Many young learners are being diagnosed with executive functioning weaknesses and schools are struggling to meet the needs of this population of learners. The problem is that many teachers and administrators don’t understand the difficulties associated with this problem and therefore find accommodating these students an ever increasing challenge.
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What is Executive Functioning?
- The command and control center of the brain
- The conductor of cognitive skills
- The cognitive process that connects learned experiences with present actions.
- The place that encodes, retrieves and manipulates information.
What is the Impact of Executive Functioning Difficulties?
On the one hand, a weakness or deficit in executive functioning can impact an individual internally in a number of ways:
- Slow processing speed
- Difficulty maintaining motivation
- Limited stamina
- Poor goal-directed persistence
2) Emotional Regulation:
- Problems curbing frustration
- Difficulty maintaining a positive attitude
- Struggles with controlling anxiety
3) Monitoring and Management:
- Poor self-awareness - prioritizing and self-awareness
- Difficulties with self-regulation – time management, organization and planning
- Problems encoding information – holding and manipulating data
- Difficulties retrieving information – word finding and connecting new concepts to prior knowledge
- Impulsive behaviors
- Problems sustaining attention
- Difficulties shifting focus
- Poor goal-directed persistence
On the other hand, difficulties with executive functioning can also impact an individual externally in a number of ways:
- Difficulties arriving on time for social gatherings
- Problems planning events
- Difficulties engaging in-group dynamics
- Struggles with recalling people’s names
- Problems arriving on time for family gatherings
- Difficulties finding items
- Struggles with maintaining an organized space
- Problems regulating emotions with family members
- Difficulties recording assignments
- Problems initiating schoolwork
- Struggles with locating Handouts and homework
- Forgetting to submit completed assignments
- Problems maintaining organized materials and space
- Trouble keeping appointments
- Problems maintaining stamina on projects
- Difficulties organizing materials
- Struggles to keep appointments
- Problems finding materials
- Difficulties arriving to work on time
What are Some General Solutions?
- Meditation and mindfulness training
- EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Cognitive remediation in areas such as working memory and emotional regulation
- Individual or family therapy
- Structured and routine oriented lifestyle
- Use of planners, a PDA (such as a smartphone or computer) or hiring a personal assistant
What are Some Academic Solutions?
- Create a structured daily routine
- Set priorities
- Generate a homework plan
- Break large assignments into manageable chunks
- Make to-do checklists
- Teach study skills
- Illustrate note-taking skills
- Demonstrate time management skills by breaking large assignments into manageable chunks with numerous deadlines
- Teach test taking strategies
- Demonstrate memory strategies
- Help student motivation by offering incentives and positive reinforcement
- Create and use graphic organizers for writing
- Teach metacognitive skills by thinking through the process aloud
- Use technology such as a smartphone to create reminders
Academic Tools for Success:
To help with strategies and more, I created a 116-page publication that offers methods and materials that structure, guide, and support students in the areas of time management, planning and organization (executive functioning skills). This comprehensive document includes agendas, questionnaires, checklists, as well as graphic organizers for writing and test preparation.
You will also find advice in improving executive functioning and materials in the areas of reading, math, memory, motivation, setting priorities and creating incentives programs. These materials were all created over a 10 year period for my private practice. What’s more, the materials accommodate learners of all ages from elementary to college. Come get a free sample assessment from the publication, as well as view a free video on executive functioning.
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Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.
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