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Teaching Organizational Skills - ADHD

  • Synopsis: Published: 2010-02-28 (Revised/Updated 2015-05-21) - Information on organizational skills and using a day planner for persons with ADHD and students with attention issues or disorganization struggles. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Michelle Fattig at Disabled World.

Main Document

Quote: "Develop the unwavering habit that all assignments, events, materials, etc. are written in your day planner before your hind end leaves your seat!"

Using a day planner is one of the most essential coping skills that a student with attentional issues or disorganization struggles can develop; however, it is also a skill that they must practice and develop over time.

Actually, using a day planner is not a single skill, but involves a set of skills that can be worked on one-by-one.

Why Can't I Just

It's in the car. I haven't gotten to Walmart yet. I just didn't bring it with me today.

1) When I am working with a student to develop the habit of using a day planner, I hear many excuses as to why it is not with them. The only way for their day planner to become a life planner and manager is to become so attached to it, they can't live without it. It should be like car keys, purse, wallet, or other daily essential. If it is not in their arms, they should feel a sense of loneliness!

  • Put it in the same place every night
  • Reach for it before you reach for your jacket, purse, wallet, etc.
  • Look for it before you ever get out of the car, off the bus, etc.
  • Teach parents, friends, teachers to remind you if it isn't present.
  • If found please return to... Em-blazed in bright bold letters across the front and back.
  • Back up system. Stop think act! If you leave it behind, find it before you have gotten too far in your day! It's easier to trace your steps when it has been one class period, than when it has been a day or week!
  • Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse.

2) Write EVERYTHING in your day planner.

Develop the unwavering habit that all assignments, events, materials, etc. are written in your day planner before your hind end leaves your seat! Do not rely on the I'll remember to write that later philosophy. You haven't in the past, and you won't in the future!

How's That Working for You So Far

The only true definition of crazy is repeating a behavior proven to be unsuccessful in the past, and expecting it to succeed, then being devastated when it does not!

3) Stick ALL of your papers in the planner, and at the end of the day sort, complete, file, and protect! Don't stick your papers in your books, under your bed, in your locker you won't remember!

4) Teachers and Parents:

Set up a system with your teachers and parents that they will ask you for your papers if they don't receive them. If you've got them done, you should develop and support a plan to get the credit! Ask mom or dad to sign homework when you are done, and ask your teachers to sign your planner when you have assignments written down!

5) At first, parents and teachers should be responsible for this oversight. If successful in habit forming, the student might be able to take over some of the responsibility. But never ASSUME!! They have and will always have the disability it is not a CHOICE and should not be punished!

Lists Are Our FRIENDS!

6) Learn the beauty of lists!

Write everything down, check everything off as you complete. This should be a DAILY activity for you for the REST OF YOUR LIFE!

You may have multiple lists-keep them all on the same paper! Examples:

  • Homework to do's
  • short term projects papers
  • long term projects papers - long term projects need a timeline, teacher or parent to check in on progress, and extra discipline on our part!
  • family activities coming up
  • extracurricular activities
  • personal goals

Procrastination is the ENEMY!

7) Developing our to do list includes creating your daily action plan, weekly action plan, monthly action plan, and long term plans.

  • Prioritize ask teacher or parent for help in the beginning
  • Define actions or tasks which need to be accomplished
  • List materials needed in order to accomplish tasks
  • List the time needed to accomplish

8) Learn to become a better time estimator

  • Taking items from to do list and placing them on daily action planner, with assigned times, forces us to begin thinking about how long things take and making realistic goals
  • When making daily plan, allow for the what have I forgotten scenario

9) Learn to plan for contingencies

To-dos become not-dones when we fail to plan for the what have I forgottens

  • Traffic happens
  • Books are forgotten at home
  • Papers are lost

Take a Deep Breath

Stop the why can't I just voice

Follow Your Plan!

None of us wake up in the morning hoping to forget things, disappoint people, or feel stupid. We, like every other person in this world, have our strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, our weaknesses sometimes look like laziness or defiance to those around us. Learn to self-advocate! Plan ahead for those contingencies and don't let setbacks get you down! Some of us have tried for so long to mask our poor planning skills, we haven't learned to tell people what we need or what we struggle with.

10) Learn to resist impulses and distractions!

  • Don't stop to see what is on television, IT'S A TRAP, you will become transfixed!
  • Don't answer the phone when you are starting your homework, ANOTHER TRAP, you will forget to get back to the initial task (Once it is out of our mind, it is done in our mind!)
  • Don't forget to refer to your list and cross off completed items, BUT NOT UNTIL YOU HAVE ACTUALLY FINISHED! If you cross it off before you are done and you get distracted or interrupted, you will not remember to go back!

Define Your Why Can't I Just... Moments

11) Does a task, responsibility, or action need to be a part of your life, or are you simply conforming to peer pressure of others expectations

12) If you truly dislike or are unable to accomplish a task, talk with your parents or teachers, maybe a more tolerable task could be substituted(Example, if writing is laborious and you can't seem to get your thoughts on paper, maybe a teacher would let you tape record your report or your parent could transcribe it for you? Maybe you could work with graphic organizers to develop your story, rather than facing a blank sheet of paper, which can be very overwhelming!)

13) Maybe there is a way to creatively problem-solve or make the task less time-consuming and more interesting!

If used correctly, a day planner works for you, you don't work for it! A day planner is a tool, which will help you in life and relationships with others. Less stress and more success is a life long goal that is obtainable for us! Make sure to plan for enjoyable activities as well. Keep a list of positive to-do's and balance your day accordingly!

Adapted from: Nadeau, K. G. (2006). Using a day planner as a life planner. Attention Deficit Disorder Association: The World's Leading Adult ADHD Organization.

My name is Michelle Fattig-Smith.

I have written a book series called Annie Books Series. I have Asperger's Syndrome and Attention Deficit Disorder.

My seventeen-year-old son Joshua, who also has AS and ADD, has illustrated the book for me. I am a certified school psychologist and currently work as an educational consultant providing professional development in the areas of the reauthorization of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Response to Intervention (RTI), Hidden Disabilities, and Attention Deficits.

I provide training for superintendents, principals, teachers, psychologists, parents, and other educational professionals. I am also the facilitator for Improving Learning for Children with Disabilities (ILCD), a process with the state department of education to oversee the services provided to students with disabilities.

I am a school psychologist as well, and am overseeing the pilot projects in RTI in two of our districts. I am one class and a dissertation away from my PhD in Special Education Law/Systems Enhancement Leadership, and am a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership.

I have an Educational Specialist degree in school psychology and am a member of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). I am also a certified Medical Technologist, and specialized as a medical microbiologist for six years prior to going into education. I previously served as a school board member and I volunteer as a parent advocate to parents of students with special needs, and am a veteran of the Air Force.

Our website has more information about the other books we have written, as well as parent tips, and personal anecdotes about living with Asperger's and raising children with Asperger's -

Related Information:

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  2. Nearly 1 million Children Potentially Misdiagnosed with ADHD
  3. How Dietary Changes Can Help Children with ADHD - University of Copenhagen - (2012-04-26)

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