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Papers, Papers everywhere!!

Many kids with special needs, especially those with Executive Function issues or ADHD, have a hard time organizing and managing their materials.  At this point in the school year chances are your child has accumulated a wide range of papers.  Some of these papers may be more useful than others.  In fact some may be better off as scrap paper or for paper planes!

How can you help your child get on top of his paperwork and set the stage for more productive organization and paper control?  Here are a few tips to get you started.   I will first explain the materials you need and then give you a plan to get your child organized for the long haul.


  1. Get a Master Folder.  Find a  [easyazon-link asin=”B001TQ814G” locale=”us”]durable folder[/easyazon-link] that has multiple pockets for each subject.
  2. Color code binders and notebooks so each subject is a consistent color.  You can use colored duct tape and make science green, math red, etc.
  3. Have a second set of binders (they can be used ones from the previous year) for each subject that will serve as Master Binders.  This is where your child can store papers that are valuable to hold on to for reference or studying for final exams but are not needed for daily use.

Getting Organized

  1. Set aside some time to just clear things out.  Let your child know that together you will tackle the papers and get them in order.  No judgment, no lectures, just problem solving.
  2. Write the name of each subject (English, math, science, etc.) on a different piece of paper and spread these out on a table or the floor so that you can sort any papers that got mixed together.  If he may need to hold on to some of the papers but does not need them on a daily basis, make a second set of piles for papers that will be kept in the Master Binders mentioned above.
  3. Once all papers are sorted, put them in the subject binders.  Be certain to be consistent, either putting new papers behind old, or old behind new.  Teaching your child to get in the habit of dating notes is helpful.  If appropriate, use dividers to separate notes from tests.
  4. From this point forward, each time there is a unit completed, your child can remove papers from the active binder and place them in the Master Binders.  Check with the subject teacher to see if this plan is okay first.  It is a great habit to develop for keeping binders clutter free and organized.
  5. Label the Master Folder for each subject.  Leave the first pocket for notices and non-subject material.  Keep extra loose-leaf paper in the back pockets for extra supply.
  6. Encourage your child to develop the habit of taking class handouts and putting them directly in the Master Folder to be hole-punched and placed in the Active Binder at home if there is no time at school.  This folder is also a good place to keep homework that needs to be turned in.  Often times, kids carry just this folder to each class and transfer notes into binders at home.

Final note
It’s not easy to stay organized, especially when these skills do not come naturally.  Schedule routine times to look through and empty the Master Folder, perhaps on a weekly basis.  The more consistently you and your child go through the process, the more quickly it will become a regular system in his life.