Executive functioning skills are what allow us to plan, focus, multi-task, and follow instructions. Sometimes referred to as the CEO of our brain, our command center, or our conductor, executive functioning skills play an integral role in our daily lives. While we aren’t born with these skills, children begin to develop their executive functioning skills from a very early age. As parents, we can strengthen and nurture these abilities! First, let’s get a clear understanding of what executive functioning skills are with these fast facts:
Executive functioning controls a child’s ability to pay attention, organize, plan, prioritize, start tasks on their own, manage their time, understand differing viewpoints, regulate their emotions, and stay focused on a task through completion.
Research has shown that the frontal areas of the brain are responsible for executive function. When these areas are slower to develop, trouble with self-regulation and executive functioning occur.
Children will begin developing these skills in early childhood, through their teens, and often into their mid-twenties.
Executive functioning depends on three types of brain function — working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control — all working together.
All children are born with the ability to develop these skills, but depend on positive, healthy relationships and environments in order to establish and expand these skills.
These skills may not come as naturally or easily to all children, so they need to practice these skills in nurturing environments before using them on their own.
Abuse, neglect, violence, and stress can all impair a child’s ability to develop his or her executive functioning skills.
When children struggle with executive functioning, issues will arise both at home and at school, but it doesn’t mean they are lazy or not intelligent.
With so much to be aware of, think through, and put into context, a child’s processing speed can impact his or her executive functioning skills.
ADHD is an executive functioning problem at its core. Other conditions, such as learning disabilities and anxiety, may also overlap with an executive functioning difficulty. However, not all of these co-occur in every child.
Executive function skills can improve with practice!
Here Are Some At-Home Tips to Help Your Child
That last fact is our favorite here at Fast ForWord Home! The understanding that our brains can form and reorganize connections (also known as neuroplasticity) is what our software is based on, so using those concepts to improve executive functioning makes perfect sense to us! Here are some tips and ideas for boosting your child’s executive functioning skills:
Work with your child to set small goals for tasks, then set more difficult goals as time goes on. Show off how good it can feel to divide, conquer, and get things done!
Challenge your kids to draw out their plans for tackling a project or chore you’ve asked them to do to improve their visualization skills.
Embrace color-coding! From your child’s school supplies to his or her to-do list, this can help them stay organized and prioritize tasks.
Provide note cards, notebooks, sticky notes, and other options for your child to write things down whenever they need to.
Create contracts or agreements for getting tasks done — like a homework contract, or cell phone contract — to help with time management.
Talk through what happens when we procrastinate. Avoiding a chore or assignment might feel good now but will come with setbacks later.
Create daily routines, like a set homework time, set hours for screen time, or a nighttime checklist to help with impulse control and to establish good habits.
Practice waiting before responding and using that wait time to think through what they’re going to say.
Demonstrate and enforce accountability. Show your child that, as an adult, you are held accountable for your actions and expect responsibility from him or her as well.
Help your child understand how thoughts can impact feelings and emotions, to keep his or her reactions in check.
Create a backpack cleaning routine to get rid of clutter and stay on top of important to-do’s. Implementing other cleaning routines may also come in handy!
Designate different areas of your home for different things. Have a “ready-set-go” area by the door with backpacks, gym clothes, extra school supplies, etc. Keep your homework area well-stocked so your child will have everything they need to stay on task.
Play board or card games as a family! From following instructions to taking turns and exhibiting self-control, games can give your child many opportunities for practicing his or her executive functioning skills!
Talk through “what if” scenarios to help your child see things from multiple perspectives. Have them work through situations as different characters.
Become the student! Ask your child to teach you something and let them practice his or her skills.
Encourage your child to think out loud as they solve a problem. This will help your child connect the dots and become more flexible in how he or she approaches and works through situations.
Use time tracking tools so your child starts to understand how much time tasks actually take, so he or she can plan ahead next time!
Encourage the use of memory games or apps.
Do regular check-ins where you ask your child to tell you what he or she is feeling,thinking, doing, etc. to keep them in tune with themselves.
Encourage your child to find the right organizational tools. Experiment with calendars, planners, checklists, etc. and talk through what your child likes/needs from a “perfect” organizational tool.
Take a step back and let your kids take on their own work, but be ready to step in when needed. Let your child feel challenged and enjoy the sense of accomplishment when he or she sees a task through.
Fast ForWord Home Can Help
If your child is struggling with delays in executive functioning, Fast ForWord Home can help. Our intervention software can help your child learn to complete processing tasks automatically, freeing up capacity for higher level skill development. Fast ForWord Home also exercises the sequencing, working memory, and processing skills integral to executive functioning. And maybe the best part is that it looks and feels like a game! Kids enjoy their time with the Fast ForWord program while making fast and permanent changes to their brain. Talk about a win-win situation!
Have Questions? Get a free consultation! We are here to help. Contact us at 1-888-750-0116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.