Aug 012013

Executive Function disorder : A Definition

Let’s start with what the Executive Functions are, then we’ll talk about overcoming Executive Function disorder. You may also want to visit the page discussing ways to  help your child develop Organization Skills with IEP goals for Organization.

What is an Executive Function disorder?

Executive Functioning is “the ability to maintain an appropriate problem solving set for attainment of a future goal” (CDC).

“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 function disorder have difficulty reading social cues. They may feel overwhelmed in large group situations. If this is the case with your child, you can teach your child social skills directly. That way he won’t be as socially inept. Check out, Socially Inept: How to Improve Your Child’s Social Skills for more information about social skills training.

Executive function disorder can cause pervasive problems with your child’s learning because executive functioning affects multiple areas of learning. Every subject your child studies can be affected by executive function disorder. This is particularly true for any academic area that requires sequential processing or planning.

Remediation for executive function disorder requires practice with brain-based learning and cognitive enhancement programs. Regular use of a cognitive enhancement program can increase skills such as auditory processing, visual discrimination, processing speed, planning, sequencing, attention to detail, etc.

By increasing your child’s executive functioning in each skill area, your child’s overall level of academic achievement can be enhanced.

Cognitive enhancement programs are often overlooked when developing an educational program for a child with executive function disorder. However, the gains made through these programs can create significant gains across all academic subjects.

Some programs require more involvement from you. Others can be used independently by your child.  When selecting the most appropriate program for your child, consider how much time you can commit to working with your child. Also consider how well you can work one-on-one with your child. Also consider whether your child prefers to work alone. You can pick programs that let your child work with you or alone. It’s just something worth thinking about when choosing a program.

If you have trouble working with your child, an outside provider may have an easier time gaining cooperation from your child. In such cases, you might want to use one of the programs with a third-party provider.

To get the most out of the program you choose for improving your child’s executive function disorder, try to match the program to your child’s abilities and needs. There is no sense in purchasing a program your child can’t or won’t use.

Also, if your child needs to improve his memory and processing speed, you may be able to get by with a program that focuses only on those skills instead of buying a robust cognitive enhancement program.

Programs to Consider for Improving Executive Function Disorder:

Homeschooling can be an excellent way to help your child learn to manage and overcome his executive function disorder. That’s because you can work directly with your child each and every day to teach 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, giving good solid training in the processes he needs to overcome executive function disorder works wonders. Your child is likely to become better able to independently use the tools and systems put into place. That will enable him to stay on track more easily.

**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. Feel free to go check the programs out. Brain Training software helps strengthen thinking, memory, processing speed, and problem-solving abilities. That improves performance across subjects like reading, math, science, and social studies.”

**Lexia Learning’s CrossTrainer – This is the main program we used as a PC based program for addressing my son’s executive function disorder.  It is now offered online via the company linked above. “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. This improves performance across subjects like reading, math, science, and social studies.”

**Dance, Dance Revolutionexecutive function disorder – A means of helping a child with concentration, sequencing, and timing. Dance, Dance Revolution also comes in versions for the XBox and Gamecube. While DDR is not an academic program, the game is “played” with a dance pad that registers footwork by the player. This game helps with concentration and timing. That’s 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. That allows your child to start out slowly and work towards higher speeds.

DDR is a great concentration & timing game. 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 This program is administered by the parent/provider. It requires a commitment to consistent use, and helps with many executive function disorder issues. For kids who like blocks and are tactile learners, this program may appeal to them more than some of the other programs. It is a parent-involved program though, so it is not one your child can work on by himself.

**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. We used Earobics from start to finish, TWICE with each of my boys. They liked the program, it was easy to use, and it helped build a more solid learning foundation. We used it more for the phonemic awareness skills than for the executive function disorder, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt! If your child has executive function disorder and dyslexia, this is a good program to work through. Unfortunately, the program for adolescents is no longer being published, but you can find still buy it through — Just be sure whatever you buy for adolescents is compatible with your computer. The version for younger kids is updated and available.

**LearningRx (Processing and Cognitive Enhancement) – Tutoring model; requires commitment to tutoring sessions and home exercises. “The training is built from a tested and proven set of cognitive skills training exercises that improve Processing Speed. Visual Processing. Logic and Reasoning. Working Memory. Long-term Memory. Attention. And basic Auditory Processing skills.”

**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. The activities integrate body and mind to bring about 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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