How to Help Students Organize​

Last week I defined executive function skills and how they might affect students.


Now I'd like to share some ways to help. This week, I'll focus on organization, and specifically having everything together for a particular task or when leaving the house to go somewhere.


I learned this method from Sarah Ward of Cognitive Connections. She offers workshops for parents and if you have a student with executive function gaps, I'd recommend signing up for one.


The idea with this tool is to help students visualize themselves with everything they need. While neurotypical individuals automatically create an image in their mind of what they need, neurodiverse students often do not have this skill. Therefore, creating an actual picture is valuable.


Below is an example of an image you could create with your child to help them pull together everything they need to leave the house in the morning. Take a picture of them with the most typical items. A picture of them with their face is far more valuable than an image pulled off the internet. You can add words to it using a free design program like Canva.


Put words on it that describe the items. Not too many, but just enough. If there are things in the backpack you can't see, like snacks, pens, pencils, and highlighters, you could put those words underneath the word backpack in a smaller font.


The goal is to make it as visual as possible. Then, you can have this posted by the front door, on the fridge, or students can keep it on their phone and check it to make sure they have what they need.




There will be times that they need different things. Ask them, "What is the same and what is different about what you need today?" For instance, in winter they'll need a hat and gloves.


Don't expect them to be able to do this independently on their own right away. At first, you can be there to check with them that their body matches the picture. Eventually, you can step back.


Below is an example of an image you could create of what they need to do their homework. This could be posted in their room or wherever they typically do their homework.




I'm happy to help you and my students create these images at the beginning of school and act as an additional check in to help them remember to use them as the year progresses.