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  • Writer's pictureThuy Truong, M.A. Ed.

The Hidden Skills In Organization: A Two-Step Process

Updated: May 27, 2023

| by Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed., TPT Teaching and Coaching, 7/5/2022|

Children with ADHD often struggle with multi-setting and broad-based organizational deficits. This organizational impairment is often directly linked to working-memory deficiency. Because working memory regulates attention and focus, this memory dysfunction makes planning, organizing, and completing tasks a monumental challenge.

When we think of organization, we often think of simply meeting deadlines. Or even more blatantly, we immediately picture an individual in our mind who always has everything ready to go. The truth is there are two distinct types of organization: physical organization (keeping an organized space) and mental organization (compiling different academic materials to study for a test). Students with learning and thinking differences need to develop skills in physical and mental organization. Hopefully, a few concrete steps below will help your student develop the two distinct types of organizational skills.

Physical organization: Organizing your physical space in such a way that it meets your organizational, academic/work, and aesthetic needs. A few rules:

Everything has a home. This allows the individual to organize quickly and efficiently as things happen in their daily life.

  • Get a wall or desktop mail organizer so you can store your important mails immediately after you went through all of it.

  • Get your student to put shoes on the shoe rack/clothing on hangers into the closet when not in use and always put things back where they found it as much as possible.

  • Help your child pick out and use storage systems (cubbies, wicker baskets, bookshelves, pencil holders etc.) for daily academic needs and archiving previous, graded homework/worksheets throughout the academic year and weed out the end of the school year.

  • Help your child develop the habit of making their bed first thing in the morning. The more the student does this, the more they enjoy the refreshing feeling of having everything where they are supposed to be. This will make them become even more organized because of the dopamine hit they get after putting things in their places. As one of my current students said: “The satisfaction of starting the day on a high note knowing you had made your bed first thing in the morning is highly rewarding.”

Bottom line: If you have a designated physical location dedicated for daily tasks (work-and non-work related) activities, then the student is internalizing and practicing physical organization skills.

Mental Organization: re-organizing and categorizing information to reveal relationships among ideas while accommodating the author's academic, personal, and practical needs.

Unlike the straightforward, overt physical organization, mental organization is more more subtle, covert, and abstract for students to understand and practice. Simply put, mental organization begins with an original intention in the mind about how to organize information in the most effortless way for future retrieval and utilization. This involves synthesizing and categorizing information or content. Because digital information nowadays is not always a tangible thing like a piece of mail where we can file it into the mail organizer, it is easier to forget to practice mental organization because it lacks a physical form. Then what shall we do to tackle mental organization? The answer lies in access. When you organize for the sake of mental organization, you need to organize information in such a way that it guarantees physical and mental access. In layman’s terms, you should think about how can you organize it where you can both find and re-digest the information again easily (so you can still ace the test a month later). A few golden rules:

Fast Access and Comprehension

  • Create categories: Simplify the information to boost your memory now and later.

Instead of writing a paragraph about sonnets, categorize sonnets into two categories: English and Italian sonnets. Then, bullet out their distinct features.

Use Your Own Words:

  • Write down big ideas in your own words to make future study sessions easier. Also, summarize the big ideas instead of writing down a long list of facts. Go for the big stuff.

Use Charts: (T-chart, tables, graphic organizers), keep it simple.

  • The best way to organize information is charts. It is concise, and you can capture a lot in a short amount of time. If you don’t know how to organize it, ask yourself what is the relationship among the different ideas or concepts for that academic unit. Is it a cause and effect relationship like supply and demand? Or is the relationship more sequential like how water vapor condenses to form fog?

Unlike the old adage, practice does not make perfect. Practice just makes you better today than you were yesterday. But eventually, review, rehearse, and repetition does get you closer to perfection than anything else. As Aristotle hinted, quality is a habit not an act.


Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed.

I am a licensed professional educator, executive function expert, former tenured high school teacher and college instructor with 17 years experience. I am also a student success designer. I enjoy recognizing the missing puzzle in the student's learning and personalizing that solution in a language that is unique to that student. I love the creative challenge of inventing a new language for every child.

Book a free consult here.

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