Executive Functioning: The Why and What of Its Importance

Executive functioning literally rules our days. It is the part of our brain that allows us to remember directions, know what needs to be done before we can leave, and helps us stay safe by evaluating potential dangers. Many children can have a delay in developing this region of their brains. Even many adult can be effected by not being as skilled in executive functioning. As with most delays and shortcomings, it is best to become aware of the issue. Evaluate where or what parts of Executive Functioning are particularly difficult, and then come up with the game plan on how to be successful. Here is online test for adults I found, but you can imagine from it some of the same child sized questions.

Executive Functioning Impacts:

  • Time Management: Constantly running late and losing track of time both fall under this category
  • Regulation of Attention: Easily distracted or getting too involved in one thing and not being able to move on
  • Impulse Control: Evaluating whether the environment or certain actions in the environment are safe
  • Organization: keeping things where they belong, throwing out other things, and being ale to re-find certain items all take energy from the brain
  • Working Memory: Also known as short-term memory that allows us to recall important information
  • Emotional Control: Even being able to keep feelings in check falls into executive functioning
  • Flexible thinking: Being able to roll with the changes that life throws at them
  • Task initiation: Being able to redirect the brain into a new task
  • Self-monitoring: knowing how to regulate behavior in order to accommodate their current social situation

Things that can help:

  1. Sticky notes, a calendar, or whatever is going to help them remember each of their tasks…but don’t overfill it with information, keep it simple and to the point
  2. Create environments where they can be successful. Do they need a quiet chair? A wiggly seat? It is best also to keep it consistent. Patterns will help give their brains clues about what needs to be occurring.
  3. If the child is impulsively speaking out of turn, have them write notes instead to share later. Redirect their needs to be satisfied more appropriately.
  4. Create an organization system. Yes this probably mean the parent is doing a lot of the work at first, but skill building can start small and then get bigger. Remember big tasks take a lot of practice.
  5. Patience is probably key when it comes to their memories. You will undoubtedly feel like you’ve said the same thing many times. Taking notes and putting visual enforcers for them can help.
  6. A dramatic kid can also take patience, but teaching them how to check-in with their own emotions can help them in the long term. Things like ‘mindful’ practices may also really help to strengthen their emotional balance.
  7. Flexible thinking can be hard for all of us, but life gives us lots of opportunity to practice this skill. Let them learn it, but try to set them up for success. A good nights sleep and a full belly can go a long way.
  8. Give them a specific starting point for their new task. Help ease them into it. They may need stepping stones because they can’t break down the task into it’s smaller steps on their own. For example, homework requires you grab a pencil, get the homework, find a seat, read directions, and then begin. Breaking the 1 step direction of ‘get homework’ into those 5 steps may really help the child out.
  9. Help your child become self-aware by talking to them about their actions in a neutral way. This can be done while they are in the process of doing it, at the end of the day, or probably best yet before different activities require something special of them.

By OpenStax College – Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site. http://cnx.org/content/col11496/1.6/, Jun 19, 2013., CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30148119

Articles Related to ‘Executive Functioning: The Why and What of Its Importance’

Stress and Children: The Lifelong Relationship

Happy World Autism Awareness Day

Social Thinking: How to Improve It

Social thinking can be a really hard thing for people of all ages, but kids can start learning it at a young age. Here are some ideas and tips for you to get the ball rolling at home or school:

  • Thoughts and Feelings– Everyone has thoughts and feelings. Making children aware of their own thoughts and feelings can be a good first step. After that, try and get them to imagine what others might feel like. ‘Sarah’s crayon broke. She might be ____.’ Making them aware of them self and others makes life easier in the long haul.
  • Group Plan– When doing an activity, there is normally a group plan. It may be spoken or unspoken. It maybe as simple as we are all going to get the mail or play a game. Every activity has unspoken rules. If a child is having difficulty, it may be important to brainstorm the normally unspoken rules to make sure they fully understand the plan before being held accountable. Once everyone understands the group plan, then the child can be reminded to stick to it.
  • Body in the Group– Groups occur throughout the day. If your body is wandering, you are no longer part of the group. The child may need reminders to rejoin the group.
  • Thinking with the Eyes- People tend to think about what they are looking at (of course this isn’t always true for all kids), but if the child is ready for it ask them to engage visually in the social thinking of the group.
  • Whole body Listening– This of course includes having your body in the group and your eyes engaged, but also thinking about what the rest of your body should be doing. Probably semi-quiet hands and feet that are also pointed toward the person speaking. Body language is so important.
Articles Related to ‘Social Thinking: How to Improve It’

Emotional Behavioral Disorders Quick Fact Sheet

Social Cognitive Theory

Autism, Empathy, and How the Brain Might Truly Work

High Functioning Autism: Signs and Perspective

Intervention for OCD obsessive-conpulssive disorder

Intervention for OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Intervention for OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, starts with knowing the root cause. OCD stems from anxiety taking over part of a person’s life. Often this is thought of as someone with Mysophobia (a fear of germs), and them over cleaning their hands until the point that they are raw, but it can be more than just a physical routine. Anxieties can stem from anything and therefore an individual can create OCD routines of all shapes and sizes over their abnormally large fears of any daily task.

