Organizational Strategies and Increased Study Skills for Students with Special Needs

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Organization Interventions for the Disorganized Student

Special education students can have IEPs (Individual Education Plans) that specifically state organization skills as a problem area, yet when it comes to direct organizational intervention, the list of ideas, besides fitting the papers into a folder and tossing out old lunches, is short. Organization skills will differ according to the level of need for the student, so strategies should differ as well. Interventions can include a diversity of strategies that can improve not only organization, but study tips for students who may want to complete a homework assignment, study for a test or turn in a completed essay, but who can’t find the assignment, the notes or the essay in their backpacks. Read on to learn more…..

Organizational Interventions that Work

  • Model appropriate organization of a student’s backpack by taking an actual student backpack crammed with papers, food products and supplies and showing students how to organize the materials into relevant piles (i.e. math homework, language arts papers, teacher handouts etc).
  • Create folders for each academic and behavioral area. Use different color folders for different subject areas. For example, if you have red, yellow, green, blue, purple and orange folders, you can have students create labels for academic core areas like math, language arts, social studies, science and foreign language. The sixth folder could be for a behavioral area like study skills for testing. This folder could include handouts on testing tips and sample tests.
  • Involve parents in the school’s organizational attempts. By calling or emailing parents that the purple folder contains a student’s homework for Spanish 1, teachers could solicit parents’ support in continuing the organizing efforts beyond the classroom.
  • Provide special education students with District calendars that include school closures and a monthly homework and testing schedule for students. Students can take the calendar around to each teacher for monthly inclusions and parents can work with students to organize backpacks, folders and binders using the monthly schedule coordinated by his/her teachers.
  • Create an organization tick sheet for students to make weekly checklists on whether folders, binders and backpacks contained the appropriate materials for the designated academic or behavioral area. For example, one ‘yes or no’ question would be: “Did your folders contain the correct materials from each academic and behavioral area.” Students can check “yes” if the red folder contained all math materials and only math materials. He or she can check “no” if the green folder for social studies contained science homework that belonged in the blue folder.
  • Have parents/guardians purchase a backpack that has different sized storage areas for binders and folders along with school supplies. Backpacks should have a zippered front pocket for the student’s school calendar, ID, special markers, calculator, lunch card and quarters for a snack at the student store.

Organizational interventions can make the future even brighter for special needs students who are working hard to meet and exceed the learning objectives presented in 5-6 academic areas and one or more behavioral areas in their respective classrooms. By teaching students how to better organize for better learning outcomes, teachers, parents and resource staff can make a difference in student’s lives that will have measurable educational outcomes for a lifetime.