Some students, especially those with executive functioning weaknesses, have a rather unique view of material organization. Ellie, a conscientious high school student, kept every single piece of paper she received at school. Her backpack kept getting heavier and larger, and by the end of the year, she was toting around a rolling suitcase! Alex, an easygoing middle school student, showed a strong desire to please his parents (translated from “get them off my back”), although he admittedly didn’t understand the big fuss about sorting and filing papers. His method of cleaning out his backpack was to throw away everything, resulting in seemingly orderly binders. Alex panicked when he needed a study guide for an exam that he had thrown away. Poor Alex had to dig past coffee grounds, rotting vegetables and last week’s uneaten leftovers to find his much needed notes.
Nevertheless, a new year means new resolutions, and even if you haven’t been well organized yourself lately, now is the perfect time to help your child learn how to maintain important school papers. Pocket folders are a great tool for the disorganized student because papers don’t have to be hole-punched during school hours and therefore are less likely to end up crumbled in the bottom of the backpack.
If your child seems to be disorganized, then make a resolution to go through your child’s backpack every day. Help him decide which papers can be thrown away, which should be kept at home and which should be kept in the binder. Papers that will be saved should be neatly filed in date order. Once your child catches on to this system, you can pull back and monitor the daily clean-out, helping only when necessary. When you think he’s got it, reduce your backpack checks to once a week. Although the final objective is independent material organization, maintaining weekly checks prevents anxiety attacks and desperate late night calls to friends in order to find homework, studying materials and other necessary papers – as well as safeguarding against dumpster diving!