Strengthening Executive Functioning
Executive functioning skills regulate, control, and manage one’s thoughts and actions. To put it succinctly, executive functioning skills are what manage the brain.
You probably don’t even think about your own executive functioning or that of others. Unless, of course, you are confronted with a situation in which executive functioning is not, in fact, functioning. Most of us intuitively understand the importance of executive functioning and have a sense of what it is as well as a concern when we don’t “see” it in others. Certain times of fast growth, such as the tween/teen years can affect a child’s executive functioning, especially as the teen brain/body is doing some “Brain Pruning.”
But for some people, executive functioning is more naturally difficult or possibly impaired. These diagnoses can include ADHD, ADD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Processing Disorders, Dementia, and Traumatic Brain Injuries.
Three Main Categories of Executive Functioning Skills
- The ability to pay attention and to organize
- The ability to plan and prioritize; being organized during tasks school or work and the ability to set and meet goals
- Task initiation- taking action to get things done (motivation)
- Keeping key information in mind while completing a task
Cognitive Flexibility (Flexible Thinking)
- Understanding different points of view
- Being able to adjust behavior to an unexpected change in the environment or schedule
- Regulating one’s own emotions, including controlling and appropriately channeling one’s feelings
- Self-monitoring (keeping track of what you are doing) and self-awareness (how is one doing in the moment).
- Controlling urges to “do”, thinking before acting or responding, exhibiting deferred gratification as well as perseverance.
Obviously, executive functioning skills are important – they allow us to interface with the world appropriately, build, and keep significant relationships and hold jobs.
How Do Executive Functioning Disorders Manifest?
People with executive functioning issues may exhibit one or more of the following:
- Impulse or emotional control
- The ability to begin, organize, plan and follow through on task completion
- The inability to listen or pay attention
- The inability to manage one’s time
- The inability to multi-task or juggle multiple tasks, even if they are sequential
- Short term memory issues, including an inability to remember what they’ve just heard
- Difficulty following a sequence of steps
- Difficulty changing from one task to another
- Socially inappropriate behavior such as angry or aggressive behavior, statements about self-harm or destruction of property
If you suspect you or someone in your family has issues with executive functioning, all is not lost! You can accommodate or learn coping skills.
Teaching Coping Skills
Tips and tools to ramp up those executive functioning skills include:
- Visual schedules
- Positive reinforcement
- Organizational techniques
- Working memory exercises
- Item lists
- Self-emotional recognition techniques
- Flexible seating
- Slowly introducing differences in schedules to provide flexible thinking
- Extra transitional times
- Frequent breaks
- Timers or alarms during tasks
- Explicit instruction
- Organized homework or assignment binder
- Parent/student contract agreement
- Clearly defined academic and social expectations
- Logic games, puzzles, and coursework
Executive Functioning is the management of the brain. For kids with executive functioning disorders, it is important to fortify them with resources, materials, and processes that will help them with those struggles throughout life. ~Lisa Nehring
Resources and Support
If you need to be better equipped in this area, you will want to join us for our SPED Equipping Membership! We focus on providing support, encouragement and tools for special needs families all week long. We host weekly Equipping seminars with discussions, a Book Club, and Coffee and Chat! You may also want to find out about our current special needs discounts, check out a listing of resources here and read our blog post, Executive Functioning and Why it Matters in Your Homeschool.
Today I am super excited to be helping my friend Felice Gerwitz from Vintage Homeschool Moms celebrate her 400th Podcast Episode on Vintage Homeschool Moms!! Together several of us have come together to help her celebrate by giving away ONE $200 Amazon Gift Card. As part of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network, True North Homeschool Academy is thrilled to come alongside Felice in celebrating with her and offering you a change to win!
Let me share a bit about my friend Felice.
