What are executive function skills?
Executive Function skills are the skills that allow us to make a goal, plan on how to meet that goal, and follow through with that plan. They are the skills that help us with impulse control, keeping ourselves organized, and regulating our emotions.
Students who have difficulty with their executive function skills tend to be disorganized, impulsive, and do not follow through on plans. These difficulties are typical with students who have been diagnosed with ADHD, as well as other learning disabilities.
A student who struggles with executive function is not hopeless, these skills can be taught, practiced and developed.
Break down a project into smaller pieces
A student who struggles with their executive functioning skills is going to have a hard time with a large project. They are going to struggle with planning out how to complete the project over the course of a larger period of time. Planning out what to do when. You can help them by giving them an outline of what order the steps should be completed in. Also, if possible to give them miniature due dates where they should have pieces of the project completed by. Normally this is something that we do for ourselves, but we can support our students by walking them through this.
Depending on the areas where the students are struggling, make them a checklist. For one of my students, I have created a checklist of everything they need to have with them when they get to class. That way, if they’re missing anything they can get it right away instead of having to leave the room multiple times to go to their locker.
I also give students checklists for things like editing their work to help them remember everything they should be looking for or need to do.
You can create an individualized checklist for really any need your student has. Maybe they need a checklist to help them remember the morning routine or the end of the daily routine.
This is something very simple. Students may struggle with remembering to write down their homework. And if they write it down, they may be in a rush and not copy it exactly. Getting them in the habit of having their agenda checked by a teacher will help them because you can confirm that the homework in their agenda is written down correctly and completely. Since my students are older and getting ready for high school, I try to promote the responsibility being in their hands. They are expected to approach the teacher at the end of the class and ask the teacher to sign their agenda. If the students are younger, or maybe this is something that is new for them, I leave the responsibility with the teachers to prompt the student to get their agenda checked until the student is ready to initiate.
Create an organization system
Students who struggle with executive functioning skills are likely to struggle with their organization. They are often the student who swears they did their homework, but can’t find it.
Students with executive function deficits often benefit from their teachers or parents helping them to create and maintain an organization system that works for them. My go-to is the accordion folder. I usually recommend that my students get an accordion folder where they can keep all of their work, and keep it organized. I help them set up the folder and label all of the sections with them. One section in the front that is for homework, and then one section for each class. I teach them to put homework that needs to be done in the first “homework” section. Once they have completed their homework, I teach them to put the completed work into that class’s section in the folder. When they get to class the next morning they can just check that class’s section and there are all of the papers that they need!
- Provide structure and a predictable routine
- Allow them extra time on tests and quizzes
- Provide students with study guides
- Provide students with copies of notes
- Word banks when you are working with a large amount of vocabulary
There are many different ways that you can support your students, these are just a few of the ones that I use the most!
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