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5 LD Keys to Unlocking a Successful School Year

Parents can help students with any learning differences have a successful school year with these five key strategies for academics and planning.

Executive functioning skills are essential to succeed in life. Some of these skills, such as time management and organization, help with daily chores, a job, and other day-to-day responsibilities. Students with a variety of learning differences, such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorders, may struggle in such executive functioning skills, which can adversely affect the school experience. Although it may seem insurmountable to your student sometimes, there are ways to help them tackle their roadblocks and achieve success.

As a new school year begins, you and your teen may be searching for systems to put in place to develop such skills and maximize their classroom learning experience. To help you along the way, here are New Frontiers in Learning’s five keys to a successful school year for LD students and their families.

Consistent organization

Students should have a system for keeping track of all notes, papers, grades, homework, and assignment descriptions. Some students find it helpful to have separate notebooks and folders for each class. In this case, all can be color-coded and labeled for easy identification. Another method is to use a single binder with separate sections for each class. Each section should be labeled and should contain loose-leaf paper for note-taking. Each day, all papers and handouts for each class should also be added to the binder. Figure out which method of organization works specifically for your students early on and encourage them to follow it throughout the year.

Related: How to Get Organized and Manage Your Time as a High School Student

A concrete schedule

We all face difficulties managing time, but students can set themselves up for success by maintaining a daily schedule. This schedule should include class names, locations, and times, plus any other responsibilities your teen may have, such as work, sports practice, or family obligations. By maintaining a weekly schedule, the student can keep track of not only unchanged recurring responsibilities (like class), but also any one-time obligations for each week (like concerts or group study sessions). Furthermore, following a daily and weekly schedule makes it much easier to see where your student can build in time for homework, studying, and study breaks. Once a schedule is made, you should encourage your teenager to stick to it. Have a planner that has both weekly and monthly sections, allowing them to see and review short- and long-term expectations.

Needs recognition

Students with executive functioning struggles often have difficulty recognizing when they need help, let alone identifying where to turn to receive it. Discuss the help-seeking process with your LD student at the beginning of each school year. If something is confusing, if they don’t know how to start a project or assignment, or if they have any other questions about class requirements, students should be reminded to ask for help. And they need to understand that asking for help only shows their teachers that they care about the class and want to be successful. Students should review the protocol in asking clarifying questions. Some teachers reserve the beginning or end of the school day for students' questions, while others encourage students to email them.

Related: How Can I Measure College Support for LD Students?

Write it all down

Have you ever told yourself that you didn’t need to write something down because you would remember it, and then you forgot everything just minutes later? You’re not alone—it happens to everyone, especially LD students with many responsibilities. For instance, forgetfulness is a very common trait that goes along with ADHD. To prevent students from forgetting key information in class, they should be encouraged to write everything down, even the things they think they’ll remember later. Of course, writing everything down can be difficult for some students, so an alternative could be to record their classes or to use some form of assistive technology, such as a Smart Pen.

Reminders, reminders, reminders

Having a system in place to remind students of important dates is essential. Sometimes teachers announce due dates infrequently during a course, or due dates for assignments and exams may be outlined far in advance and then not discussed again. In such cases, some students may panic on the day an assignment is due or an exam is given because they aren't prepared. To avoid such situations, students need to learn to set reminders on their phones, which they can use to set timers that will go off several times as the assignment deadlines and exam dates approach. These reminders can also help students remember when to start studying or when to begin an assignment, preventing the anxiety associated with cramming or unpreparedness.

Related: How to Get Motivated and Back in the School Mindset This Fall

School can already be difficult for students who are considered neurotypical, so students dealing with neurotypical daily processing need a little extra support to stay on track. Students with ADHD or Autistic students can still thrive in school when they’re met where they’re at and given the tools to do so. Help your student develop good academic habits for a less stressful daily life at school.

Learn more about New Frontiers in Learning, a high school and college support program for students with learning differences, or check out more content for LD students right here on CX!

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