Executive Functioning Skills

Executive Functioning Skills               

There are many areas of executive functioning that impact a child ability to fully participate in school, at home, and in the community.  For example, study-skills and test-taking skills require time management, the ability to organize and prioritize, and working memory.  Many of these same skills are required to complete and turn in assignments, remember lessons and homework, and make it to school and between classes on time.  Here is some more information about a few areas of executive functioning, how they impact our day-to-day lives, and how to improve or accommodate when there are deficits.

Impulse Control: Poor impulse control can lead to behavior problems in class, but can also be reflected by academic success.  If you give the first answer you think of, rather than taking the time to double check and think through answers, you are more likely to make, and fail to notice, small errors.  Games that require strategy are great for learning impulse control.  I love the card game Jungle Speed, where you need to find matches quickly, but are penalized for calling a match incorrectly.   If your child is motivated by technology, apps like Rush Hour and Mind Resolve include challenges in which you are not timed, but rather are encouraged to take your time to complete the level in the least number of moves. 

Time Management: Being able to manage your time includes estimating how long a task will take and being able to judge if you need to move quickly or not.  Giving yourself enough time to complete an assignment, or get between classes, can be difficult if you don’t have good time management skills.  Time Timers and visual schedules (see Matt’s blog this week for more info!) are great ways to encourage independent time management!

Sustained and Divided Attention: Whether you’re at home or at school, there are times when you have to focus in on one thing and ignore other input (sustained attention), and there are times when you have to divide your attention (for example, when the phone rings while cooking, and neither can be completely ignored).   Refer back to this blog for ideas about sensory strategies to improve self-regulation and attention. 

Organization: Getting, and staying, organized can be big challenges for some people.  Organization is a skill that must be learned, but once it is figured out, it can be applied to so many areas of life to improve efficiency!  This blog listed some school supplies, like a planner and color-coded folders, notebooks, and book covers, that can help encourage organization and get you off to the right start this school year.

While the above areas of executive functioning are perhaps the most obviously relatable to the school day, executive functioning also includes initiation, flexibility, problem-solving, emotional control, and self-monitoring, all of which are important skills to have for success in the classroom and the community.  If you have concerns about your child’s executive functioning skills, talk to your doctor or a Lowcountry Therapy Center therapist about a screening or evaluation.  We can help!

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

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