Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that affects about 9 percent of children in the United States. Children with ADHD often find it difficult to keep focused on one task for an extended period of time and may also struggle with hyperactivity and impulsivity. While male children are most commonly diagnosed with ADHD, it can affect children of any age.

Because many of the symptoms of ADHD are related to concentration, attention to detail and discipline, staying organized is often a challenge for students diagnosed with the disorder. For example, children with ADHD may have trouble with maintaining an orderly desk space, concentrating on lessons and managing their time. The organizational tactics and strategies that work for a neurotypical person may not be effective for those diagnosed with ADHD. This can ultimately lead to frustration, self-judgement and even a feeling of defeat in students if not acknowledged and addressed.

If your child or student has been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, here are 7 tips that may help them stay more organized and feel in control of their time and environment.

  1. Set a timer. Setting an allotted amount of time for a task or a decision can help things feel more manageable and create a clear structure for children with ADHD. If the child has a lot of trouble focusing on one thing at a time, start with a short amount of time, such as five minutes, and gradually work your way up.
  2. Start small. It can be overwhelming to think about cleaning an entire room or accomplishing a long to-do list in one sitting. Instead of letting children wait for a big, uninterrupted chunk of time to complete tasks, start small. Dedicate 10 or 15 minutes to important projects each day so that they don’t pile up and start to cause issues.
  3. Provide a “shadow.” Having a friend or family member sit alongside a student as they complete a mundane chore or school task can help keep them focused.
  4. Try minimalism. It is harder to clutter your space when you don’t own many items in the first place. By developing a system to prevent the accumulation of tangible possessions, students will have an easier time cleaning and organizing. Consider limiting the amount of new things you purchase for your child every month.
  5. Limit distractions. Sounds, lights, technology, animals and other people can all be distractions for children with ADHD and make it virtually impossible for them to concentrate. Students will have their best shot at staying organized if you create an environment free from distractions that sets them up for success.
  6. Create a consistent schedule. By having a clear, consistent schedule each day, individuals with ADHD have an easier time finding a rhythm and staying focused. Post the schedule or calendar in a visible location and have students check it every morning to establish healthy patterns.
  7. Show compassion. Students diagnosed with ADHD have unique challenges and can’t always meet the organizational standards of neurotypical people. Criticism and punishments will only make it harder for them to stay on task.

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