In a blog I read, written by Byron McClure, a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and author of the Blog Fligher Education, Understanding Executive Functioning
, this blog cites information from a book Assessing Executive Functions: A Life-Span Perspective
, by Cecil Reynolds. In this book, Reynolds states Executive Function is “associated with the frontal lobe of the brain.” Reynolds states, the importance of the frontal lobe is that it “involves self-regulatory behavior, generative behavior, meta-cognition and working memory” (Reynolds, 2008) http://flighered.com/2012/05/13/understanding-executive-functioning/.
How does a school assess if a child has an Executive Function deficit? One of the questionnaires that School Psychologists use is called Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning (BRIEF). According to McClure, the “BRIEF consists of two rating forms, a parent questionnaire and a teacher questionnaire, which is designed to evaluate and measure executive functioning in the home and school settings. The BRIEF is useful in evaluating children with developmental and acquired neurological conditions.” In addition, McClure discusses a second assessment. It is called “Conner’s – Third Edition Behavior Rating Scale. This assessment is used for students who may have ADHD. The assessment has a subset that rates Executive Functioning.”
On the www.ncld.org website, Dr. Sheldon Horowitz, defines Executive Function as the student’s ability to complete the following:
- Make plans
- Keep track of time and finish work on time
- Keep track of more than one thing at once
- Meaningfully include past knowledge in discussions
- Evaluate ideas and reflect on our work
- Change our minds and make mid-course corrections while thinking, reading, and writing
- Ask for help or seek more information when we need it
- Engage in group dynamics
- Wait to speak until we’re called on
- Take step-by-step approaches to work; rely on visual organizational aids.
- Use tools like time organizers, computers or watches with alarms.
- Prepare visual schedules and review them several times a day.
- Ask for written directions with oral instructions whenever possible.
- Plan and structure transition times and shifts in activities.
- Create checklists and “to do” lists, estimating how long tasks will take.
- Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk.
- Use visual calendars at to keep track of long term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
- Use management software such as the Franklin Day Planner, Palm Pilot, or Lotus Organizer.
- Be sure to write the due date on top of each assignment.
Managing Space and Materials
- Organize work space.
- Minimize clutter.
- Consider having separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities.
- Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the work space.
- Make a checklist for getting through assignments. For example, a student’s checklist could include such items as: get out pencil and paper; put name on paper; put due date on paper; read directions; etc.
- Meet with a teacher or supervisor on a regular basis to review work; troubleshoot problems.
My husband and I use many of these strategies with our son. It is very helpful. We have our son create an assignment calendar using iCal. Nico’s calendar syncs with my husband’s and my calendar. This way we can also keep an eye on his schedule. In the calendar we have him schedule time for projects. We have our son work a little bit each day. This helps chuck the assignments in to small digestible bites. We use the timer to help us transition from break time to the next activity. We also allow Nico a choice as to what assignment he will do first. On the weekends, we ask him what time he wants to start his homework, he tells us the time, and for the most part he sticks to his promise. Was life always like this? No, it sure wasn’t. My husband and I realized we needed to help our son with executive functioning because the school wasn’t going to provide any assistance. Please trust me, for every two steps forward, sometimes we take one step back.
In today’s school system, the students either sink or swim. The school’s excuse is that their isn’t enough funding, or the teacher has too many students. My question to the school is “How many of those student in the class have an IEP?” This is a contract between the parent and the school to ensure your child swims and doesn’t sink. In reality, it is up to the parents and the parents alone. The notion of it takes a village to raise a child doesn’t hold true in most public schools today.
Here is my advice, identify and understand whether your child has an executive functioning deficit is crucial to the success of his/her school and future life experience.