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What parents can do to help their children get organized

Gifted Research

While this article, by Sandra Rief, M.A., focuses on what parents can do to help their 2e students get organized, the tips provided are relevant to any gifted student who needs assistance with organization.

Author: Rief, S.
Publisher: 2e Newsletter
Year: September 2006

It’s not unusual for 2e children or teens to have weak organization skills and lack an awareness of time, especially of they have AD/HD. If your child has these characteristics, try not to be critical. He or she will need your support and “coaching” in order to be successful in school. Here are ways that you can help your child.

Organizing Household Chores and Responsibilities

  • Establish a daily routine with expectations clearly defined and discussed in the family (i.e., getting ready for school, chores, homework, and bedtime routine).
  • Adhere as closely as possible to a schedule during the school week.
  • When giving chores or responsibilities around the house, be sure they are reasonable, limited in number, and developmentally appropriate for your child.
  • Write down and post all chores/responsibilities in a highly visible place.
  • Establish a daily routine with expectations clearly defined and discussed in the family (i.e., getting ready for school, chores, homework, and bedtime routine).
  • Adhere as closely as possible to a schedule during the school week.
  • When giving chores or responsibilities around the house, be sure they are reasonable, limited in number, and developmentally appropriate for your child.
  • Write down and post all chores/responsibilities in a highly visible place.
  • Use self-stick notes to place on mirrors, doors, and other visible places for reminders.
  • Consider using a timer if your child has difficulty staying on-task. Sometimes a “beat the clock system” is effective in motivating children to complete a task before the timer goes off.


Helping to Organize Workspace and Materials for Homework

Parents can:

  • Provide your child with a backpack and notebook/binder, according to the teacher’s specifications.
  • Provide all necessary supplies for school and homework.
  • Label your child’s materials and possessions with her name.
  • Provide your child with a corkboard and pins to hang up important papers.
  • Consider hanging a dry erase board and markers in the kitchen and your child’s room for important notes and messages.
  • Provide a file with color-coded folders in which your child can keep papers stored categorically.
  • Keep trays and bins for storing supplies/materials in order to remove some of the clutter from your child’s desktop.
  • Keep a three-hole punch and electric pencil sharpener easily accessible.
  • Besides posting a master calendar (in the kitchen), provide your child with a desk calendar that serves as an overview of important dates, activities, and events.
  • Provide the necessary storage space (shelves, closet space, bins, trays, and drawers) for organizing your child’s work area efficiently.
  • Maintain a homework supply kit in addition to the supplies/materials in your child’s work area.


Parents and kids can work together to:

  • Choose a workplace for your child at home that has adequate lighting, is comfortable for working, and is as free from distractions as possible.
  • Carefully examine the child’s workspace. Make sure it has a large, working surface (desktop) free from clutter. If your child has a computer, don’t place it on the desk, which cuts down considerably on working surface area. Instead, place the computer on a separate desk or table.
  • Clear out desk drawers and shelves of work, projects, and papers from past school years. Together, decide on what you would like to keep and store out of the way (in colored boxes, or zipper portfolios) in order to make room for current papers and projects.
  • Assist your child with cleaning and organizing by getting her started.
  • Make the time to help your child clean and organize her backpack, notebook, desk, and room.
  • Provide the necessary supplies to help your child be organized at school. (You will likely have to replace and replenish supplies often.) Have her take inventory of what needs replacement or ask the teacher.
  • Encourage and help your child get in the habit of putting all books, notebooks, signed notes, and other necessary materials inside the backpack before bedtime. Place the backpack in the same spot every night.


