Shopping for Back-to-School Supplies

Health Writer
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A typical back-to-school supply list includes items such as folders, binders, pens, pencils, erasers, glue, index cards, and rulers. For older children you might need to add graph paper, calculators, and thumb drives. When you have a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it helps to add items that will help keep your child on task, organized, and prepared for school.


Post-it notes

Have a ready supply of sticky notes to help your child remember what he needs to bring to school, due dates for projects, or upcoming tests. Sticky notes have the versatility of going wherever your child is most likely to see them, for example, your son might write: “Remember to bring clarinet to school,” and put the sticky note at eye level on the door so he sees it as he is leaving. Or your daughter might write down: “Science paper due on Friday,” and post one in her homework area, and one on her mirror to help her remember.


Seat cushion or ball chairs

Air-filled seat cushions and ball chairs can help children with ADHD pay attention. According to a systematic review of studies on therapy cushions and ball chairs, children with ADHD had increased attention and stayed seated longer when using these devices. Parents might find it helpful to buy two — one for school and one for home.



Timers help some children with ADHD stay on task, at least for short amounts of time. Set a timer as a deadline — finishing a household chore within 15 minutes or completing math homework within 30 minutes. You can also use them to set limits. For example: “You have one hour of play time. When the timer goes off, please start your homework.” Timers can also be used to challenge your child, such as: “Let’s see how many math problems you can complete in 10 minutes.”



Fidget gadgets are a hot new trend, but children with ADHD have been using different types of fidget toys, such as squeezable balls, pencil toppers they can spin, or doodle pads they can use quietly at their desks. Fidgets are mindless activities that help keep your child’s fingers busy, and for some children, it helps to reduce squirmy, hyperactive behaviors.



What child with ADHD hasn’t lost their backpack, books, eyeglasses, phone, hat, gloves, or even their coat? To make sure that items are returned, label everything before your child heads out the door. Look for labels that are resilient and will stick (and stay stuck) to a variety of surfaces.


Dry erase calendar

Hang a dry erase calendar in your child’s homework area to help with time management and to keep track of upcoming assignments, tests, due dates, and activities. For younger children, it might be helpful to keep this in an area where parents can see it. For older children, it helps to develop independent and organizational skills when it is in their room or their homework area.


3-Hole punch

Every parent of a child with ADHD has seen folders, binders, and backpacks jammed full with papers. A 3-hole punch can help your child stay organized. It only takes a few minutes each night to punch the papers and put them in the appropriate folders or binders.


Supply box

Use a plastic tote, tool box, or storage box to hold homework supplies. Keep pencils, pens, paper, pencil sharpener, stapler, glue, paint, calculator, and any other supplies your child uses. When everything is in one place, you eliminate the need for your child to get up several times to find or sharpen a pencil, look for paper, or search for the stapler. Each night, remind your child to put all supplies back in the box so they are ready for the next day.


Extra supplies

No matter how careful you are, or how many organizational systems you put in place, your child is bound to lose supplies. Whenever possible, keep one set of supplies at home and one at school to eliminate the need to carry them back and forth. When buying supplies, pick up extras. This eliminates the frustration when something goes missing. Ask the school about having an extra set of textbooks at home as well.