Increase Your Child’s Executive Functioning Skills

As we previously learned in our blog What Are Executive Functioning Skills?, executive functioning skills are what help all of us achieve goal-directed behaviors. They are the building blocks of successful planning, appropriate communication and relationships, and task-oriented behaviors. Executive Functioning

To help your child increase his/her executive functioning skills, we must look at the whole child. If there are other issues, those must be addressed with qualified professionals, supportive family members and school staff.

To help your child become a prepared, organized individual, increase his self-esteem and aid him in social situations, executive functioning skills are crucial.

It is never too late to offer and obtain help; and for your child to learn the skills needed to increase his abilities. As with any skill, it will take effort, practice, praise and patience.

Try these tips to help your child improve their executive functioning skills:

Pre-school and Elementary School

Helping your child increase executive functioning skills may involve adding more structure to his environment.

Aid your child with putting out clothes the night before school or having her backpack ready at the door. Show your child how to put away her toys and allow her to do it on her own.

Do homework shortly after she gets home and in the same spot each time, with minimal distractions. If she is having trouble with staying on task at school, then the school may offer (and you can advocate for) accommodations through an Individual Education Plan.

Demonstrate through your actions and encouragement that being prepared is a positive message that creates less stress for her and the entire family. Model being on time and planning ahead. Use a calendar to plan playdates and appointments, and encourage your child’s participation in basic planning skills (like setting the table for dinner, studying for a spelling quiz, or writing a card for an upcoming party).

Help her notice when it is her turn to talk, and how others feel if she interrupts. Ask her to think about others’ feelings and behaviors and how her actions or words may impact them.

Middle School and High School

As your child gets older, help him to develop skills aimed at organization and time management. Continue encouraging your child to prepare for school the night before. Sit in the same place to do homework every day. Try to begin assigned work when still fresh and not wait until late at night.

Use an assignment notebook. If needed, have the teacher sign it, check it and give it back to provide accountability. Offer positive reinforcement for fulfilling goals. Limit electronics and distractions. Use a timer to discourage procrastination. Give praise.

Enlist help from the school. If your child’s grades are extremely inconsistent, his work is disorganized and he continually forgets to bring/do homework assignments, it is likely time to speak to your child’s teacher, counselor or social worker.

Your child may need further accommodations at school. These may be resource time to finish homework, meetings with the counselor for encouragement, checking his backpack and locker, preferential seating in class, checking of his assignment notebook to ensure he is writing down his assignments and knows what is expected.

College Years and Beyond

The goal is for our children to be prepared to not just handle the world of work and daily living on their own, but to be happy and successful doing so. Using executive functioning skills such as time management, planning, and organization enables kids to be successful when they are on their own. Being prepared for a work presentation takes planning, time constraint considerations, and organization.

Increase confidence in your child and help him build positive relationships as he learns to navigate social interactions, anticipate possible outcomes and problem-solve to come up with potential consequences of his behavior.

Executive functioning skills will allow your child to cope with many of the stresses presented in his daily life.

Let’s help our children now to increase executive functioning skills that will allow them to be productive and successful in their future. Help them continue to blossom!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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What Are Executive Function Skills?

Many of us have heard executive functioning used in terms of our children at school and at home. But what does it mean? Executive Function Blog

Executive Function – a Definition

Executive functions are necessary for goal-directed behavior. When we use the phrase “executive functioning skills,” we are describing a set of cognitive skills that control and regulate other behaviors and abilities. Our thought processes influence attention, memory and motor skills. (minddisorders.com).

Executive functioning skills help us to learn and retrieve information, plan, organize, manage our time, and see potential outcomes and act accordingly. When these processes work without difficulty, our brains do these tasks automatically, often without our awareness.

High Executive Function

In children and adults, those with high executive function skills are able to:

  • Initiate and stop actions
  • Make changes in behavior
  • Plan for the future
  • Manage time wisely
  • Anticipate possible consequences
  • Use problem-solving strategies
  • Use senses to gather information

For instance, the ability to initiate and stop actions may include working on a project for school or studying for an allotted time. Monitoring ones changes in behavior includes being able to act appropriately in a given situation and alter that behavior as needed. Planning for the future and managing time may include not procrastinating due to understanding the consequences of doing so.

Low Executive Function

When one is deficient in executive function skills, it may be difficult to plan and carry out tasks. The person may seem unable to sustain attention and feel overwhelmed by situations others find easier to navigate.

