School Readiness for a Successful School Year
While interacting with the education system, you may commonly hear the term “Executive Function” used to describe mental skills and ways of thinking that help individuals plan, monitor, and successfully execute goals. Executive functions also include processes such as working memory, organization, impulse control, attention, flexible thinking, time management, and emotion control. Essential skills for school success.
Executive Functioning and The Brain
Executive functioning skills are activated in the frontal lobe of our brain. The frontal lobe is responsible for higher-level cognitive functioning such as memory, emotions, problem-solving, social interaction, and impulse control. The frontal lobe continues to mature in adolescence and into an individual’s mid-twenties. This means that typical developing children and adolescents naturally can struggle with executive functioning skills since their frontal lobe is still maturing. Disorders and diseases that also adversely affect the frontal lobe of the brain such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD), dementia, a stroke, or a traumatic brain injury can result in impaired executive functioning skills.
Tips for Supporting Your Child’s Executive Functioning
- Initiating Tasks – Assist your child with breaking down a larger/longer task into smaller, more manageable, parts with separate due dates or check-ins.
- Planning – Utilize calendars, agendas, and to-do lists to assist with planning. Daily, weekly, and monthly family calendars can help your child identify and plan for future events. Assist your child with prioritizing tasks based on due date, energy level needed for completion, or most points to impact grade.
- Working Memory – Utilize techniques such as visualizing, mnemonics, or acronyms.
- Organization – Assign specific colored folders/notebooks per school subject or a specified homework folder. These folders can be physical or electronic utilizing Google Drive. Put time aside each week for your child to organize their room, backpack, and computer desktop/folders.
- Impulse Control – Teach problem-solving skills. Show your child that there is more than one way to solve a problem and how it is important to evaluate multiple avenues for solving a problem before acting.
- Attention – Minimize noise and other distractions. Designate a specific area of the home for homework completion (separate from your child’s bedroom if possible). Alternate between work and break time. Set a timer to teach your child to work for a certain amount of time without distraction before taking a break.
- Flexible Thinking – Create teachable moments by highlighting flexible thinking in everyday life. Flexible thinking results in strong collaboration skills and a growth versus fixed mindset.
- Time Management – Establish routines and assist your child with determining how long each task may take on their to-do list. Teach your child how long tasks take to accomplish. Have your child estimate the completion time of a task and compare their estimation to their actual completion time by setting a timer.
- Emotion Control – Assist your child in recognizing different emotions and labeling them. Identify and practice coping strategies when emotions are high. Model emotion control with your children.
Lisa Aguilar, MS, SSP is a Specialist in School Psychology and an Education Consultant with Action Consulting and Therapy.