I know what you’re thinking – my child is a bit young to be thinking about being an executive (or maybe you already have a mini CEO in the house). However, executive functioning is a lifetime skill that can be learned at any age.
From its name you’d be forgiven for thinking it is a set of management skills and in some ways it is. Executive Functioning is a set of skills that help us to get things done. It allows us to manage ourselves by managing our time, paying attention, being organised, controlling our emotions and using our working memory.
Amanda Morin of understood.org describes 8 Key Executive Functions:
Increasingly, parents are coming to us at Hummingbird Learning Centre, and saying that as well as a diagnosis of Dyslexia or ADHD, their child has also been diagnosed as having executive functioning issues. This really frightens parents because they are unsure as to what it means.
Getting slightly technical for a moment, executive functioning is controlled by the frontal lobes of the brain. The wonderful news is that the brain can be retrained, even after suffering an injury such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). So with some work, everyone’s executive functioning skills can be dramatically improved.
What parent hasn’t despaired of their child’s ability to list to a few simple instructions like ‘go to your room and bring up your clothes for the wash and 5 hangers for the ironing and the hairdryer from my bedroom’? How often have you watched your child lose all sense of reason and control? Often over seemingly small issues. We all have at some stage. Usually, as the child matures and develops, these skills develop too.
But every child is different, so executive functioning skills are learned by different children at different stages. At hummingbird Learning Centre we deal with children who do not have a learning difficulty diagnosis as well as those that do. I know from experience that ALL children benefit from working on their executive functioning skills. Indeed, most of us adults could do with a refresher course occasionally! If we look back at the 8 key functions, the first 5 are about how we organise ourselves and the last 3 are about how we order the world around us.
When a person feels in control of their environment, then overwhelm is reduced and this leads to better control of emotions and impulses. There are many things in our environment that we cannot control; like the bus is late. However, by planning to arrive somewhere early and putting that plan into action, you are still in control if the bus is late because you have given yourself some leeway.
Getting organised for school the night before means that the morning starts calmly. Knowing the timetable for the day ahead ensures that the right books are in the school bag. I find that having printouts, checklists, or family planners are wonderful, visual aids to good executive functioning. But the best is to create a mini-movie of what needs to be done.
It takes a bit of practice but making movies is very powerful technique. It is one of the first things we teach in our programs. It requires nothing but imagination. Let’s go back to bringing up the clothes for the wash;
Now how easy is it to remember what it is you needed to do?
Everybody benefits when executive functioning skills are improved. The entire atmosphere in a home can change – for the better. If your child is struggling, then look at how you organise yourself . Can you be a role model? What changes can you make?
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