Organization at school can be difficult for students who are diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Since academic success depends on a student's ability to pay attention and control their impulses, children with ADHD often face challenges in a pedagogical context.
These behaviors are not a choice, but symptoms of a neurodevelopmental disorder. Thankfully, if parents and teachers proactively implement a few strategies, children with ADHD can perform well at school.
Why is organization difficult for students with ADHD?
Developing organizational skills in students with ADHD is difficult because children with ADHD and related neurobiological problems experience executive dysfunction due to abnormally high dopamine levels in the frontal lobe of the brain. This explains in part their hyperactivity and short attention span.
Here are some reasons why kids with ADHD might have trouble starting and completing tasks:
Lack of interest affects the functioning of the brain
Kids with ADHD often have a hard time getting going on tasks that interest them little, but that doesn't mean they are lazy. It is the result of a chemical process in the brain that is not efficient. The brain uses electrical impulses to transmit information from one neuron to the next. That information helps us notice things, pay attention, and act. The release of certain chemicals in the brain helps make those connections.
The brains of kids with ADHD don’t always release enough of these chemicals. However, when something very interesting or exciting comes along, their brains release more of it, which helps them get started and stay engaged with the task. Because of this, some kids can focus for hours on video games but not on homework. However, children do not control the release of this chemical voluntarily. They cannot command themselves to start the task and finish it unless they are genuinely interested.
It's hard to remember there's a task
Kids with ADHD normally have problems with memory and attention. Working memory allows us to think about something while we are doing something else. Kids with limited working memory tend to live in the “here and now”. They have a hard time thinking about future rewards or long-term consequences. Also, working memory problems may affect how well a child can follow instructions and complete tasks.
Past failures make it hard to try again
Children with ADHD generally avoid starting tasks if they think the experience or outcome will be negative. If their performance is always rated as inadequate or if things never get easier, why keep trying? Without even thinking about it, they avoid the task just to avoid further failure or disappointment. You can use our free printable emotion wheels to help children of all ages welcome their emotions positively instead of avoiding and repressing them.
ADHD organization tips for the classroom
Organization by colors
Colors can help children with ADHD function better by helping them organize their materials correctly without getting confused. For example, you can use green for science notebooks and folders, blue for math, pink for language, etc. The idea is that the child can relate to the material taught in the classroom.
Maintain daily routines in the classroom
It is necessary to establish daily routines in the classroom so that children know what is expected of them at all times. Setting clear rules such as raising the hand to speak or not running in the class are important. Consider having a big sheet of paper with the rules written on them in your classroom.
Dividing a large task into smaller ones is a good idea so that children can better understand the steps to follow and thus be able to complete it successfully.
Inform about the dates
You can use a weekly calendar to help kids with ADHD learn the days of the week as well as the concepts of yesterday, tomorrow, and so on. Depending on the age, a monthly calendar can be overwhelming. A weekly view is easier to understand and can still be used to teach time management and develop organizational skills. However, parents can be given a monthly calendar to complement the student’s planner and make sure that every assignment is completed.
ADHD organization tips at home
ADHD child routines
Home and school should similarly have a clear routine set out to help structure the day for kids with ADHD. From making their bed to brushing their teeth, children can develop their autonomy and focus. Parents must practice positive reinforcement to promote the value of routine.
Manage paper circulation
Kids with ADHD need an organizational system for carrying assignments and other content to and from school. Figuring out a system that works for your child may take some experimentation, but keep listening and trying since children with ADHD often come up with good ideas of their own.
For younger students, paper flow is about where to class loose papers like permission slips, handouts, and simple homework assignments. To organize their academic life, provide them with three clear pocket-type folders entitled: ‘homework to do’, ‘homework done’, and ‘notice’. Teach your child how the system works. By the end, they should know to come home with all assignments in the “to do” pocket, communications to parents in the “notice” folder, and their completed homework in the “homework done” folder.
Help your child develop the skill of prioritizing by going through their homework and figuring out together how many assignments have to be completed, which are due tomorrow, and which are the most difficult. Parents should try to explain the value of starting with the most difficult or the tightest deadline.
Day planner inspection
Using a day planner is a must to keep track of homework assignments, test dates, appointments, and anything else your child needs to remember. This way they will also learn to organize their time according to the pending tasks attributed to them. You can help your child review the agenda each night to know what is a priority and what is not.
Kairos is a great resource to introduce time management and the benefits of task completion. In partnership with UQTR, Kairos is the only technological and fun solution for routines tested in clinical studies. After more than 8 weeks of use, the vast majority of participating families noticed significant effects on several routine irritants. Notable fact: on average, about 1 in 4 arguments were broken up between parents!
As the parent of a child with ADHD emphasize accomplishments and successes and praise your kid as you continue to work on new skills. Parental support helps make organizing a positive and effective experience for children.
If you want to help your child be more organized and develop his autonomy, Kairos is your best ally. Kairos is a technological tool that combines an app and a video game to enable children to carry out their daily routines independently. To make progress in the game, children must carry out tasks that will make it possible for their avatar to obtain the new powers needed to progress to the next level.
Kairos also includes a parenting coach that gives access to professionally validated advice on different matters, such as sleep management, routines, positive reinforcement, etc. Parents also have access to a parental guide!