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School Success Kit for Kids With Executive Functioning Issues

Tools to help kids get organized, focused, and out the door on time

Writer: Rae Jacobson

en Español

When it comes to doing well in school, having the right tools for the job can give kids a big head start. For kids with executive functioning issues, the challenges range from staying on top of homework to being able to find your shoes in the morning. Here is our list of tools to help set kids up for success if they have trouble staying organized and focused.

Binders: Binders beat notebooks when it comes to making sure papers stay put. Kids with EF issues should have a dedicated binder for each subject, so they won’t have to rifle madly through everything to find their math homework. A lightweight, portable three-hole punch is the binder’s best friend. It’ll help ensure handouts and other important papers — like permission slips — don’t disappear. Finally, make sure kids have reinforcing stickers to fix unruly papers and you’re well on your way to a loss-proof backpack!.

Calendars: Plural. Kids should have a calendar for school assignments and classes — preferably color-coded by subject — and another for social and extra curricular activities. Keeping things separate avoids confusion and makes time management less tricky. Carrying an organizer (and a working pen!) will help kids keep track of things that come up during the day — especially if they’re not allowed to use smartphones at school — but physical calendars can get lost so make sure to use an online calendar as backup. Most digital calendars also have a reminder feature that’s invaluable (for kids and parents!) for anyone trying to stay on track.

Doubles: Families dealing with EF issues are no stranger to the mad morning rush to find a matching sock or elusive shoe. One way to manage this is to double up on important items. Keep extra socks, pens, pencils, keys, and other easy-to-lose things on hand. And, if it helps, don’t stop there. Sometimes it can be helpful to keep a second — or third — pair of shoes, another jacket, and doubles of other necessary items available to help avoid frantic searches and make being on time less difficult.

Quiet Creators: Reducing distraction means kids are more likely to be productive and less stressed. Good earplugs can help block out focus fighters (tapping nails, people talking, someone sneezing — you name it, it’s distracting!), but remember not to use the same pair for longer than three days, to avoid ear infections. Headphones and a white noise app like also work wonders for staying on track in less than perfect study situations.

Bulk It Up! When you have executive functioning issues it can feel like important keys, badges, or IDs are almost trying to get lost. Make these tiny escape artists harder to miss by bulking them up. Large keychains are easier to locate and harder to overlook. Try using thick, colorful lanyards and holders for IDs, licenses, and cards. Consider attaching them to a backpack. The easier things are to see, the less likely they are to get lost.

A Good Wallet: Not all wallets are created equal when it comes to executive functioning issues. To prevent cash, cards, and other vital things from falling out (and vanishing) make sure you find one that can accommodate everything from movie tickets to bus passes and still close easily and firmly. Wallets also fall into the bigger is better category, so when shopping consider form as much as function.

Snacks: When it comes to getting through the day, food equals focus. Set kids up with an arsenal of healthy easy-to-eat snacks. Stay away from things that are big, messy, or high in sugar and opt instead for portable protein-rich nibbles to help kids maintain blood sugar throughout the day.

This article was last reviewed or updated on November 6, 2023.