Organization is a problem for many children with special needs. Because of poor organizational skills children
- lose personal items
- forget to bring handouts and homework home
- have trouble keeping up with their peers at school
- bring home the wrong books from school
- forget what their homework assignments are
- find it difficut to prioritize things
- cannot establish or maintain routines
Disorganization causes stress and anxiety which exacerbates children’s already poor organizational skills. Because of the significant impact of disorganization, it is important for parents to teach their children organizational skills.
This two-part series helps parents get their children organized, which makes things a bit easier at home and school.
HOME – Organizing your special needs child
Start organizing with these two steps:
- Make a place for everything
Declutter children’s rooms by getting rid of anything they have outgrown, no longer use, or is broken. This includes clothes, toys, footwear, books, etc.
Some children are hoarders and don’t like to throw or give anything away. In addition, some children develop strong attachments to toys or other objects and will get upset if one of their toys is given away.
If possible, talk to them about items you want to give or throw away. Some parents get rid of toys when their children are at school or outside of the house. You know your children the best. You must decide the best way to deal with items that are broken or no longer needed.
Make a place for everything
After decluttering, make sure that there is a place for everything – dresser and closet for clothes, shelves for toys, bookcase, desk, desk tidy, etc.
Here are some items to place in your children’s rooms to help them get organized as well as some ideas for storage:
- Alarm clock
- Wall or desk calendar
- Laundry basket or hamper
- Pictures of their room when clean and organized
- Underbed storage boxes
- Wall shelves
- Desk or work area
- Files, binders or boxes for school paperwork
- Labels for all drawers, boxes and containers
- Coat hooks for behind doors and/or on walls
- Cork board or other notice board for schedules, checklists, photos, etc.
- Canvas or plastic shoe holders for dolls, stuffed animals, art supplies, etc.
- Hobby or craft caddies to store small items such as Nintendo games, Lego pieces, loom bands, barrettes and hair supplies, paints and brushes, etc.
Remember you have to train your children to be organized. What might seem obvious to you may not be obvious to your children.
Involve your children in this organizational process as much as possible. It will teach them organizational skills and make your life easier if they know where their things are stored.
Space can be an issue in children’s bedrooms, so be creative at making more usable space. Look for usable space both under and over furniture if needed. Here are some ideas:
- Clear plastic drawers on rollers can fit under beds
- Hooks on the back of the bedroom door can act as more closet space
- Use a plastic or cloth shoe holder hung on the back of the door or closet to keep small toys, socks or shoes in.
- Put hooks on the inside of your child’s closet door or on walls
- Mount shelves and cubes on the walls for storage
- Clear containers or baskets on shelves store a variety of items
Find a place for your children to put their coats, hats, school bags, boots, etc. when they come into the house.
Label the outside of each storage container with its contents. Since visual cues are more effective for a lot of children with special needs, put both the word and a picture on the label. Cut pictures out of catalogs or magazines for the visual clues or print them from the internet. (Cars, Lego, dolls, arts and crafts etc.)
Make sure your children have laundry baskets or hampers in their rooms to put dirty clothes in.
Label the drawers of their dressers using pictures and words. (Socks, underwear, tops etc.)
In your children’s wardrobes, hang similar things next to each other-tops all together, trousers together etc. to make it easier for your children to find their clothes.
Establish a routine for home
Put charts in your children’s rooms showing their daily routines. The chart entries should use words and pictures. For example:
A white board or magnetic calendar is also helpful. Note activities and appointments on the calendar/whiteboard so your children know what to expect each day.
The second part of this series focuses on tips for organizing your special needs child for school.
More resources for organizing your special needs child
If you need more inspiration or ideas, check out the resources listed below: