The topic of “Executive Functioning” is currently receiving a lot of attention. As scientists and educators learn more about the brain, they are better understanding the critical nature of these skills that allow us to function effectively in our daily lives. Many students have difficulties with initiating, planning, organizing, and monitoring progress toward a goal. Here are some parent tips that can help kids achieve their goals:
Experts often talk about three major areas of higher order thinking skills that make up Executive Functioning skills:
- working memory
- cognitive flexibility
- inhibitory control
Refers to the ability to hold information in mind to perform a related task. Remembering a phone number so that you can press the correct keys on your phone or following directions given by a teacher are examples of situations that rely on working memory.
Activities such as card games and joke telling can help children strengthen working memory skills. These require children to hold on to information (the rules of the card game or the words in the joke) and then utilize that information to perform a task (play the game or recite the joke).
Cognitive Flexibility or Flexible Thinking
This is the ability to apply more than one strategy or one way of thinking to reach a goal. It involves evaluating a situation after you have tried one approach and coming up with alternative ways to accomplish the same goal.
One way to encourage flexible thinking is to have your child change the rules in a favorite card game. For example, she could change the value of certain cards or use a set of dice with a different set of numbers. Making changes in familiar situations can help your child to see that there can be many ways to play and enjoy an activity.
This is the ability to resist temptation and ignore distractions. As many parents know, this challenges most children with ADHD – they often do not think through situations before they act.
Playing classic games such as “Simon Says” and “Red Light, Green Light” can be engaging ways to reinforce “waiting” in a comfortable and safe environment.
Content-based on information from Expert Chat with Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D. at Understood.org
Learn more about 8 Key Executive Functions
Looking for help? Learn more about RITES’ summer Study Smarter, Not Harder classes for middle school or high school students! Or contact us for an individualized tutoring plan to improve grades and support executive functioning skills.