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Organisational Skills

Basic skills to improve ability to organise belongings and the environment

Select some of the following activities for your child to complete and encourage them to plan ahead their approach to the task

  • Encourage the child to sort objects
  • Develop the ability to sort by different criteria e.g. size, shape, texture, length and purpose etc.
  • Encourage the child to lay the table
  • Encourage the child to unpack shopping sorting items into groups before putting away e.g. fridge items, vegetables, packets etc.
  • Discuss with your child their time plan for the day e.g. what will you do this morning? What will you do after lunch?
  • Encourage your child to pack their school bag for the next day.
  • Gradually withdraw the amount of help you are giving your child and encourage them to develop their own strategies for planning and organising e.g. making lists, putting out reminders etc.

Preparing for secondary school

  • Obtain a layout of the school if possible
  • Try to visit the school more than once and look at the key classrooms
    o Where belongs will be kept
    o Dining hall
    o Toilets
    o Playground
  • Timetable- have copies, one for school bag, one for the bedroom and a spare. Colour co-ordinate lessons and books with highlighters or coloured stickers. Use the timetable to prepare for the following day. Make a list of items needed in school bag and tick them off as they are placed in.
  • Try using an egg-timer when needing to complete and activity within a time limit, even washing and dressing. Digital watches, buzzer key reminders.
  • Put locker keys on a chain to prevent them from being lost.
  • Try and discuss with school having a mentor or buddy, to help with getting to different classes (etc.).
  • Use a clear pencil case so that objects can be seen from the outside, or place a list inside to check that all items are placed in and ready for the next lesson.
    o A ruler with a ridge helps stability and control
    o If a spare set of equipment is kept at home the other can be kept in the school bag for the following day.
  • Use a homework diary. Attach a bookmark to the diary so that it is opened at the appropriate page each day.
  • Use florescent sticky tabs or highlighters to mark a place in a book or important passages.
  • Use a Dictaphone to record work and then play back to write out so that ideas are not lost.

Managing and organising time

Some children have no sense of time. They may have difficulty starting tasks, not only because they don't want to do the work but because they often have no sense of time limitations and deadlines. Many children don't know how long things will take.

  • Use timers appropriate to the task; an egg timer for brushing teeth, an alarm clock or stopwatch set for a specific time or duration, a visual timer such as a sand timer.
  • Break up larger tasks into smaller parts.
  • Create a daily schedule, with your child's help. This will help them understand and prioritise what they need to accomplish each day. Help them to identify free gaps in the day to motivate them to work harder to keep those free times for their favourite activities.

Remembering and completing work and tasks

  • Help your child select one place to put homework sheets, assignments and other hand outs, such as a special folder labelled homework. They could select one, with their favourite characters for example so that it sticks out from the rest of his school books.
  • Help your child pick out and learn to use a daily planner. They can note due dates, block out hours/days for longer assignments, mark special occasions like birthdays and so on. A younger child can select a wall calendar to help learn the concept of days, weeks, months, and years.
  • If your child uses a computer or tablet every day, use an electronic calendar with built-in to-do lists set to run automatically when the computer starts up or when they log on. Many computer programmes can generate automated reminders for homework due dates, appointments, etc.
  • Use sticky Post It Notes as easy visual reminders. You could use different colours for different categories; for example, yellow for school reminders, blue for chores, green for afterschool events, and pink for confidence and encouraging boosters.
  • Prepare for each day the night before. Have your child select and set out what they will need to wear. If they have a packed lunch, agree on the food choices and even prepare it the night before (leave a note on your child's backpack reminding them to pick up their lunch box from the fridge). Make sure they pack their backpack with their completed homework and all necessary school supplies each night.
  • Create to-do lists that your child can tick off as they complete tasks. If it is often a challenge to get ready for school, create a chart together listing what the child must do before they leave the house. This may include self-care tasks (brush teeth, wash face, etc.), particular clothing items to put on, taking their backpack and lunch box/ money etc.
  • For a younger child, try a picture to-do list. Using photographs or simple line drawings, hand drawn or down-loaded from a source like to make a list of the day's agenda.

Children who forget or lose things

  • If your child tends to lose things, have replacements handy. If your child frequently misplaces pencils, for example, make sure they have a dozen of them.
  • If your child frequently forgets to bring things back and forth to school, or loses them on the way, get a second set that stays at home.
  • If your child loses things often, don't add to the guilt by giving them really expensive versions.
  • If the school are able to, get homework ahead of time- but still give your child the opportunity and responsibility for bringing home worksheets and assignments. Many schools now have online resources and links to homework.
  • Set up a simple reward system with clear expectations and consequences.

Useful Resources
Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske.
Building Bridges Through Sensory Integration: Therapy for Children with Autism and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders by Ellen Yack, Paula Aquilla and Shirley Sutton.

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