Disorganization is one of the hallmarks of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and it’s often a key feature of autism, Asperger’s and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). But, the good news is that disorganization is one of those issues that can be managed with relative ease. The goal isn’t to turn your child into a filing, cleaning, organizing wunderkind, but instead to teach some systems to help your student develop a level of organization that allows for school success. A great resource for this is The Organized Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in School and Beyond, by Donna Goldberg with Jennifer Zwiebel. (Simon and Schuster, 2005)
Although individuals with ASDs may be terribly disorganized, this weakness is frequently offset by strengths in analyzing and what Simon Baron-Cohen terms “systemizing”. The Organized Student is set up in a way that takes advantage of your child’s innate abilities and problem solving skills to develop customized, personal systems for organizing at home and at school. Goldberg runs through the specifics of organizing lockers, backpacks, desktops and all those papers that come home. The strength of the book is the immense detail Goldberg goes into, while at the same time not setting up “one size fits all” solutions. She respects her students needs to have a system that works with their own abilities and that feels appropriate to each individual.
Many of the students I’ve worked with intend to start each new school year off right, organized and structured. But without a strong yet flexible system, the best intentions don’t work, and the students are lost in a sea of papers by October. If this describes your child, it might make sense to pick up this book now. Pay attention to each new teacher’s organizing requirements, adapt the book’s suggestions to fit your child’s own needs, and start the new school year off right.