Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action. People use it to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space.
If you have trouble with executive function, these things are more difficult to do. You may also show a weakness with working memory, which is like “seeing in your mind’s eye.” This is an important tool in guiding your actions.
As with other learning disabilities, problems with executive function can run in families. It can be seen at any age, but it tends to become more apparent as children move through the early elementary grades. This is when the demands of completing schoolwork independently can trigger signs of a problem with executive function.
How to Motivate a Child With Executive Dysfunction Motivation problems are often one part of executive dysfunction. Here are some proven techniques that work well for motivating any child, especially one who struggles with executive function. Praise That MotivatesDecades ago, the self-esteem movement made a wrong turn when it came to
What Are Some Strategies to Help?There are many effective strategies to help with the problem of executive function challenges. Here are some methods to try:
Take step-by-step approaches to work; rely on visual organizational aids.
Use tools like time organizers, computers or watches with alarms.
Prepare visual schedules and review them several times a day.
Ask for written directions with oral instructions whenever possible.
Plan and structure transition times and shifts in activities.
Create checklists and “to do” lists, estimating how long tasks will take.
Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk.
Use visual calendars at to keep track of long term assignments, due dates, chores and activities.
Use management software such as the Franklin Day Planner, Palm Pilot or Lotus Organizer.
Be sure to write the due date on top of each assignment.
Managing Space and Materials
Organize work space.
Consider having separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities.
Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the work space.
Make a checklist for getting through assignments. For example, a student’s checklist could include such items as: get out pencil and paper; put name on paper; put due date on paper; read directions; etc.
Meet with a teacher or supervisor on a regular basis to review work; troubleshoot problems.
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