Attention deficit disorders (ADD and ADHD) are generally diagnosed using a checklist of symptoms. One of those symptoms is often losing materials necessary for a task – like school supplies or textbooks. While some people may think that hyperactivity is the most obvious sign that a child has ADHD, for our daughter the first sign that all was not well at school was definitely that she constantly lost or forgot things.
Kids who have attention deficit disorders don’t like to forget things, and they like it even less when their disability gets them in trouble at home or school. As the adults responsible for helping them get a good education, it is up to parents and teachers to help kids with ADHD develop strategies to overcome their attention deficit, and to give them tools that will help guarantee their academic success.
School supplies and ADHD: Paring things down
Many teachers just love school supplies, and they enjoy putting together the kind of lists that absolutely give me goosebumps when I wander the aisles of the office supply stores. All those fresh new folders, binders, pencils and loose leaf filler paper represent new beginnings and the promise of learning to many teachers and parents, but to a child with ADHD a big list of school supplies can be overwhelming. It’s so much to keep track of each day, and so much that can get lost along the way. Eliminate things that aren’t necessary, and opt for school supplies that will be easier to use and to keep track of. Students who have just begun learning to write need pencils and erasers. Forget about the three colours of pens, the corrector fluid and the highlighters for this crowd. Similarly, if your child is past the cut and paste phase, why take scissors and glue to school every day?
Another really useful paring down strategy is to replace the dozens of loose pocket folders with a single binder that has tabbed subject dividers and built-in pockets for each subject. Use one notebook per subject, rather than filler paper. They are more “ADHD friendly” as they are bound together, leaving no loose papers to keep track of. Notebooks are available in a variety of styles, and with different types of paper including graph paper for math or science courses. Almost all will fit right into a three-ring binder.
Helping a student with ADHD organize school supplies
Memory and attention to detail are not strong points for kids with ADHD. Help your child organize school supplies by keeping everything that regularly goes to school in a zippered binder. Some of these binders come with built-in compartments, pencil cases or day timers. They also have spaces for calculators, lunch money, ID and other important items. Some are even made with a carry strap! Properly kitted out, the binder could pretty much replace a backpack. Ask teachers to give your child a second set of textbooks to be kept at home, and there is no need to bring books back and forth. Have the second set of books listed in the IEP, so any new books that are issued throughout the school year will also be issued in duplicate.
Colour coding materials can help a student with an attention deficit to keep materials for one subject area together. Cover the text book with a coloured paper or plastic protector, or match the school supplies to the cover of the textbook for that subject. Match the notebook, subject divider and binder pocket, and also use the same colour to highlight the appropriate block on the student’s schedule. If there are extra items to take to class, such as reference books or lab safety equipment, find creative ways to colour code them too. A coloured sticker, a protective book cover, or even a decorative iron-on patch can maintain the colour code and help keep the student organized. Remember, it doesn’t have to be terribly obvious. The only person who needs to notice is the student who is working to overcome the challenges of ADHD.
Selecting school supplies that can snap into the rings of the binder is a good way to help a student with ADHD keep necessary items close to hand. Watch out for items that will do double duty, as well. This summer I saw calculators in the local dollar store that have a ruler along one edge, and have holes so they can be added directly to any standard three-ring binder. If your binder has individual pen and pencil holders, teach your child to use them for writing implements used every day. It is much easier to remember to put away a pen if there is an empty space where the pen should be. If your child must have a large assortment of writing or colouring tools, try to keep them in the original box as much as possible. Take advantage of hook and eye closure pockets or zippered compartments in the binder to keep markers, pencil crayons or other supplies safe. The number count written on the box, and the empty spaces inside, will serve as a reminder if a pencil or marker has not been put away.
“12 Things high school students with ADD/ADHD want their teachers to know.” ADHDCentral.com
Suzanne Day, “Attention deficit disorder (ADD and ADHD) checklist.” Wise Choice Educational Services