People with deficits in this area may also have comorbid diagnoses (meaning they go together). These include, but are not limited to: Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder, Autism, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Executive functioning deficits may run in families (learningdisabilities.about.com).

So, a child with executive functioning deficits may be able to pay attention to a lesson, until something new is introduced that requires a shift in their attention or that divides their focus. Children lacking in executive functioning skills also may have issues with verbal fluency.

Additionally, a child (or adult) with low executive function may have social problems. Executive functioning skills allow us to anticipate how others might feel if we do or say something. Those with low executive function may have difficulty interacting with others. Because they sometimes do not think things through before saying them, people with executive functioning deficits may blurt out inappropriate or hurtful comments, leading others to avoid them.

Working with your child, a therapist, and creating structure at home and accommodation plans at school are all ways to provide help for your child.

Increasing executive functioning skills will enable her to become a more organized, less stressed and less frustrated individual as she grows into a world of ever-increasing pressures.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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Executive Functioning Skills: How Can I Help My Child?

Executive Functions are a set of higher order mental processes that allow an individual, or in this case, children; the ability to control their thoughts, actions, and attention in their ever-changingblog-executive-functioning-main-landscape environment. Often, children can present with executive functioning issues as a result of many different factors such as Autism and ADHD.

Below are some executive functioning skills and how they present in both individuals with normal and poor executive functioning, and some tools/strategies for parents:

Skill Example Tools
Organization Your child has trouble being organized or often loses, or misplaces items. Create a “home space” for your child’s items. This can include simply labeling areas of the home where items should be stored, so your child knows where to place items and lowers the risk of loss. Make checklists or use planners to help your child create a schedule.
Working Memory Your child easily forgets what they just heard, or what they were asked to do. Make connections in every lesson. Have you ever heard of ROY G. BIV? – this is how most people remember the colors of the rainbow. When teaching new content such as tying a shoe use cute, age appropriate analogies such as the bunny rabbit in the hole. Also, helping your child visualize information by writing it down, drawing pictures, and even becoming the teacher are great tools as well.
Self-monitoring Your child may not seem aware of themselves such as when they are doing well. Behavior charts are a great tool to help your child self-manage their own behavior. Choose an important behavior for your child to manage and how often you would like for your child to “check in” on this behavior.
Task Initiation/Planning and Prioritizing Your child takes forever to get started on a particular task or has trouble planning activities. Break whole tasks down into smaller achievable steps. If the desired result is for your child to complete an entire homework sheet, maybe setting a goal to do the first 2 problems together can be a happy medium. Also allowing your child to take breaks or receive rewards between tasks are a good strategy as well.
Flexibility Your child often has trouble with new ideas, transitions and spontaneity. Visual schedules and first/then language are your biggest friend. For a child who has trouble being flexible, try to alert your child to changes in routine as far in advance as you can. To help combat rigidity such as not wanting to try a new food, try to approach slow and steady first. This can include tasting a small amount of a new food instead of a large portion.
Impulse/Emotional Control Your child often has trouble controlling their emotions and impulses when they are sad, happy, or angry. Speak and repeat. When providing directions to a child, if applicable, state the directions remembering to adhere to your child’s learner and listener styles, and then have your child repeat back to you. Use social stories and modeling: For example, if your child often gets upset when they lose a game, a social story can help teach tools on how to act in this situation.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation Skills for My Child

Children aren’t born with executive functioning or self-regulation skills, rather their brain has the capacity to develop them. As a result, these skills that support a child’s capacity to learn, grow and develop can be inhibited by a number of factors including stress, environment, relationships, or delays. They can blossom and develop more fully with support from adults and the environment around them. Some children require more focused support to better develop executive functioning and self-regulation skills. Support can be through Early Education Opportunities and/or more formal intervention and support like Occupational Therapy, Behavior Therapy or Mental Health Services. blog-executive-functioning-main-landscape

How to Identify on Track Development for Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation Skills

Positive Engagement in School

  • Your child has a positive experience at school, cooperates with expectations and meets expectations most days.
  • Your child completes their work in a timely manner and typically understands the material.
  • Your child’s school work is typically organized and can be located easily.
  • For younger children, they attend school most days without difficulty. They can share what happens at school each day and can tolerate when things change.

Pro-social Skills

  • Your child can get along with others, can initiate interaction and negotiate play appropriately.
  • Your child typically understands and follows routine expectations and rules.
  • Your child typically responds to redirection without difficulty.
  • Your child can communicate his needs, wants, or wishes appropriately and effectively.
  • Your child can take responsibility for their actions and can understand the consequences.
  • For younger children, they engage in turn-taking, sharing, and show emerging empathy for others if they get hurt or sick.

