executive function training

What are Executive Function Skills?

Executive Functions are a complex group of cognitive processes that help people with self-management. These include skills such as:

  • setting goals
  • initiating
  • organizing
  • prioritizing tasks and ideas
  • thinking with flexibility
  • accessing working memory
  • self-monitoring and self-evaluation
  • time management
  • emotional regulation

Executive Functions are skills that help people achieve goals. In order to effectively meet the challenges of ever-increasing school/work demands and improve academic/professional performance, individuals must be able to manage their emotions and attention, organize and plan their work and time, and reflect upon and revise their tactics as circumstances change.

When do Executive Function skills develop?

The development of Executive Function skills actually begins in infancy and continues into adulthood. The more we use these skills the greater the development of circuits or pathways in the frontal lobe of the brain that are responsible for critical reasoning and decision-making. The neuron networks of the brain develop and grow based on experience, so if they are utilized regularly, they become more extensive, organized and effective.

Why all the hype about Executive Function skills?

In diagnosing various learning difficulties, Executive Function skill issues often go unnoticed. Children struggle through the learning process without understanding why. They are sometimes labeled under-achievers, lazy, or purposely not working up to their potential. Bright children are unable to demonstrate their talents because problems get in the way. Many children who face social-emotional learning difficulties also experience problems with Executive Functioning.  Learning Executive Function skills can help them to overcome or mitigate the effects of other problems.

What does a person with Executive Function difficulties look like?

Trouble Organizing Work

  • Has difficulty identifying what material to record in note taking

  • When given three or more things to do…remembers only the first or the last thing to do

  • Has difficulty getting started on tasks, which may appear as oppositional behavior

Trouble Completing Tasks

  • Starts tasks but may not finish

  • Doesn’t check to insure that each step is completed

  • Written work is poorly organized

  • Doesn’t check work before submitting it

  • Has good ideas but doesn’t get the job done

Trouble Managing Materials

  • Starts assignments/tasks without necessary materials

  • Loses important papers or assignments

  • Cannot find clothes, shoes, toys, books, pencils, etc.

  • Fails to turn in completed work

Trouble Managing Time

  • Does not leave enough time to complete tasks

  • Wastes time doing small projects and fails to do big projects

  • Over-estimates or under-estimates time on needed tasks

  • Runs out of time before completing assignments/tasks

Trouble Managing Attention

  • Skips steps in multi-step tasks

  • Has difficulty relating to a story chronologically

  • Appears distractible and/or impulsive

  • Has difficulty making transitions and/or coping with the unforeseen

Social Difficulties

  • Exhibits inappropriate or over-reactive responses to situations

  • “Jumps the gun” socially

  • Picks smaller, immediate rewards over larger, delayed rewards

  • Doesn’t realistically evaluate performance in school

So how do you help improve a person's Executive Function skills?

Executive Function Training/Coaching teaches students  the skills they need to become successful, independent learners. Children aren’t born with these skills—they are born with the potential to develop them. The full range of abilities continues to grow and mature through the teen years and into early adulthood. A crucial time to perfect these skills is when kids are approaching or in middle school. At this age, the frontal lobe is only then forming the foundations of higher level thinking skills such as organization, judgement, and planning. As if that wasn’t enough for your pre-teen to be going through, everything else that comes along with middle school is happening too! The stakes are rising. Students have more independence. They have more commitments and more distractions. Our goal is to help them perform better so they know how to learn, which relieves pressure, empowers them, builds grit and ignites motivation!

I have extensive background in and passion for improving cognitive skills during the rehabilitative process. However, just as executive function training can help as a form of therapy to regain lost abilities, similar training can help an otherwise healthy person reach their full academic or professional potential.

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