Executive Function Skills Accommodations For Your Child At School
Is it possible for a student to have a high IQ and still fail school classes? The answer, sadly, is yes. You may have a student who is able to learn and retain new concepts and apply them, but maintaining school materials, remembering to write down homework assignments and turn them in, managing time, prioritizing assignments are all skills known as executive functioning skills that our kids are not born with, nor are these specific skills taught specifically to our children.
According to Dr. Russell Barkley, an ADHD guru, executive function (or EF) refers to the cognitive or mental abilities that people need to actively pursue goals. In other words, it’s about how we behave toward our future goals and what mental abilities we need to accomplish them.
EF is made up of seven skills:
3. Non-Verbal Working Memory
4. Verbal Working Memory
5. Emotional Self-Regulation
7. Planning and Problem Solving
When a student has a deficit in one or more of the EFs, they may experience some difficulty in school with planning, organizing, motivation and problem-solving.
So how do we help our children at school? If you have a child diagnosed with ADHD, you may be eligible for a 504 Accommodation Plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP) if you child requires a special education program and other services.
If your child doesn’t have a 504 Accommodation Plan, reach out to your child’s Guidance Counselor and request one along with a diagnosis provided by your Pediatrician, Neurologist or Psychologist. If you feel that your child requires an IEP, prepare a written request for a CST meeting for your child.
If your child already has a 504 Accommodation Plan or IEP, you may want to consider adding any or all of the following accommodations to help build and maintain your child’s EF skills on a daily basis:
- Teach students the importance of “future thinking”. Help students envision having a start, mid and endpoint to a task. Having a well-defined target helps to focus students’ efforts. Some questions to consider, for example: What do I need to start? How will I start? Where will I start? How long will each step take? How much time should I work on the assignment each night? What will it look like when it’s completed? How will I feel when I complete the assignment?
- Use a calendar or daily assignment pad/planner to help students schedule and pace the tasks that lead to completion of the assignment.
- Provide multi-sensory instruction and methods of assessing what the student has learned
- Practice estimating how long a task might take to complete. Compare the actual length of the activity and the estimation.
- Break down assignments into smaller steps
- Break down long term assignments into smaller assignments with short-term deadlines
- Provide daily repetition, rehearsal, and review to move information from working to long-term memory. 10-20 minutes daily.
- Help students develop checklists for daily routines, homework completion and turning in assignments on time.
Next time you encounter a student that turns in all their assignments late or can’t seem to get to class on time, they could have lagging executive function skills. Remember, our children don’t wake up with the intent to forget to hand in their homework, or leave their books at school. Dr. Ross W. Greene says, “They would if they could.”
When our children haven’t yet developed their EF skills, it doesn’t make sense to be punitive. Instead, when a child is struggling with a particular EF skill, help them build it up instead of breaking them down.
For more information on EF, you can look up Dr. Thomas Brown or Dr. Russell Barkley, both gurus on executive functioning.