Executive Functioning seems to be one of the most common issues facing students with disabilities and a common difficulty even with adults in society today. Yet there seems to be very little understanding of executive functioning amongst teachers or how to provide functional strategies in the classroom. Without assistance, if a child has executive functioning gaps, it will permeate all of their other school work. After all, if they cannot manage time or homework assignments, that means all homework assignments. (I think it’s important to note that while students with learning disabilities often have executive functioning deficits…a child without a diagnosed learning disability or an IEP can still be struggling. Moms–you can implement some of these strategies at home to help your kids. ~Lisa)
Here is what Executive Functioning affects in the classroom:
- making plans
- keeping track of time
- keeping track of more than one thing at once
- meaningfully including past knowledge in discussions
- engaging in group dynamics
- evaluating ideas
- reflecting on our work
- changing our minds and making mid-course and corrections while thinking, reading and writing
- finishing work on time
- asking for help
- waiting to speak until we’re called on
- seeking more information when we need it.
Problems with executive functioning may be manifested when a student:
- 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 the mental strategies involved in 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.
A few models of classroom-based EF strategy instruction are available, including the Kansas intervention model, Benchmark model, and Drive to Thrive, according to Meltzer in her book, Executive Function in Education. All of these models share common principles:
• Strategy instruction should be directly linked to the curriculum.
• The strategies should be taught explicitly, including teacher modeling and extensive practice.
• Strategies should be taught in a structured, systematic way.
• Strategy instruction should address students’ motivation and effort.
General strategies for Executive Function Disorder
- Use of visual-organizers for a step-by-step approach-i.e. use of a white board with color markers
- Use tools like iPads,watches with timers, and laptops.
- Use and prepare visual schedules, review several times a day.
- Ask for large print, written directions with oral instructions whenever possible.
- When shifts in schedules and activities, plan for transitions.
Managing time for students with Executive Functioning Deficits
- Create “to do” lists/checklists with estimated times.
- Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk.
- Use a hand-held for reminders on projects,assignments, meetings such as iTouch, Blackberry, iPhone, etc.
- Use a large, easy-to-read, erasable color-coded calendar for projects, long-term assignments, meetings, events, activities, chores, etc.
- Use a “date stamp” for materials received on dates and also due on dates
Managing space and materials for students with Executive Functioning Deficits
- Keep an organized work space.
- Hang a white board/magnetic to create visual for student with simple list for weekly assignments/projects-use magnets to hang papers due
- Minimize clutter.
- Ask for extra text books for home use-keep in work areas.
- Have separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities/subjects.
- Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the work space.
Managing work with Executive Function Disorder
- Modify tests- can be overwhelming and stressful-need extra time and quiet space-break-down(chunk) into parts to do at a time
- Modify assignments and projects-chunk-use highlighters to emphasize important parts-visual organizers to create timelines
- Use a “homework system” where student finds most helpful-i.e. assignment book and checked at home and then at school by staff in morning with all homework
- Use of computers or technology as much as possible for visual and ease of completing work
- Teachers providing as much information with visuals on white board and with copies of notes for students
- Reading-ebooks, kindle, iPad, and use of any visual and auditory form of books for comprehension
- Vocabulary-iPad,iTouch, iPhone, or other handhelds for apps that have vocabulary practice
- list of apps for Executive Functioning gaps