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Do you have a student who just can’t seem to follow a set of directions, no matter how simple they may seem? Or one who seems to drift from one assignment to another, but can never complete a project? How about one who seems so overwhelmed that he or she just shuts down on the spot? You may need to look into the student’s executive function. Executive function is defined as “a set of mental processes that help us connect past experiences with present action.” Executive function helps us make plans, keep track of time, keep track of more than one thing at a time and ask for help or seek more information when needed, among other important things.
Students who have challenges with executive function need assignments and projects broken down into very specific pieces. Their working memory just can’t hold a ton of information for them to assimilate throughout a process. They need to be able to keep track of every little piece of the puzzle in order to put it together properly and therefore be able to complete a task.
Helping students with executive function issues may be as simple as having the student make a visual ‘to-do’ list and tape it to his or her desk so tasks can be checked off. For some, three- or four-step oral directions may need to be broken down into two-step directions, spread out as tasks are completed.
Some students though may need each subject broken down each day into visual checklists, complete with estimations of how long each task should take. There are several different apps and software available for helping with this huge organizing task.
A few things to keep in mind if you do have a student who has difficulty with executive functioning are:
*Keep directions as simple as possible.
*Minimize the clutter that is in the student’s workspace. Limit supplies to what is needed for each task to be completed or have separate areas for students to complete different tasks.
*Be sure all charts include visuals of expectations, especially for younger children.
*Include due dates on all papers and projects that are sent home. Be sure to break long assignments into smaller chunks with specific due dates for each chunk.
*Create detailed checklists for ALL tasks. Allow the student to check off steps as he or she completes them. It is important to allow the student to take control of this. Be sure to include directions on clean up.
*Be sure to teach the parent about the techniques that are being implemented. Even if you can’t get the parent on board, it is important to attempt communication.
*Any homework that is sent home needs to have specific instructions on how it should be completed along with its own checklist (easily accomplished in a homework folder). This way even if the parent isn’t on board, the child can still successfully complete what is sent home.
*Meet with the child on a regular basis so any troubleshooting can be accomplished. Also set a definite time each week that the child can clean out his or her desk, mailbox, backpack, etc. Help the child learn what needs to stay and what needs to be thrown away.
*Be encouraging. Remember, children know when they are struggling with something. Success depends a great deal on the child’s self-esteem and how the child sees you as the teacher handling these frustrations. Make sure you aren’t passing on any negativity you may be feeling.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]