You know your children are smart, but is something limiting their performance? Are they disorganized, unmotivated, and missing assignments? You may feel like they just can’t get it together. This could be an issue in executive functioning. But don’t worry, executive functions can be learned, and we are the expert team your family needs to develop these lifelong strategies.
So what are executive function skills? They include decision making, planning, organization, time management, task initiation, switching between tasks, and more.
Located in the prefrontal cortex, the executive functions skill set is our brain’s management system. Like a pilot in a cockpit who has lots of switches to activate for flight, your executive functions are the skills that are crucial to your ability to get things done and to perform. When you struggle with executive function, it can impact just about every aspect of your life.
Executive function skills typically develop in early childhood and continue to be refined into adulthood. These complex, higher-level skills develop across a lifetime, so it’s common for children and teenagers to struggle with executive function issues. With experience and practice, students learn how to optimize this skill set to organize, manage time, make decisions, and regulate both our thoughts and our emotions.
For individuals who struggle with executive functions, these higher level thinking skills may present as a few years immature or they may be a lifelong challenge until they learn how to manage and understand these skills. The good news is that at Learning Foundations, our coaches are equipped to teach these skills at an early age through our Critical Connections Methodology™.
It’s common for signs of executive function disorder to resemble ADHD since many people struggle with both of these conditions. However, there are also many individuals with ADHD who do not have executive function disorder.
Executive function disorder can impact your ability to learn in a variety of ways:
These issues can all make learning more challenging. However, it’s important to understand that executive function disorder isn’t a problem with intelligence. Often, people who struggle with this condition are highly intelligent.
Executive function abilities play an integral role in learning to read. When these skills aren’t properly developed, it can create a variety of challenges associated with reading.
Executive function disorder can make it hard for children to leave an item behind and adopt new rules after learning something. This can cause them to confuse letters when learning the alphabet.
A common example is confusing the letters P and R. If a child learns the letter P first, they may not recognize that R is similar, but contains an extra line. Instead, the child may still see the R as a P.
Sounding Out Words
When learning to read, children often sound out new and unfamiliar words letter by letter. This ability is often difficult for someone with executive function disorder since it involves working memory. Decoding a word requires a child to keep the first few letter sounds of the word in mind as they sound out the remaining letters.
This process of holding onto the necessary information will often be very difficult for a child with executive function disorder. As a result, decoding words will be very challenging. In addition, these working memory issues can make it harder for a child to understand the overall meaning of what they are reading. It’s common for children to become so focused on decoding individual words that they lose track of the meaning of the entire text.
Words with Multiple Meanings
Words that can potentially have multiple meanings require a child to use flexible thinking skills to determine the correct way to define the word in a specific context. This is often challenging for individuals with executive function disorder.
This can happen with words such as “tear” which have multiple meanings. It can also create challenges when children are trying to understand figures of speech which don’t use a word’s literal meaning. For example, the phrase “fork in the road” requires a child to understand the context of all words involved to determine if the literal definition makes sense (there is no physical fork stuck in the road). Executive function disorder makes it harder for children to engage their flexible thinking skills in order to consider alternative meanings for words used in the phrase. This can make it more challenging to understand what they are reading.
Understanding Passive Voice
In the early phases of learning to read, most sentences are presented in the active voice, where the person performing an action is emphasized in the subject of the sentence. For example, “Tom pushed George.” Over time, children will start to see sentences presented in the passive voice, where the person who is the recipient of the action is emphasized in the subject of the sentence. If we change that previous example to the passive voice, it would read, “George was pushed by Tom.”
These two sentences mean the same thing, but children with executive function disorder may have difficulty interpreting the sentence in the passive voice properly. It’s common for them to think that the first name listed is performing the action, even when this is not the case.
This problem is related to working memory. In order to interpret the meaning of the sentence properly, a child must be able to hold the idea of “George” in their mind while they continue reading to find out who pushed him. When working memory skills aren’t developed, it can take a child longer to read the sentence, and it’s more likely that they will have trouble determining who performed the action and who was the recipient.
Learning to read takes a tremendous amount of effort and focus. You need to be able to sit still, pay attention and block out distractions. Executive function disorder often results in difficulty focusing, which can make it more challenging for children to decode the words they’re trying to read. These focusing issues can also make it harder to determine the meaning of a text.
At Learning Foundations, we believe that academic coaching should encompass a broad range of tools that help a child become more successful at school and at home. A crucial component of this involves providing the tactics necessary to compensate for the challenges associated with executive function.
Learning Foundations coaches are equipped to teach you and your child how to effectively navigate the 504/IEP process in order to get the maximum benefit out of the accommodations provided.
We use multiple methods to provide this additional support:
Our academic coaches record what is covered in each tutoring session. Parents find these progress notes to be beneficial when they attend 504/IEP meetings since these notes make it easier to understand which skills being taught are most relevant to their child.
Our progress notes are also an important way for you to stay up-to-date on the successes and challenges your child is experiencing from week to week. In addition, they’ll track:
Learning Foundations has created dozens of visual exercises to make executive functions tangible. Through a variety of interactive exercises, the MoteNote is designed to be a personal compass to your best self as it inspires, motivates, and teaches meaningful ways to focus, plan, manage emotions and be productive at school and at home.
The MoteNote is an excellent tool to help kids understand what executive functions are and how they affect performance. These exercises help kids understand how to see and manage time, organize and process thoughts and feelings, and optimize their executive function performance.
Children are rarely taught how to use their accommodations, and they’re often not present during IEP meetings. This can make it harder for them to advocate for the support they need. We address this issue by creating an Advocacy Card for your child.
Our academic coaches will review your child’s 504/IEP with them to ensure they understand all of the accommodations included in the plan. We’ll then condense this information into a one-page document called an Advocacy Card, which provides a summary of all accommodations, and your child shares this document with each teacher to serve as a reminder of their specific needs.
This Advocacy Card makes life easier for your child and their teachers by conveying all the important points in an easy-to-follow way:
Our Advocacy Card significantly increases the likelihood that your child will receive all necessary accommodations on a daily basis. This allows your child to get the greatest possible benefit from the 504/IEP.
At Learning Foundations, we take a whole-brain approach to academic coaching to empower your child to thrive. We teach students how to leverage their strengths in order to overcome the challenges they experience as part of the learning process. We help your child understand how to channel these strengths to reach their potential both in and out of the classroom.
We’re the only Personal Advancement Center in the country with a Critical Connections Methodology™ to help children thrive in all aspects of life. This multifaceted approach:
Your child will be matched with an outstanding academic coach who possesses the expertise in both the subject matter and your child’s specific learning difference to achieve maximum benefit from the process.
Learning Foundations is unique because we hold students to high standards and teach them how to be accountable in both the classroom and at home. We teach kids the value of cultivating a relationship with each teacher to help them understand what is expected of them in each class and when studying at home. We also show them how to advocate for their specific 504/IEP needs in order to get the accommodations necessary to reach their academic potential.