3 Steps to Strengthening Your Child’s Executive Functioning Skills


problem solving

Executive Functioning is also known as self-regulation.  It has to do with your child’s ability to socially regulate and refrain from impulsive behavior and also in the cognitive academic area, to be able to plan and organize.  For example,  to get through homework, projects and tests and do so with an organized approach and plan of action that works well.

What exactly is self-regulation in relation to your child’s brain?  Self-regulation is controlled primarily by the frontal lobes.  The frontal lobes are located in the front part of the brain and where most head injuries occur.  When wiring is weak in this area or your child’s cognitive skills that support self-regulation are weak than your child exhibits the inability to approach homework, plan and implement project tasks and study independently for tests.

The first step to helping your child is strengthening his/her cognitive skills.  Cognitive skills are the underlying foundation that enables your child to self-regulate to be successful in planning and organizing their homework and projects.  Attention, processing, visual/auditory, memory, logic and reasoning are all very important skills that need to be strong for success.  Additionally, the neuropathways that will transport the processing in your child’s brain need to be strong and available without any blockages.

When I work with my students, there is a three step process that I take each child through.  My process will strengthen self-regulation to be able to participate in the learning process and successfully approach homework, projects and test readiness. Each part of my process has its own sub-process that we work through together.

My process begins with solid brain training.  I work with only the best programs on the market and work to strengthen your child’s underlying cognitive skills.  Next, I will reintroduce what was once difficult for your child relative to academics.  Lastly, executive functioning skills are introduced to teach the skills of preparing, initiation, organization, prediction/time tracking, planning, study skills and test taking strategies. 

One strategy that I use with my student’s is helping them logically chunk out problems or difficult situations.  For example, if a student is overwhelmed with making a decision we will use this time-tested approach.  I individualize this generic approach based on the student.  If a child does not have the language yet to freely retrieve this process, I provide the language for the child.

  1. Do you have a problem? (I may provide the language – There seems to a problem?)
  2. What is the problem? (I may provide the language – You have a problem because ….)
  3. What can you do about it? (I may provide the language – You can do the following or choose from the following options)
  4. Encourage Positive Thinking (Provide Hope and Reassurance that the child can do this and the problem always has a solution, etc.)
  5. Visualization Exercise (I remind a child that what they focus on becomes reality.  We work on visualizing positive results and feeling good through the process)

I use a similar approach to working through a strategy for homework, project and study timelines. 

As adults, we use these approaches every day without cognitively being aware.  To help your child get started in being successful and functioning like an executive (executive functioning) you just need to take a few steps back to what you already do very easily and model the behavior for your child.  Do this enough times and it will become automatic for your child.

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