Executive functioning refers to the mental processes that allow children to engage in activities that involve goal setting and problem solving. Executive functioning strategies may include things that involve identifying a problem, setting a goal to solve that problem, developing a plan to solve that problem, and then executing the plan.
It’s recommended that executive functioning strategies be taught to children starting in elementary school. The reason why it’s important to teach executive functioning strategies at such a young age is because elementary grades are requiring students to complete the types of assignments that use executive functioning. These types of assignments include completing long-term projects, as well as long-form reading and writing assignments.
Executive functioning strategies are beneficial for all children, but this is even more true for children with disabilities. Studies show that children with cognitive disabilities and behavior disorders may have underdeveloped executive functioning skills.
With the right executive functioning strategies it’s possible to strengthen EF skills, which can be beneficial to your child’s academic and social life.
Benefits of Executive Functioning Strategies
According to a study by Torkel Klingberg, a neuroscientist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, it was found that teaching executive functioning strategies leads to better working memory skills, and may reduce ADHD symptoms. Results from this study suggest that executive functioning strategies may affect the way children’s brains develop.
However, results vary from person to person. For example, the response to executive functioning strategies in some children may be gradual and accumulative, and some children may require more extended training time than others.
It’s important to know that executive functioning strategies are not a “one size fits all” solution. In order for children to respond to executive functioning strategies effectively, they first need to understand their own strengths and weaknesses in their learning styles. From there you’ll get a better idea of which executive functioning strategies will work for them.
Examples of Executive Functioning Strategies
Lynn Meltzer, co-founder and co-director of the Institute for Learning and Development, gives examples of executive functioning strategies in her study called Executive Function in Education.
Some of her examples are:
- Memorization: Using acronyms to help children memorize information.
- Cognitive Flexibility: Working with riddles and jokes can help children understand the nuances of word meanings. When working with math problems, encourage the child to solve the problem in another way to improve their critical thinking.
- Prioritizing: To help your child prioritize information, Meltzer suggests activities that involve highlighting important ideas in a text in one color, and details of those ideas in another color.
- Note taking: To help children remember information, Meltzer recommends making three column notes: the first column contains the core concept, the second column contains the supporting details, and the third column contains the strategy the child will use to remember the information.
- Self-Monitoring: Meltzer recommends helping children check their work in two ways: Providing explicit checklists for assignments, and helping students develop personalized checklists to make them aware of their most common errors. A third step could also include helping your child create their own acronyms to remind themselves errors they frequently run into.
For more information on executive functions, click here.
Executive Function Fact Sheet: http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-aamp-executive-functioning/basic-ef-facts/executive-function-fact-sheet
Executive Functioning and Learning Disabilities: http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-aamp-executive-functioning/basic-ef-facts/executive-functioning-and-learning-disabilities