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Executive Functioning Skills

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Understanding executive functioning skills

Executive functioning skills are important for academic success and an important life skill. These skills enable us to plan, make decisions, focus attention, remember instructions, get started on a task and manage multiple tasks, complete projects on time, apply flexible thinking to problem solve and regulate our emotions.

The importance of executive functioning for academic success

Difficulties with executive functioning skills can present as a child being disorganised, procrastinating, being time blind; missing deadlines, or underestimating how much time a project will take, being impulsive in their approach to tasks, being distracted and struggling to regulate their emotions.

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What can parents do to facilitate the development of executive functioning skills?

  • Set up routines and systems to boost organizational skills.
  • Use visual cues - charts, pictures, sticky notes, a weekly planner, etc.
  • Get children used to using a planner or a planning app.
  • Assist them to make checklists of what needs to be done due dates, tests, etc.
  • Use clocks , timers, etc. to work on time management.
  • Show them how to break down assignments or projects into steps and how to plan each step and how to set goals.
  • Help them to brainstorm ideas for creative writing, projects, and to brainstorm multiple solutions to a problem and consider potential consequences of each.
  • Assign responsibilities to build confidence.
  • Assist the child to develop study skills they can use eg. mind maps, etc.
  • Assist the child to self-regulate by helping your child be aware of their emotions, stress levels and helping them find a positive way to manage difficult issues. Encourage them to identify their strengths and areas for improvement.
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Common challenges: signs of executive functioning difficulties

The development of executive functioning skills is a gradual process that requires practice and support. If a child is experiencing significant executive dysfunction and it is negatively impacting academic performance and home life, professional help is available.

 

Occupational therapists and psychologists are able to support and assist children to develop executive functioning skills in order for them to reach their maximum potential.

 

Adeela Dinath
Occupational Therapist
BSc OT (WIts)

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