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Executive Functions

In order to learn, children need to be able to plan, organize and complete tasks. They also have to control their impulses and feelings. This set of mental skills are called executive functions, and include paying attention, organizing and planning, starting tasks and staying focused on them, managing emotions, and keeping track of what you are doing. These skills can impact kids and adults at home, at school, and in social situations.

Difficulties with executive function isn’t a diagnosis or a learning disability. However, it’s common in people who learn and think differently, like people with ADHD and people with learning challenges. Poor executive functioning? can cause trouble with learning, but it does not mean that a student is not intelligent. People who struggle with executive function are just as smart and work just as hard as other people.

The three main areas of executive function are:

Working Memory: A student might use this skill to read a text on an English test, hold on to the information, and then use it to answer questions.

Cognitive Flexibility: A student might use this skill to answer a math problem in two ways or to find relationships between different concepts.

Inhibitory Control: A child might use this skill to keep from blurting out an answer in class. It helps kids regulate their emotions and keep from acting impulsively.

 

Children struggling with executive skills may:

  • Have trouble starting and/or completing tasks

  • Have difficulty prioritizing tasks

  • Forget what they just heard or read · Have trouble following directions or a sequence of steps

  • Panic when rules or routines change

  • Have trouble switching focus from one task to another · Get overly emotional and fixate on things

  • Have trouble organizing their thoughts

  • Have trouble keeping track of their belongings · Have trouble managing their time

If your child or student shows some of these executive functioning challenges, then one of our experienced team members can help. Contact us for more advice or support.

 

Some of our favourite activities or strategies to develop improving executive functioning are:

  • Play boardgames with your child

  • Create ‘mind maps’

  • Use visual planners, agenda and Post-It notes to help with planning and organizing work and daily routines

  • Use cognitive self-instruction methods e.g. using “Goal, Plan, Do”, check planners

  • Use a timer andwork on time management Break down assignments and instructions into manageable parts

  • Be clear about expectations

  • Provide the language to identify feelings and praise good self-control

Registered with the Dutch Occupational Therapy and Educational Psychology Association: Nederlandse Vereniging voor Ergotherapie and Nederlandse Vereniging voor Orthopedagogiek.

 

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KvK: 27.34.94.75

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