Many children with special needs have poor organizational skills. Disorganization makes school difficult. Disorganization causes problems such as lost books, school supplies and school notices, missing handouts and assignments, and forgotten homework. These problems increase children’s stress levels and decrease their ability to do well at school.
PART TWO – Organizing your special needs child for school
Setting up a study area helps organize your special needs child
Children need a designated place for homework and study. Find an area where your children are less likely to be distracted. Put a desk with drawers and a chair in the study area. Make sure the area is well lit.
- Stock this area with pens, pencils, papers, crayons, rulers, etc. A well-equipped study area means your children do not need to leave their study area to get something they need for their homework.
- Get a desktop organizer to hold the objects your children use most often. Store other items in the desk
drawers. Label each drawer with both a word and a picture showing what is in it. If the desk does not have drawers or you are using a table, put a set of clear plastic drawers beside or under the desk or table.
- If you don’t have enough space for a desk, use a cardboard box to make a three-sided partition and place it on a table to make a study station. You can also use this cardboard partition if your child is easily distracted or if you have several children working at the same table. Alternatively, you can buy a Pop-Up Partition.
- Put a clock and timer in your child’s homework area. Even if your child cannot tell time or has trouble with the concept of time, having a clock nearby allows you and your child to see how much time different tasks are taking.
- A timer is helpful for several reasons. If your child is supposed to spend a set amount of time doing homework, use the timer to measure this. If your child’s homework has several steps or questions, use the timer to set the amount of time your child spends on each question.
- Keep a supply of scrap paper in the study area that children can use to draft answers, work out math problems, do mind-mapping, etc. Many children with special needs use mind-mapping techniques for schoolwork. Mind-maps are visual outlines of thoughts and ideas. Children draw mind-maps on paper. In addition, some educational software programs help students develop and use mind-mapping techniques.
Consider getting two of everything
- If your child uses any unusual or special tools (compass, T-square, coloured pens) for school get two of each tool. Have one set for home and one for school. Your goal is to reduce the number of objects your child has to bring from school to home. In addition, having two of each tool saves you from an emergency trip to the store for a certain colour
- Depending on the level of your child’s disability, consider getting two sets of school books – one for home and one for school. Alternatively, check if any of your child’s books are available in an electronic form and get electronic versions for home use.
- Give your child a clear pencil-case for school so he can see exactly what is in it. Keep another set of these school supplies at home so your child can leave his pencil-case at school or in his school bag.
Color-coding books is an organizational tool that helps some children with special needs
Color-coding is just what it says. You give each subject a
color and all books, notebooks and folders for that subject are the same color. For example, all books related to science are green and all English books are blue.
Some children find it too difficult to manage all the books, notebooks, handouts and folders. In this situation, talk with your child’s teacher and work out a mutually agreeable solution. For example, could your child use one notebook for all his school notes? Then when your child comes home from school, put the notes into color-coded files for each subject.
Encourage your special needs child to use a diary or planner
Teaching your child to use a diary or planner is particularly
important for older children. When their class schedules are different every day, children need a system where they prioritize their homework and make sure they have done the homework
for the classes they have the next day.
Children also need a study plan. Ask your child’s
teacher(s) about the areas of study your child should prioritize.
Instead of (or in addition) to using a diary, get a whiteboard or
large planning calendar to put on the wall in the study area. The whiteboard shows the child’s homework and study schedule.
Check if your child with special needs is entitled to accommodations regarding homework
Some children with special needs are entitled to accommodations on the amount of homework they need to do. If for example, your child is supposed to do 45 minutes of homework on school nights, help your child use this time most efficiently. Allocate a certain amount of time for each subject that he has homework in -this is when having the timer mentioned above can come in handy.
homework than he is able to. (See Managing homework when your children have special needs.)
Include schoolwork in routines
- Packing school bags the night before school
- Charging tablets, phones and/or laptops at night
- Double checking school bags in the morning
- Times for homework
- Getting uniform or clothes ready the night before school
Get an easily accessible locker
If you child has a locker at school, make sure it is easily
accessible. Since it may take your child longer to get her things in and out of her locker, she needs to have easy access to it. Before the school year starts, talk to the principal and request a locker in an easy to reach location.