You may not be familiar with the term “executive functioning” but have likely noticed children or adults who have issues with it. Executive function is responsible for a number of skills, including:
- Paying attention
- Organizing, planning and prioritizing
- Starting tasks and staying focused on them to completion
- Understanding different points of view
- Regulating emotions
- Self-monitoring (keeping track of what you’re doing)
(list via understood.org)
If your child or teen is struggling with executive functioning issues at home and/or in the classroom, here are 9 ways to help them improved their skills:
- Keep a visual daily schedule – this helps your child see what’s ahead for them and gives you an opportunity to discuss what they need to do to prepare in advance.
- Use timers and give time warnings – this helps your child get a better handle on time management and using their time effectively.
- Model and teach how to break down assignments – work with them to figure out the smaller steps within each assignment, and write them out. Encourage them to estimate how much time each step will take them to complete.
- Model and teach self-regulation strategies – show them the benefits of taking a moment to stop and think before reacting to something. Encourage breathing techniques if they are reactive and have trouble staying calm.
- Practice creating short and long term goals – introduce the idea that some things are relatively simple and can be achieved quickly, while others take more time and effort to realize.
- Develop success criteria – Encourage your child to define what success looks like for specific tasks or goals and help them develop the ability to self-evaluate.
- Provide frequent and descriptive feedback – simply saying “good work” doesn’t motivate anyone. Be specific and timely in your comments, highlighting details that stuck out for you.
- Provide advanced notice of changes to routines – It’s hard to stay organized and plan when routines change. If you have a holiday coming up, a cycle of lessons is ending or you’re moving, be sure to give your child as much notice as possible to have time to process, adapt and plan for the new routine.
Helping your child or teen overcome executive functioning issues not only helps make your life parenting them easier, it enables them to become adults who are capable of setting and achieving major life goals.
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