Helping with Time Management and Awareness

Parents can:

  • Get your child a watch to wear and an accurate clock for her room. A watch that has an alarm set is very helpful, especially if he takes medication and needs to go to the nurse’s office during school.
  • Give your child advance notice whenever possible.
  • Expect your child to record assignments (See the teacher for help.) and monitor that this is being done. Ask to see his assignment calendars/sheets every day.
  • Post a master calendar or wall chart for important events and activities. Remember to refer to it often.
  • Help transfer important extracurricular activities/scheduling onto your child’s personal calendar/planner.
  • Pay close attention to due dates at school. Post the project requirements. With your child, record on a master calendar the due date of the final project and plan when to do the steps along the way (i.e., going to the library, getting resources and materials).
  • Consider setting up “no-phone-call” times in the evening.
  • Keep your child from being distracted by the TV by turning it off.


Parents and kids can work together to:

  • Help your child learn how to tell time, read a non-digital clock, and understand calendars and schedules.
  • Teach your child to use “things to do” lists (writing down and then crossing out accomplished tasks).


Supporting Your Child with Homework

Parents can:

  • Communicate your expectations that homework is a priority. In today’s busy society, many families are over-extended with the number of extracurricular activities that they are involved in. If there is very little time in an evening to devote to schoolwork, perhaps you need to re-examine your commitments and activities – “something has to give.”
  • If possible, be available when your child is doing homework to help as needed, but don’t get in the habit of having him rely on you. However tempting it may be, don’t do the work for your child.
  • Ask to see how your child is recording assignments. Praise all efforts at being organized.
  • Ask to see what he has accomplished after a certain amount of time, or to show you when a particular assignment is done.
  • Ask to see the completed task, and reward your child if it was done with relative accuracy and neatness. Even more effective is having your child self-monitor, requiring that he take a few minutes more to check over the work and self-correct as needed.


Parents and kids can work together to:

  • Set a schedule for homework. Some children like to come home and immediately get part or all of their homework done and out of the way. Others need a break before tackling any homework. Together plan a schedule or time for homework your child can follow as consistently as possible.
  • Help your child to plan her time when she comes home from school – prioritizing each day’s activities and workload, estimating together how long they should take, and making a schedule.
  • Break down long school assignments into smaller, manageable increments. (Note: Your assistance with time management and structuring long-term school projects such as book reports, science projects, and research projects will be critical to your child’s success.)


Working with the Teacher

Ask the teacher for feedback on your child’s progress. Don’t assume your child is working on projects at school, even if he is given some time in class to do it. Avoid procrastination and last-minute scrambling to complete projects.

If your child consistently has difficulty keeping up with assignments, turning work in on time, and following through with projects and daily homework, see the teacher! Let the teacher know that this is an area of weakness for your child, and that you want to be in a position to help. Request the teacher’s help in making sure all assignments are recorded daily. Then be sure to follow through by reviewing the recorded assignments with your child.

Reinforce with your child the need to not leave school until she checks her assignment sheet/calendar. Make sure she has any necessary books and materials needed to do the homework.

Have your child take the phone numbers of a few responsible students that she can call if there is a question about schoolwork. Ask the teacher to assign a responsible buddy for this purpose. Some accommodating teachers are willing to share their own home phone number.

Be sure to ask the teacher for progress notes that keep you aware of how your child is doing. If you haven’t received any communication or feedback for a while, call the teacher or write a note.

If homework assignments seem to be taking an inordinate amount of time and your child is struggling, make an appointment with the teacher. Special modifications may need to be arranged (i.e., shorter assignments; oral rather than written projects; your child dictates and you transcribe for her). Make sure the teacher understands your efforts and the extraordinary difficulty your child is having surrounding homework. If the teacher is unwilling to accept any reasonable adjustments or make modifications, see the administrator.

Final Tips

Encourage your child and emphasize effort as the most important criteria. Praise your child for being on-task, getting to work, and taking responsibility. Give extra praise for accomplishment and progress. Rewards and incentives are appropriate as well as effective.

Adapted from these books by Sandra Rief: The ADD/ADHD Checklist (1998), The AD/HD Book of Lists (2003), and How to Reach & Teach ADD/ADHD Children, 2nd Edition (2005). Sandra Rief is an award-winning teacher, consultant, and author. Sandra has served on the Professional Advisory Board of CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). She can be reached at

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