Healthy and Safe Choices

  • Your child makes safe choices when interacting with others across settings (home, school, and in the community).
  • Your child can recognize and understand the importance of rules and safety.
  • Your child can make healthy choices for themselves (balanced eating, exercising or participating in activities that make them feel good).
  • Your child can access and utilize help when needed.
  • For younger children, they can talk about the rules at home and school. They can cooperate with important routines like sleeping, eating and toileting.

Communication and Coping Skills

  • Your child can express their needs, wants, and feelings verbally and effectively.
  • Your child can typically communicate or express their frustration or anger in a safe, appropriate manner.
  • Your child can accept support or help from others.
  • Your child can advocate for themselves appropriately.
  • For younger children they can ask for help, ask for their needs with words or gestures, and can calm down with adult support.

How to Promote Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation skills

  • Provide a visual guide for routine and rules at home.
  • Make expectations clear and concise; talk about what happened if expectations are not being met.
  • Provide 1 or 2 step directions when giving instructions.
  • Spend time together for multi-step activities like art, a puzzle or baking activity; talk about the steps needed.
  • Encourage and praise hard work and persistence especially when trying something new or challenging.
  • Use first/then statements i.e. First we put the toys away, then we can have snack.”
  • Take time for calm and quiet activities together i.e. reading, taking a walk and coloring.
  • Model how to calm down or take deep breaths when upset.
  • Model healthy living and safe choices.
  • Develop Family Rituals that provide time to reflect and share about thoughts, feelings, and experiences (i.e. Highs and lows from the day over dinner, 3 best parts of the day on the drive home, marking off days on a calendar to look forward to a family outing).
  • Talk and share about feelings. Be willing to share your own.

Resources:

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/executive-function/ 

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Social Work

What Will My Child Experience in an Occupational Therapy Session?

Pediatric occupational therapy focuses on increasing a child’s level of participation in all the activities that they want and need to complete on a daily basis. Some of the most important activities inblog-occupational therapy-main-landscape a child’s life include areas of self-care, play, school/academic-related skills, and attention and regulation. As these areas vary greatly according to the child’s needs, age, and interests, occupational therapy sessions can look very different depending on the child.

The following are some of the activities a child may experience in an occupational therapy session:

Fine Motor/Visual Motor Activities

Fine motor skills involve the controlled movements of the fingers and the hands to carry out tasks. For a child with difficulty in this area, occupational therapy sessions may work on the ability to hold a writing utensil properly, fasten buttons and zippers, or put on socks. This may also include engaging in small manipulation tasks such as stringing beads, transferring coins from palms to fingertips, or manipulating scissors. Visual motor activities often go hand-in-hand as they combine fine motor control with visual perception. Occupational therapy sessions targeting visual motor skills may include activities such as drawing shapes, writing letters, cutting out shapes, completing puzzles, completing mazes and dot-to-dots.

Sensory Integration Activities

Occupational therapy sessions targeting sensory integration are designed to help your child take in, process and respond to sensory information from the environment more efficiently. For example, for a child who is hypersensitive to tactile input, a session may involve encouraging the child to tolerate playing with sand, dirt, or finger paint over time. For a child who seeks out constant movement, a session may involve providing deep pressure input (yoga poses, rock wall, animal walks, etc.) via the proprioceptive system to help this child get the input they are seeking through appropriate means so that they can sit and attend to seated work, stay safe on the playground, or even fall asleep easier at night.

Executive Functioning Activities

Executive functioning skills are those that help guide our brains to complete tasks. These include skills such as task initiation, planning, organization, problem solving, working memory, and inhibition. In teaching these skills, the occupational therapy will mimic real life tasks to improve the ease at which these tasks are completed. For example, to work on planning and organization, your child’s session may involve planning for and carrying out a long term project with step by step completion, using strategies from the OT to increase adherence. For a child who has trouble with task initiation, a homework routine or contract may be created with the use of auditory and/or visual timers, movement breaks, etc.

