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Techniques for Organizing the ADHD Student

February 29, 2012

Techniques for Organizing the ADHD Student

adhd studentOne of the biggest challenges that face parents, schools and the students themselves is the process of organizing the ADHD student for school success. These kids can be their own well-intentioned worst enemy. In their hurry to move through transition periods, they'll throw papers into their binders with a wild flurry, pop open the said binder to any page and start writing, stuff worksheets and assignment papers any which way into their backpacks, and toss stuff madly into their lockers. The keys to organizing the ADHD student are structure and slowing things down while making it something a student can buy into. Slowing things down means simplifying the structure of their everyday academic task organization. Don't make this piece too complicated because otherwise it becomes another issue of complexity and chaos. The simpler you can make things for this particular student, the better. Keep in mind that this system needs to accommodate how the student actually works in an academic setting. Different techniques will work for different students, depending on their degree of dis-regulation and disorder. If a student is frequently frantically trying to catch up because their distraction meant they're lagging thirty seconds behind the rest of the class when given instructions and it takes too long to get the right paper out, the student won't use the system. Here are some different useful techniques: Binder organization. For some students, simply monitoring the binder plus supporting the building and maintenance of the habits to keep the binder organized is sufficient. Make sure that the student is spatially aware of the orientation of all her paperwork in the binder so that all papers are inserted at the beginning of a divider, facing the same direction. Provide a separate divider with lined paper for each class as well as "To Do" and "To Turn In" sections. Teach the student to take the time to open the binder rings (be sure to check the binder to make sure that the rings open smoothly) and take out a piece of paper, orienting themselves so that the holes are always on the left hand side and the wide blank space is at the top of the paper, and put it back in the correct space. This technique requires the use of good-quality binders with rings that open and close smoothly for best use. If the student has to fight the binder, it won't work.Organizing the ADHD Student This technique also allows for easy carry of supplies, which is why it is so popular with disabled and non-disabled students alike. However, binders that break easily or don't meet a student's standard for coolness will get discarded. Binders that zip up can also be a further cause for distraction as some kids like to play with the zipper as a fidget, while irritating the teacher and the rest of the class. Pocket folders. Either inserted into a larger binder or as a separate folder of their own, this may be the organizational wonder for some students. Make sure that the pockets won't let papers slip out easily and accidentally. Label each folder and pocket with the class title, "To Do" and "To Turn In." This system requires a single large store of paper and a separate binder for notes and handouts. It may be too complex for some students, and the salvation of others, depending on how durable the folders are and how hard the kids are on the folders. Accordion folders. This folder is popular with a certain group of kids. The durable plastic of the modern accordion folder, along with the overflap and elastic closure, means that it is hard to lose papers and supplies out of this solution. It's usually smaller than any binder organization but allows for separation of papers into notes, handouts, "To Do" and "To Turn In" sections, as well as areas to carry not just lined paper but graph paper and simple supplies such as pencils and markers. Most of the time this folder is tougher to break than either binders or pocket folders, and frequently a student planner also fits inside of it. Whatever the technique used, the application needs to be intensely monitored, supported, and rewarded for the first few weeks, with fading of supports and rewards if the system appears to work, or trying out a new system if that one doesn't work. A warning: if the student is resistant and doesn't feel the need to be organized, none of these systems will be effective. Fortunately that type of student tends to be a minority. Problems usually just arise because the system and the student aren't a good fit. But when the process of organization ends up engaging the student or they fall in love with the type of binder or folder they have, the process becomes much simpler. Paying attention to simple details of attractiveness and durability can help this to happen. The key to techniques for organizing the ADHD student for school success come down to achieving buy-in from the student and keeping it simple while also keeping it structured. How this actually happens will look different for different students. Be willing to keep trying different organizational techniques and realize that solutions are as individual as the individual student involved. Remember that the goal is student success, monitor the program, and be flexible. How you get to success isn't the issue. Getting there is.

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