Executive functioning is a cognitive process that helps us plan, organize, make decisions, shift between tasks, and self-regulate our emotions and impulsivity. Executive functioning develops as your child grows, but certain conditions such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Depression, or Anxiety can impact your child’s development of executive functioning skills. Children who have challenges with executive functioning may seem more disorganized than their same-age peers. They may lose their schoolwork or have trouble completing their schoolwork on time. These challenges can be frustrating for children and parents, but don’t get discouraged! There are ways to support your child with organization, planning, decision making, and self-regulation to better support their executive functioning and set them up for success in school. Here are a few strategies you can use to support your child:
- Assist with Organization: Help your child organize their class materials by labeling or color-coding folders, labeling tabs in binders, organizing their backpack, and organizing their workspace at home. Help them identify predetermined spaces to store their materials so they know exactly where they can find what they need, and where to place items when tasks are complete.
- Break Down Tasks into Smaller Steps: It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the thought of one big task. By breaking it down into smaller, more achievable steps you can help your child with task initiation and planning. Write out each step as a visual aid and have them cross off each item when complete to encourage them to keep going.
- Use Checklists: Help your child identify and prioritize the work they need to get done using a checklist. This will help with time management, multitasking, and prioritizing.
- Incorporate Self-Regulation Strategies: Make time for regular movement breaks to help your child release excess energy and get them ready to maintain focus. While doing work, be cognizant of your child’s sensory needs and incorporate supports accordingly.
- Use a Visual Timer: Estimate how long it will take to complete a task and provide a visual timer for your child so they know when to expect their next break.
- Set Up the Environment for Success: Maintain a visually clean, clutter free workspace to reduce visual distractions and reduce auditory distractions as much as possible to provide your child a quiet space to work.
These strategies can help your child with organization and task completion; take note of successful strategies so you can communicate them to your child’s teacher and incorporate them into their classroom. While these strategies can help support students struggling with executive functioning, a traditional classroom environment is not for everyone. I developed Merlin Day Academy as an alternative for children that need a more supportive learning environment. Merlin Day Academy provides special education in a unique, sensory integrated therapeutic environment for children ages 6-14 with neuro-diverse learning needs including those with autism, down syndrome, and intellectual, learning, or emotional disabilities. Our sister company, Eyas Landing’s therapists, provide occupational therapy, applied behavior analysis (ABA), developmental therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, language therapy, nutrition, and feeding therapy services to Merlin Day Academy students to provide them with an ideal environment for learning.