Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Organizing Your Special Needs Student

This is an area that seems to be really difficult for many children and even for parents.  Organizing our learners can be as challenging as finding the right programs and using the appropriate teaching methods for them.

I think the first thing we need to think of is how our children collect and process information.   Both my son’s learn differently, yet I have found similarities in what helps them to stay organized.  We have to think first and foremost of what organizational “style” your learner will benefit from.  Some parents find folders more helpful while their child might be better off using binders to keep all their information. It will really depend on your child’s style and needs, not our own. 
( Remember the system needs to work for them more, while still helping us to guide and teach )

I  have found that as our learning at home evolves, our home organization has to also change and evolve to match their needs and the way their programs/curriculum flows.  An organizational system that works one year may need to change the following year for many reasons and we need to make sure we re-check how things are working and make big or little adjustments when they are needed. 

There are certain things that can be really helpful to most if not all special needs learners. Here is a list of what I have found to be the most helpful;

1.       Color code your folders, binders and book covers for each subject of study or topic.

2.        Designate on specific area where you will keep your child’s daily books/supplies.

3.         Use a clipboard for your child’s papers that they will use periodically throughout the entire   school day.  On each of my son’s clipboards we have the following;
·         Reading Log they will add to daily
·         Daily checklist and/or assignment sheet or daily/weekly schedule –( to this I might also add a post it note with bits of information that might be needed for the week or the following day. )
·         Multiplication Table for reference
·         Any unfinished work assignments they need to attend to.

4.       Decide ahead of time if you will have a certain basket or place for finished work or if you would prefer to have their work filed in their folders/binders to create a kind of portfolio as their work builds throughout the year. 

5.        A cubby/bin or a basket to keep their books/folders/binders. (Color coding this if you have many children can also be helpful- larger families can really benefit from this and take this even further – ie., using a particular color like blue for one child’s cubby and having that child have that same color for their laundry basket, towels, toothbrushes, hangers, even using a blue dot on their socks or under garments!  etc.. this helps maintain continuity throughout and really drives home the internalization for their own responsibility and  accountability of their own things for school or for the home.)  Your learner can have a place in the cubby for necessities if you wish like pens, pencils, calculator, hi-liters in a pencil case or anything else that is specific to that specific child.  We have used the zipper style pencil holders to keep their pencil grips, digital thesaurus, special mini-mechanical pencils etc.. 

6.    Choosing a place for the basket of library books is helpful. Not allowing the boys to keep their books in their own cubby’s or rooms or in other places helps to keep the books in better shape and also allows it to be easier for me to locate these borrowed books when the time comes.  In our library basket, we also have our book marks at the bottom so the boys can pull out a book mark when they go to use their library books also.  I also have found that keeping the receipt from our library posted (along with adding the date to my gmail calendar also)  right above the basket helps to be able to know when these are due back and I don’t end up losing the receipt or forgetting which book I put it in.  

7.      Keeping their own wipeboard handy- for each of our boys we keep a large and a small wipe board handy and near either their work area or in their cubby depending on the size of the board. I recently have liked using magnetic wipe boards and found some great new ones at our local Walmart (these were colored wipeboards too) because we can use little magnetic clips to maybe add a note, phoneme card, or any kind of card or piece of information we might want to keep handy while working. 

I have found these that I have listed to be the most helpful to us.  I have tried other things in the past but we have found these above work the best for us.
Since we have made some shifts in our learning methods including changing a few programs I have found that creating a binder for each subject for my boys seems to really be the most helpful.  

Each binder is for each subject/topic – I say subject and topic because I break down our History into two binders one binder for US History and one for World History.  We are using AOP Lifepacs now (starting in January) and we will place the Lifepac we are working on in the front of the binder in the slot along with composition paper that might be needed for writing. 

We also will keep a Learning Log or Journal ( composition notebook- we decorate these with scrapbooking paper of their choice to add their own style and make it more personal) in the back of the binder in that slot.  So when the time comes for history they have most of their personal supplies they need to work on their history. 

The binder is organized with page dividers; Lessons: ( this includes notebooking pages, lapbooks, lapbook folds glued to pages, activities, colored maps) Quiz’s (again, because of our program this is more specific to Lifepacs ) Tests ( again specific to Lifepacs)
Note: * My teen uses his OneNote for any notes/or journaling now so his laptop is his companion with his binder as well. Things he adds to his OneNote can be printed and then added to his regular binder. ( this meets his individual needs much more)


Our Science binders are set up much the same as our History binders with the Lifepacs and composition paper in the front and and their journal or learning log in the back. The dividers (used to be set up for the three disciplines in science if you will, Life Science/Biology- Physics ~ Chemistry~ but I didn’t find this as helpful for our binders so we now have dividers for Lessons, Labs/Experiments, Quiz’s, Tests. 

Language Arts~
We have not changed our LA binders much in over three years actually.  We are using Learning Language Arts through Literature ( A Ruth Beechick inspired program) and I cut and reamed the soft cover workbooks and added them to a binder and we have the learning log in the back and composition paper in the front also.  As we work on new skills they are added to their learning log that they can refer to and they add any pages right to the section in the binder they are working on.  For example if when my youngest was having trouble on understanding synonyms I made a notebook page for him and when he was finished we added it right to the section we had been working on in the the LLATL workbook.  Another example is in using the LLATL literature links- we had been reading “Meet George Washington” and when finished wrote a book report or write up on what was read and added it to that section.  It really works well.   And my son really enjoys being able to look back and see his work, he has mentioned this many times so I know we are on the right track for him. 

Even though writing is a subtopic/skill for Language Arts I have found keeping a separate binder and working folder for their writing is much more helpful. I have posted about this before and you can find the explanation for this here.   It is very helpful when working a few writings at one time and works very effectively with the IEW Writing Program, which we continue to use. 

There might be one thing you might have noticed, with these kinds of binders/folders we are able to break things down into little chunks. Something that is often recommended for our special needs learners.  Keeping things focused in one specific area to help with their executive function really can be very beneficial and make their learning and organization really successful. 

Math doesn’t have to be any different than your other subjects. Lessons, notebooking pages, lapbook pages, games, quiz’s and tests can all be added to your notebook.  Here is an older post about our Math journals.

Our math learning has been one area that has changed a bit as far as programs but one thing remains constant in that we use these same methods for all our programs. We use all our programs and especially in the area of math as a “guide” and manipulate and use the program to best meet the boy’s needs.

I have found that with good organization,  the child can feel less stressed and less overwhelmed with information overload and in-turn feels better about themselves and their abilities.   Something to really consider! 

  Here is an article that inspired me to write this post: Organizational Skills for Students with Learning Disabilities: The Master Filing System for Paper   


Munsell said...

What a phenomenal resource!!!
Great walk-through for parents who may not be aware of the beauty of simple color coding to aid in learning. I will recommend this post to the appropriate folks. Thanks Again!!

Learners at Home said...

I am really glad you found it helpful for others. I probably could have kept going but decided to just end it there!



CherylinMA said...

Thanks for taking the time to put this post together. Bery informative and helpful for all!

Stranded said...

Love this post and shared it all over the place.
God bless you.

Learners at Home said...

So happy you found this helpful~ and sharing this to help others as well! :)


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