Strengthening and Coordination Activities

Upper body strength and coordination as well as core strength and postural control also play a large role in a child’s ability to carry out daily tasks. Activities such as tying one’s shoes, sitting upright at circle time, playing basketball at recess and sitting in a chair long enough to take a test are all affected by these skills. Upper body strength may be addressed by activities such as manipulating theraputty or propelling oneself on a scooterboard with his or her arms. Core strength is often addressed through tasks challenging the core musculature, like completing yoga poses, maintaining a seated position on an unable surface, or even playing “crab soccer” in the crab walk position.  Coordination activities target the planning and putting together of movements, particularly those that use both arms at the same time or the arms and legs at the same time, such as throwing and catching a ball, completing jumping jacks, or climbing a playground ladder.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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How to Motivate the Unorganized Child

Executive functioning challenges can often be overlooked as children are otherwise labeled as lazy or Unorganized Childunmotivated. If a child has difficulties with executive functioning he or she may present with behaviors of avoidance, emotional outbursts, or not even acknowledging the task at hand. This is probably because they are feeling overwhelmed and do not have the foundational skills needed to problem solve through organizational tasks. Helping your child to develop these skills can support their independent success and can increase future task initiation toward personal organization.

What Can Parents Do to Help an Unorganized Child?

Support them, assist in their growth of skills, and praise any small triumph! The general idea is to have the child learn the problem solving skills required to think through tasks that are seemingly overwhelming. First you always, ALWAYS start small, then tackle bigger projects as they can manage. Then as they make achievements, don’t forget to recognize their hard work! Praise moments of follow through and self-initiated tasks with recognition and/or rewards.

5 Tips to Help Organize Their Life:

  1. Establish a place to write it all down- daily planners and a family calendar are great tools to keep track of their time.
  2. Introduce Responsibility- Create a Chore chart and a To-Do list as a family. Don’t forget to keep their age and time needed for completion of these activities in mind when choosing the appropriate task(s).
  3. Acknowledge that the time is ticking- Visual timers are great for those children who tend to take more time than necessary on simple tasks. Timers can also help to keep a child focused and engaged in the activity.
  4. Create a place for all items to have a specific home- Designate places for items and stick to it. Growing up with the golden rule  ‘Always place an item back in its original place, in its same or better condition’ may help keep the house cleaner. Utilizing organizational tools, such as visual prompts (numbering, color coding) and charts can help too.
  5. Check in- They will need a little help! Have the children show you their completed work, planner, clean space, etc. Make them feel accomplished and help them problem solve solutions to existing problems.

5 Activity Ideas to Facilitate their Organizational Skills:

  1. Tackle a junk drawer, pantry shelf, or game closet- Have them help a parent problem solve through the organization of a messy place. Starting in a small place is key so there are no overwhelming moments too big for the child. Have the child think through the task with the parent facilitating only when needed.
  2. Cook with your child- A successful meal requires significant planning, working memory, organization, and time management.  See how much they can lead the cooking activity and help when needed. This can be fun for the child while having a great learning experience!
  3. Have them set up the family’s calendar for the next week or month- Give them the tools to place all of the activities on the calendar and check their work when done. Have the child help recognize and problem solve through time conflicts.
  4. Create an annual family night with board games- Board games are great for independent thinking and problem solving. Their success within a board game can greatly depend on their ability to organize themselves and materials within the game.
  5. Assist with putting together new things- Following written or verbal directions can be very difficult. With supervision and help, have the child responsible for constructing and/or setting up new purchased items.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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organize your child's room

Help Your Child Organize His Room

“Clean your room!” If only you had a nickel for every time that battle cry resonated through the halls of your home.

Organization of a room is a song and dance of its own accord. There is the clean out process, the sort and store aspects and the long-term maintenance of the belongings. The amount of organization options available can be just as confusing. Remember, organizing for your child is much different than organizing for yourself. Here are a few key aspects of organizing your child’s room to keep in mind.

Tips to Help Your Child Organize His Room:

  1. See what your child sees: when organizing his room, make sure you are taking your child’s perspective. GetHelp Your Child Organize His Room to his level to truly understand how your child is seeing his room. Identifying his vantage points will help you to place the important, and most necessary items, in direct line of sight.
  2. Make it a team effort: allowing your child to have input in their room, the decorations, and the organization strategies, will make for an excellent learning opportunity. It allows for the child to understand the steps that are involved in creating a system; it will also translate into maintaining the system they help to create.
  3. Keep it child friendly: Accordion-style closet doors can pinch fingers, hanging rods can be too tall, hangers can be too big…the list continues. Make sure that the space is child friendly; for younger children, remove closet doors completely. Install a second hanging rod within arm’s reach for the current season’s clothing. Use open containers on the floor of the closet for toys and knick-knacks.
  4. Increase responsibility with age: between the ages of 2-4 the clean-up and organize process can be a game. Turn clean up into a song and dance or a race. At ages 5-8, integrate more self-initiated clean-up times into the daily routine. Ages 9-12 bring the need to organize school items and extracurricular sports materials. Increase the amount of organization your child is responsible for as their day-to-day responsibilities increase.

