What is an Executive Functioning deficit? Can you improve your child’s executive functions if you know what they are? You bet you can!
I’ve helped my son overcome difficulties his executive functioning deficits caused and you can help your child too using some of the tools suggested here.
Let’s start with the first question that needs answering:
What is executive functioning disorder?
Executive Functioning is “the ability to maintain an appropriate problem solving set for attainment of a future goal.” .. Behaviors that can be observed .. “include, but are not limited to:
- poor organization skills,
- poor planning skills,
- poor strategy use;
- concrete thinking;
- lack of inhibition;
- difficulty grasping cause and effect;
- inability to delay gratification;
- difficulty following multi-step directions;
- difficulty changing strategies,
- difficulty thinking of things in a different way (i.e., perseveration);
- poor judgment; and
- inability to apply knowledge to new situations.” (CDC)
Children with executive functioning disorder have difficulty reading social cues and may feel overwhelmed in large group situations.
Executive functioning can cause pervasive problems as executive functioning does not affect only one area of learning like Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, or Dyscalculia. Every subject can be affected by executive functioning disorder, but particularly any academic area that requires sequential processing or planning.
Remediation for executive functioning disorder is relatively difficult, but brain-based learning and cognitive enhancement programs can increase skills such as auditory processing, visual discrimination, processing speed, planning, sequencing, attention to detail, etc.
By increasing a child’s executive functioning in the independent skill areas, his overall level of academic achievement can be enhanced. Cognitive enhancement programs are often overlooked when developing an educational program for a child, yet the gains made through these programs can create significant gains across all academic subjects.
Some programs require more parent involvement, and some can be used by the child without significant adult assistance. When selecting the most appropriate program for you and your child, consider how much time and interaction you can commit, how well you can work one-on-one with your child, how well your child works alone, and whether an outside provider will have an easier time gaining cooperation when working with your child.
To get the most out of the program you choose, try to match the program to your abilities and needs. There is no sense in purchasing a program you can’t or don’t use.
Homeschooling can be an excellent way to help your child learn to manage and overcome his executive functioning disorder because you can work directly with your child each and every day to instill the organization and planning skills your child needs. By setting up routines, establishing planning practices, and helping guide your child through assignments step-by-step, you can enable him to be successful educationally.
As a child gets older, and has had good solid training in processes needed to overcome executive functioning disorder, he becomes better able to independently use the tools and systems put into place which enables him to stay on track.
Recommended for Home Use to Improve Executive Functioning:
**Brain Training software – We used The Lexia Cross-Trainer Suite, which was designed to improve cognitive development in learners ages 7 to adult, but is no longer being sold by Lexia as a software program you can use at home. There are a lot of great Brain Training software programs that are new on the market and available for home use, so go check the programs out. Brain Training software helps strengthen thinking, memory, processing speed, and problem-solving abilities, improving performance across subjects as varied as reading, math, science, and social studies.”
**Lexia Learning’s CrossTrainer – This is the program we used as a PC based program. It is now offered online via this company. “The Lexia Cross-Trainer Suite is designed to improve cognitive development in learners ages 7 to adult. The software helps learning disabled, special needs, and mainstream students strengthen their thinking, memory, and problem-solving abilities, improving performance across subjects as varied as reading, math, science, and social studies.” Learn more about brain-based learning.
**Dance, Dance Revolution – A means of helping a child with concentration, sequencing, and timing. Dance, Dance Revolution also comes in versions for the XBox and Gamecube, and there are many other Dance, Dance Revolution. While DDR is not an academic program, the game is “played” with a dancepad that registers footwork by the player. This game helps with concentration and timing because the play must take the dance steps in the specified order within a short timeframe. If the step is too early or too late, it doesn’t count. The game can be played at different speeds, allowing a child to start out slowly and work progressively towards speed. DDR is a great concentration & timing game, and just like Interactive Metronome, patients learn to: “focus and attend for longer periods of time, increase physical endurance and stamina, filter out internal and external distractions, improve ability to monitor mental and physical actions as they are occurring, and progressively improve performance.”
**Audiblox Program which is administered by the parent/provider, requires a commitment to consistent use, and helps with many EF issues.
**Earobics – Computer-based program that is easily used on a daily basis; game play format that children enjoy, increases cognitive skills, but is geared more towards children with auditory processing difficulties or dyslexia.
**PACE (Processing and Cognitive Enhancement) – Tutoring model; requires commitment to tutoring sessions and home exercises.
**Brain Gym – Simple program to use at home; enhances learning, but does not specifically target EF skills. “Brain Gym is a program of physical movements that enhance learning and performance in ALL areas. Brain Gym includes 26 easy and enjoyable targeted activities that integrate body and mind to bring about rapid and often dramatic improvements in: concentration, memory, reading, writing, organizing, listening, physical coordination, and more.”
**Interactive Metronome. – “Provides a structured, goal-oriented process that challenges the patient to synchronize a range of hand and foot exercises to a precise computer-generated reference tone heard through headphones. The patient attempts to match the rhythmic beat with repetitive motor actions. Over the course of the treatment, patients learn to: focus and attend for longer periods of time, increase physical endurance and stamina, filter out internal and external distractions, improve ability to monitor mental and physical actions as they are occurring, and progressively improve performance.” This program is administered by an IM provider with additional work required at home.
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