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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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Faith Champ

Faith Champ

Faith Champ is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with over four years experience in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. She earned her Master of Arts in Psychology and Certificate of BCBA Re-specialization from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Faith spent three years focusing on the pediatric population primarily in home where she worked to address behavioral concerns during meal time, play time, after- school academics/tutoring, potty-training, parent-coaching and bed-time support. Faith has extensive experience in providing school support through IEP meetings, as a shadow/school aide and building rapport with teachers and school staff. Additional education experience include Graduate certificates in Child Advocacy and Public Policy, and Early Childhood Administration, Management, and Leadership.

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