Do you have students in your classroom who can follow routines and manage their behavior while they regulate their thinking and emotions? And, other students who cannot seem to control their behavior or stick to classroom routines? They may fidget and have difficulty ignoring things that are irrelevant. The contrasts in these students illustrate differences in executive skills.
Executive skills is an umbrella term for the skills we use as we manage tasks, and set goals. If students struggle with organization, planning and task completion, or lack inhibition or short-term memory, they may lack executive skill development (Cartwright, 2015).
Cartwright, K. (2015). Executive skills and reading comprehension, A guide for educators. New York, NY: Guilford Press
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Tools for Improving Executive Function
- Read Executive Skills and Reading Comprehension, a summary of Dr. Kelly Cartwright’s research on executive skills and reading comprehension.
- The Virginia Department of Education’s I’m Determined Project offers the Good Day Plan, a free tool used to help students identify factors that lead to a successful day.
- Virginia youth with disabilities who are between the ages of 13-21 can now apply for the 2018 I’m Determined Youth Summit.
- 9 Terms to Know if Your Child Struggles with Executive Functioning Issues
- Improving Math Performance Using Executive Function is an article that provides descriptions of, and suggestions for, three specific domains related to math performance: attention, working memory, and mental flexibility.
- Do you have students who struggle with emotional control, task initiation, organizational skills, or time management deficits? This Executive Skills Questionnaire can help you discover your students’ strengths and weaknesses with regard to executive functioning skills. Following the questionnaire, see specific Tier I Environmental Modifications and Teaching Strategies. For more information about executive functioning skills and their impact on academic and social behavior check out the Behavior Webpage here.
- In the book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (available in the T-TAC ODU library), author Ellen Galinsky identifies skills from child development research and neuroscience that help children thrive both now and in the future. In addition to the book, the Mind in the Making website offers resources to promote these executive function skills in early childhood. Such resources include Prescriptions for Learning tip sheets for parents of young children that offer advice for promoting executive function skills, and printable Tips for Promoting Essential Life Skills (PDF) for educators.
- Social functioning is a critical aspect of a child’s life. Social skill deficits markedly impact a child’s immediate quality of life as well as their long-term functioning within the family, as well as among peers. Individuals with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may often face challenges related to their ability to interpret certain social cues and skills. Such individuals may have difficulty processing large amounts of information and relating to others. View A Day in the Life of a Child With Executive Functioning Issues
to learn how EF deficits might effect a typical student.
- When considering how to help your students learn or improve their executive function skills, consider using Assistive Technology. Assistive Technology (AT) tools can help students use their strengths to overcome their challenges. AT not only helps students access equipment, but helps decrease the demands of learning tasks. This way your student can focus on learning the skill. Graphic organizers help students organize their thinking.
- Try it on an iPad – SnapType is an app that helps students focus on the thought process required to fill in a worksheet. Students can take a picture of the worksheet and then fill it out using the on-screen keyboard.
- Try it on the computer – Bubbl.us provides a free computerized version of a graphic organizer. Kidspiration and Inspiration are fee-based computerized graphic organizers that your school may have purchased.
- Try it on paper – VDOE Graphic Organizers Files provide several different styles of graphic organizers for students to write down their thoughts.