By Kim Heitzmann
We’ve all had moments of frustration with our children. Does it take them too long to get ready for school in the morning? Are they constantly losing their homework or forget to turn in completed work? Do they forget to do a chore immediately after you ask them? Are they overwhelmed with cleaning their room with no idea where to start?
Sometimes it is just a matter of maturity or paying attention. However, it could be a bigger concern. Kids who have difficulty with executive functioning have difficulty with working memory, flexible thinking and self-control. Lack of these skills can make paying attention, organization, task initiation, regulation of emotion and managing time difficult, impacting them at both home and at school.
Typically, kids with executive functioning issues have other learning concerns, such as ADHD, dyslexia, autism, mood disorders or neurological issues. However, these issues can also be linked to brain injury and fetal alcohol syndrome. Many of these kids are overwhelmed and anxious on a daily basis. So, how do we help them and make their lives a little more manageable?
Understanding challenges with Executive Function can be tremendously important to parents and teachers, and there are some simple strategies that can potentially be helpful:
- Create a checklist with distinct time limits. Start with 5-minute goals and work up to 10 or 20 minutes over time.
- Teach how to use a planner. Children with Executive Function challenges often have limited working memory. Don’t just show your child a planner, teach him or her how to use it, and follow up regularly. Consider using color-coding or visual cues in the planner.
- Establish a routine. For school-related tasks, start homework at the same time every day and be sure the space has necessary school supplies and minimal distractions.
- When engaging in community activities outside of a regular routine, consider using a PAL video to help your child understand what to expect. https://www.palexperiences.org/
- If you need help and want to be sure your child is prepared to start grade school, consider checking your health insurance coverage and having your child attend an ABA-centered program like BISTA. www.bistacenter.org
Autism Speaks (2010) gives the following suggestions for addressing challenges in Executive Functioning in a traditional school setting:
- Use a weekly homework log that is sent from school to home and back, keeping both teachers and parents informed of work due and progress on school lessons.
- Use assignment checklists to break larger tasks into more manageable units.
- Teach children how to use day planners for organizational and task management skills.
- Always post a classroom schedule.
- Allow sufficient time for instructions, repetition of instructions, and individual student assistance.
- Give children with Executive Functioning issues preferential desk placement near the teacher and away from distractions.
Parent and Teacher Tips were provided by Dorian Townsend, PhD, Vice President of Advancement and Mindy Malik, PhD, Vice President of Training and Program Development from ACCEL. If you child is still struggling in a traditional classroom, setting, consider consulting an agency like ACCEL for other school options. accel.org. If your child is still struggling in a traditional classroom setting, consider consulting an agency like ACCEL for other school options. www.accel.org