Even the very brightest child can struggle in school if he or she has trouble setting goals and carrying out organized steps to successfully complete a task.
These skills, known collectively as executive function, help us with everything from getting dressed in the morning to writing a letter. While these skills come naturally for most of us, some children need to be taught how to execute tasks in an expected manner. Written expression is infused in executive function-based instruction to help students improve their writing by learning to organize their thoughts, initiate writing assignments, expand their ideas to increase quality and quantity, improve their ability to evaluate their writing, and meet task requirements.
Princeton Speech-Language and Learning Center uses advanced techniques to teach executive function skills. We don’t just tell children what to do. We teach them specific concepts and strategies so they can act more independently – without the constant support of parents and teachers.
We teach students to develop a "memory for the future," which allows them to devise and organize plans to achieve their goal. We also provide them with practical techniques, such as self- talk, that are necessary to self-initiate a task and transition to the next step of higher priority to successfully complete it.
Classes are modeled after the work of Sarah Ward, MS, CCC-SLP, and Kristen Jacobsen, MS, CCC-SLP, leading national experts in executive function skills training at the Cognitive Connections: Center for Executive Function Skill Development in Lincoln, MA. Learn more about Executive Function Treatment at their website.
What are the signs of executive function deficits?
Executive function deficits are often, but not always, associated with developmental disorders including Verbal and Non-Verbal Learning Disorders, Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
The demands of completing schoolwork independently can often trigger signs there are difficulties in this area. Or, you may simply notice your child has difficulty “reading a room” so that he or she can stop, think and create an appropriate action plan and infer possible outcomes.
Your child may be having trouble with executive function if he or she:
Has difficulty planning a project
Has trouble comprehending how much time a project will take to complete
Struggles to tell a story (verbally or in writing)
Has trouble communicating details in an organized, sequential manner
Has difficulty with memorization and retrieving information from memory
Has trouble initiating activities or tasks, or generating ideas independently
Has difficulty retaining information while doing something with it (e.g., remembering a phone number while dialing)
The importance of early identification
It’s not unusual for a child with undiagnosed executive function deficits to achieve all A’s in high school but then fail in college because he or she becomes overwhelmed without the direct support of parents and tutors.
That’s why it’s important for parents and educators to pay early attention to a child’s ability to develop efficient skills in this area. The certified speech-language pathologists and learning specialists at PSLLC can help identify specific deficits in a child’s executive function abilities through formal and informal assessments in order to address the lagging skills.
Based on a child’s needs, our speech-language pathologists and learning specialists offer small group classes or individual instruction in planning, organizing and managing time and space. We use cutting-edge techniques to teach students to understand the passage of time. We also teach them how to plan ahead by using forethought and becoming aware of their surroundings.
As a result, students learn how to:
Develop a "memory for the future" by learning strategies to set and achieve goals.
Improve awareness skills so they can “read a room” and "stop, think and create" an appropriate action plan by anticipating outcomes.
Sense the passage of time to accurately and effortlessly estimate how long tasks will take as well as how to change or maintain their pace to finish tasks within an allotted amount of time.
Adopt a mindful approach to homework, including personalized study habits such as recording, bringing home, completing and returning assignments.
Manage multiple activities, including homework, projects and extracurricular activities, while still finding some down time.
Organize their homework and personal spaces to create a positive and productive environment for homework and to track and organize their belongings.
Executive Function in the News
What’s the Difference Between Executive Functioning Issues and ADHD?
Understood.org by Child Mind Institute, Understood Founding Partner
What’s the difference between executive functioning issues and ADHD?
If your child has an ADHD diagnosis, is being evaluated for ADHD, or even if you’re just doing research on the disorder, you might also hear that she could have problems with executive functioning. This can be confusing! They seem to be two different ways of describing the difficulties your child is having.
Simply put, executive functions are self-regulating skills. We all use them every day to do things like plan ahead, stay organized, solve problems and focus on what’s important. These are some of the same things kids with ADHD have trouble doing. So is there a difference between executive functioning issues and ADHD? And if so, what is it?
Exercising and enhancing your child's executive functions will help him take control of difficult ADHD symptoms and be the best he can be.
Efficient executive functioning is critical to all human behaviors. Thousands of articles and books have been written about this set of brain-based skills. Noted EF/ADHD expert Thomas Brown, Ph.D., likens executive functioning to being the conductor of an orchestra. Researchers at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University have compared EF to the air-traffic control system in a busy airport. Brain scientists agree that strong working memory, self-control, or self-regulation, and the ability to maintain and shift attention are the foundation upon which academic and social success is built. Well-developed executive functioning skills unlock human potential; deficits in EF prevent us from living up to our personal best.
Dr. Russell Barkley on what parents need to know about the executive function challenges that can start as early as age 2 — and serve as early warning signs of ADHD in children.
There’s a lot of confusion around “executive function” — and how it relates to ADHD. Is ADHD an executive function disorder? Is every executive function disorder also ADHD? The answers hinge on what we mean by “executive functions” — and how they relate to self-regulation.
Traditionally, the term “executive functioning” has been used extensively in neuropsychology, clinical psychology, and psychiatry. In recent years, however, it’s spread into the broader field of general psychology and into education, where it’s often incorporated into teaching strategies and classroom accommodations.
Broadly speaking, executive function refers to the cognitive or mental abilities that people need to actively pursue goals. In other words, it’s about how we behave toward our future goals and what mental abilities we need to accomplish them.