Click here to learn if your child’s disorganization is a sign of a bigger problem.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Executive Functioning Skills for School Success

Executive Functioning Skills for School Success

Executive functioning skills are behaviors that guide and complete actions.  They are the skills we use, independently, to help us to complete tasks and achieve goals.

Think of them as not the individual skills of a task, but the behaviors needed to complete the task.

Executive functioning skills are crucial for academic success. These skills are not directly taught in school, through are expected to be utilized in the classroom setting. The independent use of skills, including initiation, problem-solving, working memory, inhibition and organization, is difficult for both adults and children.

Executive functioning concerns are seen in a variety of conditions and diagnoses including ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Anxiety, Depression, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and a variety of medical conditions. However, there are no specifics of what is necessary for a diagnosis of Executive Functioning Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM-V).

Executive Functioning By Age:

During the preschool years, prefrontal brain systems undergo rapid changes such as making newExecutive Functioning Skills for School Success neurological connections and speeding up how fast messages are transmitted in the brain. It is the time in which executive functioning skills, specifically inhibitory control, rule use, working memory, and motor persistence, play a critical role in the development of socialization and readiness for academic learning. The early years of schooling are learning how to be a student.  There are many inherent structures and routines in place to help ensure the child completes work.  As children get older the natural scaffolds of teacher interference and organization are removed, stressing the need for independence.

As children reach school age, executive functioning skills are central to successful acquisition and efficient use of academic skills, particularly in efforts to overcome learning problems of all kinds. At this age, children are expected to integrate multiple executive functioning skills as a means to complete longer tasks.

As these children age into adolescence, the demands of executive functioning skills increase tenfold. At this age, executive functioning difficulties are seen with spontaneous use of skills, strategic initiation of tasks, and mental flexibility. Meaning concerns are no longer with regard to impulse regulation but rather with initiating action on work/time management as well as developing organizational strategies to complete work.

Interventions for Executive Functioning:

A major component of intervention for executive functioning is that the techniques have to be in real-life contexts. Teaching skills during tasks that mimic academic and life demands results in better carryover of skill. This systematic approach to teaching problem solving with everyday activities is best.  Familiar tasks should be used to learn skills initially. The use of novel tasks in the learning process will prove difficult due to perceived difficulty, stress or anxiety around possible failure.

Specifically, as the child learns to complete a multi-step task following a set sequence of steps (with multiple opportunities to practice the routine), the task becomes less novel. The child is then able to improve functional activities with less reliance on external cues.

Interventions must be rehearsed, coached, and practiced to support overlearning or automaticity in the environment in which they will be needed. This will explicitly support the “how and when” skills associated with the child’s unique areas of problem behavior.

There is also an emphasis on developing a child’s metacognitive skills.  Metacognition is essentially thinking about thinking.  You are teaching the child to think and plan ahead before diving into an activity or task.

A fourth principle involves structuring the child’s environment by establishing simplified, consistent routines for daily tasks.  Teaching and carryover is most effective with accommodations and interventions across each environment. These accommodations could include verbal cues, nonverbal gestures, schedules, check-lists, alarm clocks, timers (auditory or visual), and/or environmental modifications.

Additionally, a motivational reward/consequence system, and/or self-talk methods can also be used to ensure success.

Executive Functioning

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

stop procrastinating

Help Your Child STOP Procrastinating

We are all guilty of that last minute Hail Mary to finalize a report or satisfy a deadline. Even during the times when you are confident you will be ahead of the curve, life happens and best laid plans fail. Teach, and practice, these helpful strategies to avoid procrastination.