OCD effects both boys and girls equally although boys are often diagnosed earlier than girls. It has been observed in children as young as 3 years of age. Often proper diagnosis of OCD takes many years to aquire. In the U.S., approximately 3.3 million people have OCD, of which 0.3 to 1% of pediatric population and 2% of adult population. OCD is a brain disorder that may have genetic components. It also is believed to be effected by low serotonin levels and is possibly effected by strep.

Children with OCD will constantly be stuck in a state of fight or flight due to their fears. This is one of the first warning signs you can see. They might also have routines that help them cope with this behavior. When the routines are abnormal and the worry is effecting the child’s school work and friendships, it is a good time to seek a medical professionals help.

student

Intervention for OCD treatments normally include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT (recognize obsessive thoughts and behaviors and then use anxiety techniques)
  • Exposure Response Prevention, EX/RP (teaches to relearn to process fear more appropriately and then find better responses to coping with it)
  • Family Counseling (to provide everyone tools and knowledge to cope and understand)
  • School Counseling (to help in the school setting as needed)
  • Parent Training (to provide encouragement and tools to motivate their children to change; specific examples include: modeling, scaffolding, differential attention)
  • Medication (to balance serotonin)
Articles Related to ‘Intervention for OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder’

Behavior and Cognitive Interventions: Finding the Best Solution

Early Intervention: A National Crisis of Making the First Five Count

Behavior and Cognitive Interventions

Mental Health in Kids: What to Know

disciplining a child

Disciplining a Child: Teaching Positive Behaviors

Disciplining a child can seem like a tricky battle, especially sense no two kids are the same, but let’s look at some things that do not change with children.

Discipline comes from Latin meaning teach. With this in mind, approach discipline as a tool toward teaching a new preferred behavior.

Behavior, even in the current state that is perhaps not preferred, is normally there to fill some basic need. Take a step back and think about what need the child is filling. Are they board? Is this helping them get attention? Is this giving them some sort of power or control? Really think about how it is meeting their basic need because if it is something like getting attention, it will be hard, but if the behavior no longer met that need, perhaps they would no longer do it (consistency is key with this). If it is another need that is being filling, what are some alternative preferred behaviors the child could use instead.

When disciplining a child, threats, anger and other emotional evoking strategies aren’t ideal because they appeal to the limbic system in the brain. It is better to keep it rational and clean cut with the child. If the child is using their cerebral cortex, they are connecting thought with action, a life-long skill. Some great strategies within this are:

  1. Start with clear, simple choices all of which are acceptable to you
  2. Have child verbally reiterate their choice back to you as a verbal contract
  3. Honest communication
  4. Cooperation through compliance
  5.  ‘Teachable Moments’ with reflection of poor choices
  6. Seeing everyone as equally valuable
  7. Clear expectations with consistent follow through
  8. Don’t: compare kids or give conditional appraisal
  9. Set a good example
  10. If the child has multiple behavior problems, start small…changing 1-2 behaviors at a time
Articles Related to ‘Disciplining a Child: Teaching Positive Behaviors’

Dance Therapy: Helping Individuals Connect

Book Facts: Reading is a Gateway to so Much More

Behavior and Cognitive Interventions: Finding the Best Solution

Aspects of Behavioral Disorders

gifted children

Gifted Students: Bridging the Gap

I came across this interesting article on gifted students yesterday.  It covers a 45 year study on gifted children. There are some important things to note if you have or regularly encounter gifted children:

  • Within the school system they have extra needs
  • They might also have additional sensory or learning issues
  • They are often over looked or under supported
  • As the article points out, they are an untapped resource…it is often these children that will solve the world problems for future generations. Why aren’t they supported more?

The article suggests that a good percent of these children in the top 1% go on to have influential jobs in science, business, law, and politics. The children, however, do not benefit from being called gifted. They do benefit from having access to advanced curriculum. The article states this about different countries approaches:

In the Middle East and east Asia, high-performing STEM students have received significant attention over the past decade. South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore screen children for giftedness and steer high performers into innovative programmes. In 2010, China launched a ten-year National Talent Development Plan to support and guide top students into science, technology and other high-demand fields.

In Europe, support for research and educational programmes for gifted children has ebbed, as the focus has moved more towards inclusion. England decided in 2010 to scrap the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth, and redirected funds towards an effort to get more poor students into leading universities.

The article also states that the study found spatial ability impacts technical and creative innovation. The study also supports grade skipping. It shows the children who do this are more likely to advance their education to PhD s and have patents. It also says that just having accessible appropriate materials can help to motivated the children, but to take into account individual personality differences.

 

More Articles Related to ‘Gifted Students: Bridging the Gap’

Gifted Children: Existential Depression and Other Challenges

Autism Research: Finding the Cause and Cure