Low tech recommendations to improve organizational skills for students with learning disabilities

Where’d I put that?

What’s my homework assignment? I can’t remember…

Where’s my textbook? I have no idea…

My teacher didn’t give any homework! (how many times have you heard THAT one)

Where do I start? How do I start?

It should be somewhere in my desk…or maybe in my backpack…

Sound familiar?

As a parent, do you meticulously write your child a task list, only to find that he/she has lost the list? Does your child come home with a backpack full of loose paper? Does your child’s teacher recoil in horror at the sight of the inside of his/her desk?

While not exclusive to children with LD (it seems that many people nowadays could use a boost in organizational skills), organizational difficulties affect many children with a diagnosis of LD. These difficulties have a neurophysiological basis and can cause deficits in executive function abilities;  some of these are disorganization, working memory, inhibition, self-monitoring and planning/organizing. This could be the reason why you are hanging out at the school’s lost and found box on a daily basis.

So what’s a parent to do?

Experts in the area of learning disability agree that its important to teach your child HOW to learn in order to experience school success. Teachers often do this with explicit instruction or by teaching metacognition skills (think KWL charts or graphic organizers). Every once in a while, a new organizational “system” pops up. Most of these systems center around time management tips, long term planning tips and homework organization tips, and in my experience, feature very similar principles and recommendations.

11 Tips for improving organizational skills:

  1. Use checklists
  2. Use a master calendar for long-range planning and set manageable goals for big projects
  3. Set a designated study space (Keep in mind that this cannot be generalized to all children. Many children study more effectively in different ways and spaces. New research challenges our ideas about effective study skills and practice methods.)
  4. Break down tasks into step-by-step increments, set workable, smaller tasks
  5. Organize and set a routine for homework
  6. Use only one or two notebooks and use dividers for each subject (easier to keep track of)
  7. Color code subjects/notebooks
  8. Have an organization master binder, in which reminders for materials needed for each class are kept
  9. Be consistent and clean out your child’s desk/backpack daily and weekly.
  10. Use self-talk for planning and monitoring and model them for your child. “First, I need to find my pencil, then, I need to open my book…”
  11. Use questioning strategies. “What do I need to be able to do this?”

These are a few good general guidelines-they work if applied correctly (you need to have frequent communication with your child’s teacher) and you can follow them consistently. Some of these organization systems are easy to use and great low-tech tools. Check out the Master filing system-one that I’ve used with success in the past.

Moving forward…

But what can you do to encourage your child to take the next step-how do they become more independent in their organization skills in order to become effective learners? Most of the parents that I speak to say they are always “on top” of their child to organize them for tasks. This is necessary for your child to “learn how to learn” but as a parent, you also know that encouraging independence and autonomy is important as well…

Stay tuned for an upcoming series on specific apps that can help your child become a well-organized, independent learner… plus they have an added bonus of being super cool.

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2 Responses to Low tech recommendations to improve organizational skills for students with learning disabilities

  1. Kathy Lanning December 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    Just discovered this website… Already love the information and resource.


  1. There’s a special app for that – Part 1: 5 Apps to improve organizational skills for students with learning disabilities | inov8 Educational Consulting - March 27, 2011

    […] difficulty associated with a diagnosis of learning disability. One of our previous posts focused on low-tech solutions for students with learning disabilities and organizational difficulties. Now for some high-tech recommendations!We are big fans of the […]

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