Strong Executive Functioning Independent Children
Develop Your Child’s Independence
Strengthen executive function skills for better planning, organization, and self-management
Kids will be kids– But we want our kids to be kids who can focus, think, plan, organize, and make good decisions. This includes having self-control, and evaluating and learning from their mistakes!
Ultimately, we want kids to be kids with the benefit of great executive function skills … or in other words, we want them to be independent!
Executive Function skills are the frontal lobe functions of the brain that develop throughout childhood and into early adulthood. Because the frontal lobe is the last to develop in our brains, major growth in executive function occurs in the teens through the mid-twenties.
We can BUILD your students’ executive function skills at school and home with consistent and intentional instruction throughout the day.
A student with strong executive function skills can:
• Focus and sustain energy and attention
• Determine what is relevant and screen out what is not
• Use mental control to start, stop, adapt, plan & organize
• Anticipate what will be needed for a given assignment
• Manage time, materials, and space
• Evaluate & Solve problems
Are you Building or BEING their Executive Function?
Well-meaning “helicopter” parents hover over their struggling learners and guide them every single step of the way. They provide an amazing safety net, but they may also be keeping their kids from exactly what they want most for them – to become independent.
In their desire to help students be successful, parents and teachers may inadvertently take on the role of the student’s executive function.
“Great Teacher,” Wrong Kind of Help
Teachers who give very explicit, detailed instructions of exactly what to do on a project or assignment, or who tell students exactly how, when, and what to study for a test, are often viewed as wonderful teachers. Their students thrive with the structure, and everyone feels great, until the next teacher comes along who isn’t as detailed, and the students don’t know how to think for themselves.
What Students Need
What students really need is to build their own executive function skills so that they can think, plan, organize, and manage themselves.
Instead of telling students every step they need to take (being the executive function), shift your language to engage students in a dialogue that encourages them to think for themselves . Here’s what this might look like:
BEING the students’ executive function: “ You have a book report due in two weeks. You need to pick a book that has 80 pages, and read 10 pages every day.”
BUILDING Executive Function: “You have a book report due in two weeks. Let’s create a plan for getting the book read and the report done without stressing out at the last minute.” Then engage students’ thinking through questions such as:
- What are the things you have to do to complete this project? (pick a book, read, write)
- How much time do you need for each part of the project?
- How long of a book should you choose? How many pages will you need to read everyday?
These questions are the kinds of things that we, through our executive function, ask ourselves. As students get more adept with this self-questioning process, you will be able to make your questions broader so that they are engaging more of their own executive function.
- What questions do you need to ask yourself as you plan out this project?
Executive Function as Like a Mental Dialogue
If you think about how you make decisions, plan out your week, or tackle a problem or project, you will see that it usually involves a combination of visualizing, and talking through things in your mind. Visual and verbal inner language are two key components of working memory and executive function that can be developed in students at school and home.
Taking the time to help children and teens improve their inner dialogue and visualization skills has a big payoff in retention, comprehension and greater independence.
- Encourage students to visualize their day to improve time concepts and management
- Guide students in visualizing and dialoguing exactly what written instructions on assignments are asking
- Teach students to visualize test questions and all answer choices before choosing a response
- Before packing up for the day, have students visualize and verbalize what materials will be needed for their homework
- Guide students in visualizing each step in a project or sequence of events
- Have them look up (to engage visual modality) and imagine each step on a specific spot on the wall or in the air in front of them
- Have them point to and describe the image
- Enhance key points in the image with such things as changing the size, adding color or humor, or connecting images in some way
Where Do We Fit In?
A primary function of the schools is to teach academic skills and content areas to students – to expand their knowledge and their ability to apply it. When students struggle, it can be very challenging for all- student, parent, and teacher, in spite of efforts to modify curriculum and accommodate learning differences.
At the Therapeutic Learning Center, we identify and develop the weak underlying learning/processing skills that provide the critical foundation for learning but are not generally taught. While there is no overnight solution, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected.
To learn more, or to schedule a free consultation with Executive Director and Education Specialist, Maria Bagby, call 858) 481-2200.