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Getting Organized for Special Needs Children

written by: dawn m. laughlin • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 2/8/2012

As a paraprofessional, one of the most helpful things you can do for your student is to get them organized.

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    All students can benefit from good organizational skills. It is imperative that special needs students are organized from the first day of school. A large part of your job as a para-educator is helping your students get organized. Some of the younger grades need help with anything from hanging their backpack and coat to getting mail together at the end of the day. Older students might even need help in finding their way around the school or getting the right books out of the lockers between classes.

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    Recommendations For The Classroom

    1) Index Cards

    I've had to use index cards with steps to start the morning with students in primary grades. They might have a list with 1. bring backpack to your desk. 2. get home work and notes for the teacher out. 3. hang up coat and backpack in cubby, 4.take chair down from desk,5. sign up for lunch. The more you can break down the steps, the better. Also, the more prepared for the schedule of the day a child is the more they feel in control of their environment. If there's any change in the schedule let the child know as soon as possible as some students are very dependent on routine.

    2) Written Schedule

    A written schedule is a must for primary, middle and high school students. The younger children can have them taped right to the desk. The older students should have multiple copies for the locker, their backpacks and in the homeroom where they start the day. Also of great importance for the middle and high school students is a written agenda. This is something para-educators should take the time everyday to make sure everything is written down and that the student understands the homework assignments.

    3) Routine

    If there is a particular place in the room where the students turn in homework help the child get in the habit of doing that first thing when entering the classroom. At the end of class, give the student a reminder that we only have a few minutes left and it is time to organize materials and homework assignments. This will help the child not to feel rushed.

    4) Checklist

    Put a simple check list on the student's desk or in the front of a notebook. That way the student can add assignments and cross things off as they are finished.

    5) Extra Set of Books

    One other wonderful thing I realized this year is that most text books can be purchased on line from sites like half.com or Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, and other used and out of print bookstores. If you can not get an extra set from the school try these sites so your student has an extra set at home. This cuts down on problems arising from forgotten books.

    The most valuable asset a para-educator has is the team work that comes from parents, student and para-educator working together. I also find the more supportive the school system, the more successful the student.