Organization Tips for Children with Learning Differences

Apr 12

In general, “typical” people struggle with getting and staying organized. Our culture is constantly moving and there are so many demands for us to meet. Organization is a hugely important life-skill to have in our tool-belt to battle those daily stressors all of us face.

But have you ever stopped to think about how this affects the little people in your life?

Or how it can really affect the children in your life who have learning differences or special needs?

Imagine how difficult it must be for them to navigate this hectic, fast-faced world. I can barely keep up sometimes. It’s troubling to think about our children (especially our child on the autism spectrum) facing this without the organization skills needed to be successful.

As we have walked the ASD road with our 6 year old, I have learned so many helpful tips for supporting organization skills at home for children – specifically children with learning differences. I thought I would finally dump my brain in here to share all of the great tips I have learned from the doctors and therapists that have touched our lives.

Here are some tips I’ve learned to support organization at home:

create & maintain a master calendar

A visual is so important for kids with special needs and learning differences. Most children can appreciate knowing what their day looks like…I like to know too! for children with a special need it’s even more important! set up a large master calendar that includes schedules, appointments, and deadlines that pertain to your child. If your child isn’t reading yet you can use pictures. For a child on the autism spectrum, you can use characters for the calendar that are similar to those found in a social story.

If possible, keep the calendar simple and un-busy looking – not overwhelming. You have likely seen the beautiful family calendar’s and command centers shared around the blogosphere. While they are pretty and fun to look at, remember this is a calendar to help your child. You can still make it fun, but try not to add too much information. Keep this calendar for important info and not your to-do list, the shopping list, and their daily chores. That can be saved for a command center – see below.

Oh, and try to keep the calendar at a height where your child can see/read it! My husband is 6′ 6″ so I have to remind him when we are placing wall hangings that *I* would like to see it too. Keep in mind that your child isn’t as tall as you (yet!) and hang it a little lower, if at all possible.

Our child lives by his routine and it helps him feel secure in knowing what we are doing next. Sometimes he doesn’t even have to see the calendar – he knows that on Monday afternoon I pick him up early from school for his pragmatics group. And he knows from there we drive back to school to pick up his big brother from basketball camp. He even knows what is on the hot lunch menu for each day of the week. 🙂 All because these details have been made simple for him to access and they are a part of his daily routine and information gathering.

Create a command center

If possible, have your command center separate from your master calendar. If you add too much to the wall, it can be visually overwhelming and your child may lose interest. For example, have a command center set up near the front or back door and keep your calendar on a wall in the kitchen.

Things for a command center? I think we all know the answer but here is my short list…

* A bulletin board for to-do lists, a grocery list, an envelope for receipts, etc.
* Spot for incoming / outgoing mail
* A list of chores for each family member
* A place for the kids to drop their backpacks and school papers
* Spot for library books
* A bin for sports items
* A spot for you and/or your spouse’s work bag
* Hook for keys

You get the idea – – Keeping everything in one central location key. This will not only help your child, but it will help you when it’s time to grab those ever elusive car keys.

Create habits and routines for school and home activities

When there is a lack in systems and routines, this puts more pressure on memory and reasoning systems. Children who have a morning routine or do homework at regular times, have less stress on their memory and attention systems. I’m sure you have a routine you enjoy following each day. Think of this step as a way to set your child up for lifelong success!

Develop routines to address problem areas

If you notice your child is struggling to get out the door on time each morning, hit that problem area head on with some special focus. For example, come up with a routine that your child can handle each morning and stick to it. This could include laying clothes out the night before or packing their school snack the night before. You can help reduce stress based on organization!

schedule a time to get rid of clutter

Help your child identify what is important and what isn’t. Physical organization is just as important as mental organization. if our son’s homework space is a disorganized mess, you can see him immediately unplug from the work he should be doing. if you notice your child’s space is getting cluttered with junk, consider setting up a couple days a months when you tackle the mess together. Having your child help is important because sometimes they don’t know what is important and what isn’t. And children need to learn how to organize. Not everyone is born with the ability to be organized.

Make healthy patterns a part of your life

If you have a child, whether special needs or not, then you’ve probably heard more than a few dozen times that children thrive in an environment of habits, patterns, systems, routines, and structure. You’ve probably heard that over and over again because it’s true. When children have patterns and systems in their life, it not only helps them at home but it helps them at school and in their future work environments.

Promote regular, healthy patterns for eating and sleeping. Encourage regular exercise too! This is something to do with your entire family – not just your child with learning differences.

Keep it simple!

Organization or schedules that are too rigid or inflexible may increase anxiety in children with learning differences. When at all possible, keep your family schedule as simple as possible. Make sure routines and systems are flexible and based on need.

I hope this information has been useful! honestly, I could keep going and going here but I’d lose you guys. 🙂

As always, if you have anything to add, your comments are welcomed. There’s plenty more to share and i will be sharing a great list of online resources, apps and books next week.

Have a great weekend!

comments +

  1. Simply LKJ says:

    Great tips! I totally agree with you on all counts. Our girls are now 19 and 23, but we used a lot of these same tips when they were growing up. Especially when they became very active in sports. I will have to share this with our youngest. She is studying speech/path/early childhood development in hopes of working in the field of early intervention with children under 5 or in the field of Autism.

    • hey there! thank you so much for the comment and i am so glad you'll share this info with your daughter. what a great field of work…she must be compassionate and sweet and have a good heart. every single therapist we have met has been incredible – they are one of a kind…as i am sure your daughter is. 🙂

      thank you again!

  2. I always thought that I went overboard with organization. I seriously could not get through my day to day life without it. I love structure and being organized. My son, (Who passed away at 17 from brain cancer.) was just like me. He actually put all 2,500 baseball cards in cases in ABC order, and by teams. With brain cancer. It was before he was diagnosed. He also had to have everything in his room organized along with all of his school work and back pack. However, my daughter who is 27 now, who lived in the same house with the same mom, is not as worried about things being organized. Her house is spotless and her kids are always clean and dressed to the nines. But organization is not important to her. I know that this is off the subject of your post. Just wondering how one child can follow your lead and another doesn't?

  3. Hi Samantha
    Already a bloglovin follower but really snooped around your blog this morning. Great material. I have a son w/dyslexia and have blogged about what work for us (and him). Great blog, love the layout! Have a great day! Good luck with move too! I'm a realtor and we are crazy busy in Denver.

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