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Organizing for upper grades (middle and high school)…

Here’s advice from my teenage son:

Let’s face it. Back to school is never easy. But here are a few hints and tips to help make things easier for when that first day comes around. First off, get to know your teachers. If you can’t arrange a talk with your teacher, at least get a first-hand profile of them. Also, know where to go. Look ahead of time to see where your classes are so as to plan the most efficient route through school. Next, be prepared material-wise. Have an all-encompassing binder, a homework folder, lots of paper, and at least one notebook per class. Add new materials as necessary. Finally, find with whom you have class with. This should help prepare you for study sessions, group activities, etc. Have a nice first day!

Now, from a mother’s perspective:

Organizing for upper grades: middle and high school hints gleaned from parents who have survived…

Middle school is a quantum leap forward in complexity; parents have fewer opportunities to volunteer in the classrooms, and there are many more classes to manage. Students (typical and those with ASD) are struggling to fit in, while teachers’ expectations for independence and responsibility are rising.

Here are a few ideas to help:

  • Consolidate binders and note-keeping requirements. Many teachers require a separate binder for each class, but you can request a simpler system as an accommodation. Here is a link to some examples—



  • Color coordinate folders, spiral notebooks, binders, etc. I have done this for my son for the past 4 years, and it has really helped. Language Arts is always blue, Science is orange, math is green, etc. In his locker, he can grab the blue stuff and know he’s ready for Language Arts (even the book cover is blue!). You can buy spiral notebooks that are already labeled by subject, too.
  • Try a binder that includes an accordion file—a great place to store notes and miscellaneous papers from all classes (and the file section color coordinates with the spiral notebooks). See examples above.
  • Locks on lockers can be tricky to operate, especially in a hurry between classes. For a couple of years, to eliminate anxiety, I had my son’s lock disabled, so he only had to open the locker. After sufficient practice, he was comfortable using the combination lock, and it was restored. Other students have substituted locks with words for the combination, or used locks requiring a key.
  • Get a copy of all textbooks to have at home—some are available on CD or online also.
  • Include weekly communication as part of the IEP if getting homework turned in is a problem. Technology can help, too—scan assignments and email them to the teachers. You can also see some examples of communication forms from the Indiana Resource Center for Autism (http://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca/fmain1.html ).
  • Other technology hints:
  1. Maybe a PDA or iTouch could help—even a cell phone’s calendar can be useful (iPod Touch has an application for communicating, called Proloquo2Go™)
  2. School laptops can save material on the hard drive, but can also download material to the school server when at school (so homework is never lost!)
  3. A Google calendar can be shared by parents, teachers, and the student to note upcoming tests, project due dates, and to share other important dates
  4. One example of software to help organize writing is Don Johnston’s Draft: Builder (http://www.donjohnston.com/products/draft_builder/index.html)
  • Provide teachers with project organizers, graphic organizers, or other schedules to help your child. Here are some links:
  1. http://www.education-world.com/tools_templates/index.shtml#graphicOrganizers (this site also has communication logs)
  2. http://freeology.com/graphicorgs/pdf/cornellnotetaker.pdf (for note-taking)

All homework goes into a folder: one side for work to go home, one side for completed work to be turned in, that gets checked daily by a teacher. I’ve done this with my son since 3rd grade—it hasn’t solved the problem, but has made it less of one.

Other parents are a great source of creative ideas for resolving problem areas; remember that solutions don’t have to be expensive gadgets! Sometimes, simply labeling folders can help. Don’t forget to use your child’s interests: for kids that like technology, laptops/PDAs/cell phones can help; for kids that like Pokémon, buy folders decorated with Pokémon; use whatever motivates your child. Good luck in the new school year!

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