Have you seen students who struggle with the following...
● getting started on their work, even though directions were just explained
● turning in homework when it is completed and sitting in their book bag
● planning out their time appropriately for long term assignments
● Cramming materials in their desk or folder
These are tasks that require executive functioning skills. According to The National Center for Learning
Disabilities, “Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps us connect past experience with
present action. People use it to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details and managing time and space.” It is quite common to have a deficit in one or more of the following skill areas: time management, task initiation, planning/prioritizing, impulse control, organization, emotional control, flexibility, working memory, and self-monitoring.
These deficits can be heightened when a student has a disability or as a child progresses in school and academic demands become too grueling. Luckily there are many strategies that can help improve or eliminate deficits and set students up for long term success. The visual below shows an example of what a deficit in impulse control could look like in the classroom and strategies that could help eliminate those issues.
When determining which strategies to implement, it is important to personalize them to the needs of the
student. We all have strategies that work for us when tackling tasks. For example, many of us prefer a paper calendar to keep track of appointments or to-do’s while electronic calendars work better for others. You may prefer to take deep belly breaths to destress while others benefit from a quick walk. Students are no different and will need strategies personalized for them and to meet their unique needs. To find a strategy that works best for your student, begin by establishing a positive relationship, trying an approach that is age appropriate and seeking student feedback. In addition, strategies should be modeled, practiced and scaffolded by the adult until the student can be independent with the approach.
As we dive into the 2020-2021 school year and contemplate how to best support learning whether brick, click or hybrid, remember to give thoughts to how explicit instruction on personalized strategies can improve executive functioning skills and set your students up for a LIFETIME of success.
For additional information on Executive Function or to set up a zoom training for your staff, please reach out to Tessa Levitt or Jessica Rose.
By: Jessica Rose and Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development