practice her skills on a regular basis, and stick with the systems you create together.

Get started with these nine rules for better ADHD organization at school.

Time Management: Understanding Sequence

Make sequence clear to your child by giving him specific verbal cues — first, next, then, before, after — as you develop a routine. Ask questions: What comes next? Do you remember what you did first?

Reinforce sequence lessons by: 

  • Giving your child a series of directions using these verbal cues—and make it fun (“First do ten jumping jacks, then write your name backwards”) 
  • Having your child give you directions as well 
  • Asking him to point out words that are related to time 
  • Talking about future vacation plans or reminiscing about his last birthday party


Use a weekly calendar to help your ADHD child learn the days of the week as well as the concepts of yesterday, tomorrow, and so on. A monthly calendar is information overload; a week’s view is easier to grasp and can still be used to teach the concept of time management.

Fill in everyone’s (parents’ and children’s) schedule each week — appointments, dinners, sports practice, and so on. At the end of each day, have your child cross off completed activities and discuss the next day emphasizing, “This is what we’ll do tomorrow, Friday.”

As your child grows, the calendar will help him develop other skills, like accountability. He can see when you will or will not be available to help with a project, and can plan accordingly and assume responsibility for himself.


Analog clocks as opposed to digital clocks show that time moves and lets kids know where they stands in relation to the rest of the hour or day. Practice telling time with your child at home and ask her for a different way to say 6:45 (a quarter to seven). Reinforce time keeping ideas over and over so your child can gain ownership of clock time.

Using Planners

Just like adults, children need a place to keep track of deadlines, appointments, and other information. Using a planner will help your child manage all she has to remember and also enter her class schedule, a friend’s number to call for homework clarification, and a detailed description of homework and due dates.

Help your child go over her planner regularly. With guidance, she can learn to write down all homework deadlines and avoid last-minute cramming and unpleasant surprises.


Help your child practice prioritizing homework by figuring out together how many assignments she has to complete, which are due tomorrow, and which are the most challenging. Encourage her to start the most difficult homework first, when she’s fresh and energetic.

Managing Paper Flow

ADHD students need a system for carrying assignments and other materials to and from school. Figuring out a system that works for your child may take some time and experimentation, but keep trying, and listen—ADHD children often come up with good ideas of their own.

A Paper Management System for K-3rd Grade

For younger students, paper flow is about where to put loose papers like permission slips, handouts, and simple homework assignments. Three clear pocket-type folders in a binder work well. Label the pockets “Homework to Do,” “Homework Done,” and “Notices.” Your child should come home with all assignments in the “To Do” pocket and notes to parents in the “Notices” pocket.

Completed homework moves to the “Done” pocket, which should then be emptied the next day at school (this will help him make sure he turns in all assignments).

A Paper Management System for Older Students

An older ADHD child can be overwhelmed by managing all of the papers that come with her more advanced work. Suggest she gather everything into one three-ring binder so she’ll have a better chance of getting everything home, finding it, and then getting it back to school. Suggest she color-code the dividers by associating a color with each subjects – green for science (nature), for example. Color-coding by association offers visual cues for quick access to materials.

Clear pocket folders can also work well for this group too — they’ll help them see the paperwork they need to remember to get done. If your student’s binder just gets messy and unorganized, try an accordion folderinstead.

Make Finished Project Files

Set up a desktop file box with hanging folders by subject, and encourage your child to regularly transfer finished projects here. This way, if she needs to look something up or find a paper later on, it will be neatly organized by subject.

Offer Praise

Emphasize accomplishments and successes, and praise your child as you continue to work with her on new skills. A parent’s support and perseverance help make organizing a positive and effective experience for a child, one that will prove to be a lifetime asset.

heartWhat the ADHD Experts Say about Coaching for ADHD

We recommend that you hire an ADD coach to assist you in the process. Get yourself a coach to help you stay on track- Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo. Authors of You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!
Coaching, it turns out, is one of the most powerful and effective ways for people with ADHD to achieve success.- Thom Hartmann. Writer of 7 books on ADHD who has ADHD.
Coaching is the single most effective tool in ADD self-management.- Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. Author of several books on ADHD who has ADHD
Coaching intervention can make a real difference in how people with AD/HD negotiate their own particular deficits and cope with life on a daily basis- ADDA - Attention Deficit Disorder Association

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