Executive Functioning -- How it Affects a Student in School
There is a great article you might enjoy reading: Executive Function—A New Lens Through Which to View Your Child. What I like the most about it is that it focuses on how a better understanding of your child's strengths can lead to figuring out ways to help him succeed.
Executive functioning is all of the thought processes that allow a person to "get along" in the world. It includes organizing and prioritizing work, getting started and following through to completion, focusing and sustaining attention, staying alert, managing emotions, using memory, and regulating when it is appropriate to take an action. Problems can occur in any part of executive functioning. While there is not any one test to find out about a person's executive functioning, there are some signs that it may be a problem.
The children I have worked with who have an executive functioning disorder have similar problems. In general, they have difficulty with a combination of the following.
- Organizing their supplies and books. Their book bag looks like a disaster area with papers crammed in and falling out behind them on the sidewalk as they move between classes. For help with this, see A Notebook System that Aids with Organization. A well-supplied and quiet study place at home can help, too. (You will need to help them keep things organized until they learn how to do it on their own.)
- Keeping up with long term projects. These children need help breaking down the task into manageable chunks, and they need someone to check to make sure each chunk is completed on time.
- Turning in daily work on time. These children need a calendar or assignment notebook where they write down their assignments. You will probably need to ask their teacher to help you with this since you can't go to classes with your child. Remember, too, that just because they have one does not necessarily mean they will use it. You will need to assist until they learn how to do it on their own. (Sometimes, they did the homework but lost it between home and school, which may relate to the organization issue already mentioned.)
- Managing time. Generally, these children are unaware of how much time they spent on something or how much time a given task will take to complete. They might start doing homework at 10PM thinking they will be able to complete it in just a few minutes. Parents have to intervene to make sure they are allotting enough time for daily tasks.
Be aware that many of these children are very bright! In fact, several of the students I taught who had difficulty with executive functioning were extremely smart. They just had trouble pulling everything together. With assistance in these areas, they were very successful in school.