Tips to Help Your Child Stop Procrastinating:

  1. Sit down with your child and organize all the work that needs to be completed.Help Your Child Stop Procrastinating Arrange these tasks in an A, B, C manner where A’s are of the utmost priority that need to be achieved right away and B’s and C’s are not as pressing. Once the A’s are completed, then the child can move on to the lesser important items. You can do this on a daily or weekly basis.
  2. Break down tasks on to visual schedule. Add daily tasks to a visual calendar so that the child can see what he is responsible for doing. If an assignment lasts longer than one day to complete, like writing a paper or studying for test, break down this task across several days in smaller time increments. Upon completion of this task, the child can cross off the assignment to garner a sense of satisfaction and have an active status for remaining work.
  3. Check assignment notebook/online database for assignments. Model for your child this essential step prior to engagement in homework. When your child comes home from school, make a habit of sitting down during snack time to discuss the requirements for the day. Encourage collaboration for prioritizing tasks through review of syllabus, assignment notebook, and any information posted on line to get the most comprehensive picture of tasks. This may not just include homework but money for hot lunch, filling out consents for field trips, and keeping track of other important information. These items can all be housed on the big visual schedule.
  4. Open communication. Encourage open communication in a non-punitive forum. Let your child know that he can still receive tablet time, play dates, and movies throughout the week even if they have a lot of work to complete. Scheduling down time and fun can also help to debunk irrational, negative thoughts about having to complete work if the child can see that fun and leisure is being factored in too.

Click here to set-up a routine for homework happiness.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Executive Functioning Skills for School Success

Multi-tasking seems to be the norm of the everyday lifestyle. When you think about it, in order to multi-task, your brain needs to be able to focus on two different types of stimuli, organize two sets of information, plan for two different motor movements and remember two sets of “to-do” lists. Sounds like a lot of work! The ability for your brain to do this is possible with executive functioning skills. Executive Functioning Skills or School SuccessExecutive functioning skills are the higher-level brain skills that allow a person to complete tasks throughout the day. These skills include memory, initiation, inhibition/impulse control, shift, and organization. Executive functioning is best understood by listing specific skills, however, it is not a unitary skill. Often times, these skills build upon one another and are used in conjunction to complete complex tasks.

School places executive functioning demands on children on a daily basis; from reviewing the daily schedule to written work. Some children find the school day to be more cumbersome due to difficulty in utilizing one or more executive functioning skills. When these executive functions are not working effectively, the individual, despite strong abilities, can experience significant problems in many aspects of learning, getting work done, social functioning, and self-esteem. These children, with or without an executive functioning or attentional difficulty diagnosis, can appear confused, become frustrated or angry easily, or refuse to complete work.

As the demands of school increase with each passing year, having well-developed executive functioning skills is critical to academic success. Below is an overview of each of the before mentioned executive functioning skills, along with, activities to help promote these skills at home.

Executive Functioning Skills Overview:

Executive Functioning Skill Definition Activities to Try
Memory Ability to retain and manipulate distinct pieces of information over short or long periods of time Sequential tasks of 3-5 steps with or without use of visual aides.Memory card games

Recall the events of the day in order from waking up to dinner time.

Initiation Ability to begin a task or activity and to independently generate ideas, responses, or problem-solving strategies. Utilize a “to-do” list of 3-5 items. This will encourage the completion of each task.Minimize distractions: encourage work to be completed in a specific location in the house with minimal visual and auditory distractions.

Create a weekly schedule for house-specific initiation of tasks (i.e., chores). Each day should have its own specific task to decrease the amount of demands presented.

Inhibition/Impulse Control Ability to stop one’s own behavior at the appropriate time, including stopping actions and thoughts. Teach social rules for a variety of settings: “When we walk into the store, first we will look at mommy’s list, and then we can look at bikes”.Redirect your child when they are interrupting you: “I am talking on the phone, I can talk to you as soon as I am done”.

Make sure to praise your child immediately after you direct your attention back to him.

Incorporate a fidget into daily activities, especially sedentary tasks, to provide a means to “get the wiggles out” without needing to flee from the task.

Shift Ability to move freely from one situation to another and to think flexibly in order to respond appropriately to the situation. Create a cognitive obstacle course: create 3 stations in which the child is to complete 3 different tasks (ex. gross motor, writing, puzzle) with 3 minutes dedicated to each station. Rotate between the stations until all 3 tasks are completed.Encourage multi-tasking in a structured manner. Sedentary tasks for multi-tasking can include a game-play scenario mixed with writing.

Use of a picture schedule to promote ease and regulation during transitions between activities.

Organization Ability to manage current and future-oriented task demands. OR Ability to impose order on work, play, and storage spaces. Create a “school ready” system to promote organization of school materials. This can be done in multiple ways: folders, binder system, use of a weekly planner.Use of graphic organizers for academic success: outline templates, Venn diagrams, idea webs, 3-5 step sequence graphs, main idea organizers.

Create a map of the school: utilize this map to establish a routine for navigating the hallways in an efficient and timely manner, including stops at either the bathroom or locker.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!