Helping your Child with Executive Functioning

January 19, 2016

When parents hear that their child has trouble planning, organizing, making decisions, transitioning, and learning from past mistakes many respond, “Of course my elementary school child can’t do this, he/she is so young, not an adult!” Executive functions are self regulating skills that help all of us accomplish both simple or complex tasks throughout the course of every day life.  Children rely on these skills for helping them do tasks such as packing their school bag, doing homework, and controlling their emotions in various situations.  Special Needs Professionals believe that children who have poor executive functioning can be overwhelmed with even simple tasks.  Schoolwork can become a struggle and dealing with other children may also become difficult due to impulsivity and regulating emotions.  So how can parents help their child who lacks executive function skills such as planning, organizing, self control, impulsivity, and transitioning from one task to another?  Here are a few suggestions from professionals at the Child Mind Institute.

  1. Checklists – Many children with Executive Dysfunction can not clearly break tasks down into smaller parts.  Checklists can help children understand the order and process to take to get from the beginning of a task to completion.
  2. Pre-Planning – Many expert suggest completing as many tasks in advance such as laying out clothes and backpacks the night before school or lining up the tooth brush, hairbrush and deodorant in order so the child does not miss or skip steps in morning or evening rituals.
  3. Time Limits– Children with Executive Dysfunction may start and restart tasks finding a better way to do them and never really actually getting through the task.  Parents should set time limits to tasks so that the child focuses on the ultimate goal.  For example breaking a larger task, like writing a book report into smaller deadlines will help children meet each step along the way.
  4. Using Planners – Children with this type of disorder have trouble seeing the big picture so use planners and calendars so that the child can see what events are on the horizon.  This will also help children see that planning is important to any event. Coming up with any routine can help children who get distracted by outside stimuli. Assistive technology can help children using tablets and other mobile devices to break tasks down and deal with the steps that can seem daunting to many children with this disorder.