Today’s blog is part two in a blog series on how youth can develop organization skills using various strategies, including technology. Organization skills are important soft skills that all young people need for success in employment as well as in education and other areas of life.
In part one of this blog series, Ethan, a high school student with ADHD, was struggling to keep track of his assignments. To help students like Ethan develop and practice organization strategies, consider the tips and tools in the following categories.
Environmental/Spatial: This refers to the positioning of physical surroundings and the location and placement of objects. One question commonly asked by parents and professionals is how the environment can be arranged so a student is more likely to keep track of homework and turn it in. A big factor to consider is the accessibility of the organization tools that the student is using. Below are a few different strategies:
- Two folders: the first folder contains all completed homework for every class subject, the second folder contains all assigned homework for every class subject
- One dedicated folder and notebook for each subject
- Two-pocket folder: the first pocket contains assigned and completed homework, the second pocket contains old notes and graded homework
- Color code by subject: folders, notebooks, book covers and class schedule
- One large three-ring binder: tabbed dividers/folders, zippable case
- One accordion folder: labeled and color-coded dividers
- One working notebook/folder/binder, a reserve accordion file for completed units, and a reference notebook
Tangible memory aids can also be helpful. For example, if Ethan consistently will eat breakfast, but not remember his homework, a structured appointment can be scheduled the night before when Ethan will pack his backpack with all appropriate homework and place his backpack on the chair he sits in for breakfast.
- Have a defined, distraction-free study space
- Locate all required supplies within the study space in places that can be found easily
- Put frequently used items closer to reach
- Label as a reminder for where items belong
- Take a photo of the space in its organized state and then post the picture there. When the space matches the picture, then everything is where it belongs.
Task Planning/Executing: This refers to planning and executing steps to accomplish clearly defined goals. To-do lists, planners, and calendars can be paper or electronic. While considering software or apps for the iPod touch/iPad/iPhone, and smart phones, be sure to check:
- If a schedule view is available and what the interface looks like
- If alarms or notifications are provided and how they work
- If tasks can be broken down into steps
- If notes can be added to tasks
Also consider how a student organizes a to-do list. Some may have to break tasks down into smaller steps that they can visualize. Reading an assigned chapter can be visualized as:
- finding the location of the book and study materials
- finding the appropriate chapter
- glancing over titles and subtitles for an overview of the reading section
- reading the section
- highlighting important information
- jotting down notes and questions
- summarizing the section and reviewing
- Turn appointments, due dates, activities or events into action plans. For example, attending a birthday party may require preliminary planning, such as buying a birthday gift, wrapping the gift, finding driving directions, etc. Each of these pieces may be scheduled on the calendar.
- Explore non-traditional tools such as the Smartpen and a digital voice recorder to record instructions, to-do lists, and notes.
- Use visual cues to provide step-by-step instructions. Software programs (such as Boardmaker, Overboard, or other similar programs) can help in creating these visual cues. For example: to do the laundry, a visual cue by the hamper gives direction on how to sort clothing, one next to the washer shows how to start the wash, and one on a timer reminds a person to check the laundry.
Stay tuned for the final post in this series, which will share tips and tools for event planning, time management, information organizing and writing compositions.
- Part 1 of this blog series, The Dog Ate Your Homework? Developing Organization Skills
- Resources from the Job Accommodation Network, including Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Helping Youth Build Work Skills for Job Success: Tips for Parents and Families
- Learning How to Learn: Successful Transition Models for Educators Working with Youth with Learning Disabilities
- Charting the Course: Supporting the Career Development of Youth with Learning Disabilities
- More guidance on Organization Tools from the Simon Technology Center: Organization Category Descriptions; Organization Tools Matrix; Organization Tools Matrix Addendum; Organization Apps Android and Blackberry; Organization Apps iOS Apple
By Tara Bruss, Assistive Technology Specialist, PACER’s Simon Technology Center. The PACER Center is a partner in the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth.