Five Ways to Keep a Child with ADHD Organized and On Track

by Deborah Gray Patient Expert

For me, parenting a child with ADHD is two parts love and one part frustration. I find myself saying, "But how could you forget to do that?" almost as many times as I say, "I love you, honey." We know from experience that simply telling an ADHD child that he has to remember deadlines, stop losing things and stay on task doesn't work. Our children just aren't wired that way. The best thing I've found to alleviate some of that frustration is to find ways to compensate for my son's shortcomings. Here are a few strategies you might want to try:

  • Manage the morning rush by getting ready for school the night before. Lay out clothes, make sure homework and permission slips are signed and in your child's backpack, and all sports equipment and other items for extracurricular activities are clean and ready to go.

  • Make cleaning out the backpack part of homework time. That way permission slips and notices from school won't get lost, food won't turn into a science experiment, and then there's also a chance to talk about what activities are coming up at school.

  • If your child is old enough to write, get her a daily planner and show her how to use it. Not only can she keep her class schedule in it to stay on track at school, but can also keep track of upcoming activities like field trips. Once the permission slip for the activity is signed and returned, one of you can put a check next to the field trip entry. She can note schoolwork deadlines in the planner as soon as she learns of them from the teacher.

  • How many times have you told your child to get dressed for school, only to find out ten minutes later she's sitting in their underwear on the floor of her room examining a toy or reading a book? Kids with ADHD get distracted easily, as we know. Use a kitchen timer to help keep your child on task in the morning or at other times when staying on track is essential. Make sure the timer ticks loudly - it's an aural cue to remind her that she's on a deadline.

  • Think about all of the time you've wasted with frantic searches around the house for backpacks, library books and equipment for extracurricular activities. The problem is that your child can drop their stuff anywhere in the house from the time they come in the door till they roost in front of the tv, computer or refrigerator. Neither you nor your child have any idea where everything ended up. Consider establishing a "drop zone" near the door where your child enters the house. Keep reminding him to drop everything he's carrying the minute he walks through the door, and eventually it will become second nature. Whenever he needs library books to read or homework to do in another location, he has to remember to take it back to the drop zone when he's done. You'll have to nag him a lot in the beginning until it becomes a habit, but I'll take nagging over frantically searching for something any day.

How do you keep your child with ADHD on track?

Deborah Gray
Meet Our Writer
Deborah Gray

Deborah Gray wrote about depression as a Patient Expert for HealthCentral. She lived with undiagnosed clinical depression, both major episodes and dysthymia, from childhood through young adulthood. She was finally diagnosed at age 27, and since that time, her depression has been successfully managed with medication and psychotherapy.