Felice began homeschooling in 1986 when her two children were little and she thought it might be temporary. In fact, her husband told her to try it for six months and if homeschooling didn’t work, to put the kids in school. Well, she started her journey and her two kids thrived. Later when her family increased…by three more children, she continued on and successfully completed thirty-two years in 2018 graduating her last of five children. Mentoring homeschool moms is a passion! Felice has lots of homeschool experience to share with you. Be sure to check out Vintage Homeschool Moms and prepare to be inspired, encouraged, and supported in your homeschool journey.
For more encouragement, you can find Felice here too:
The Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network
The Ultimate Christian Podcast Network
How Great is our God: 100 Indescribably Devotions about God and Science
True Confessions, we are way passed littles at our house, but this book looked too good to pass up. And while our grands live half a country away, I know that they’ll love getting a copy of this fun and interesting devotional for Christmas! It will be a perfect gift for the littles in your life as well!
Included in this lovely and unique devotional by Louis Giglio are 100 devotionals that cover Space, Earth, Animals and People. The cover is bright and fanciful, welcoming readers to take a peek inside. The book is hardback and just 6” x 9,” which is so perfect for little hands! The pages are printed on paper that is a bit thicker and not quite so easily torn as thinner paper.
I love that the first page allows the book to be personalize with “To,” “From” and “Date.” Perfect for gift -giving and inscribing a special note to a beloved child or new friend. The Table of Contents includes 100 neatly laid out lessons with fun and intriguing titles. On the next page is a “Welcome” that introduces the reader to the book and its purpose. Specifically, that God created through the universe. Ah, perfect. Theology and Science are inexplicably intertwined and this book is a great introduction to littles about this important truth. Six characters walk the students through four subject areas: Space, Earth, Animals and People. If your student has a particular interest, it is quite easy to simply focus on those lessons, which are both coded by color and symbol.
Each 2-page lesson in How Great is Our God includes a beautiful graphic, a title, a Scripture quote, a simple, but relatable lesson, and a prayer. Also, included is a “How Great” section, which highlights the science mentioned in each lesson along with a ribbon book-mark and an Index, making it easy to find a specific topic.
A quick sample from Lesson 42, on Typhoons, Hurricanes and Cyclones…Oh My!
Typhoons, hurricanes and cyclones, what’s the difference? Location, location, location! These are actually three different names for one kinds of storm.
I share this to illustrate that while this is a perfect devotional for pre-schoolers, it is by no means simplistic or dumbed down. In the “How Great” Section of the same chapter,
“In the Southern Hemisphere, cyclones spin clockwise, just like the hands of a clock. But in the Northern Hemisphere, cyclones spin counterclockwise.”
How fun is that? How Great is Our God would be a phenomenal jumping off point for a whole lot of science if you had the time or inclination.
This jam-pack, beautiful and informative devotional would be great for so many different circumstances: at home, as a devotional with your own littles or grands, for daycare, Sunday School or co-op or as a simple jumping off point for more extensive science experiments in your homeschool.
Be sure to sign up for the How Great is Our God GIVE-AWAY! Five lucky winners will receive a copy of this inspiring and beautiful book! But if you can’t wait, you can purchase the book directly here.
One of the services that we provide through True North Academic Advising is career and life coaching. Kids often have a big idea of what they want in life but don’t have the experience get them there in an expedient and cost-effective way.
In addition to our Academic Advising, you might want to check out our Orienteering course. We use Cheri Frame’s Career Exploration Guide as the spine for this dynamic, interactive live on-line course!
Why does Career Exploration matter to high school students?
Career Exploration, as Cheri explains:
- Increases students awareness of career options
- Helps students see how they fit into the working world
- Encourages students to plan high school courses based on their future goals
- Improves academic performances
- Saves time and money by pursuing a defined goal
- Introduces students to employment skills valued by all employers
The Career Exploration and preparation course guide consists of 2 parts.
Career Exploration & Prep Course Part 1:
This section is designed to allow the student to get to know themselves better and gain a clearer understanding of their vocational interests. This section also helps the student confirm their interests through various activities.
Part 1 Overview – Career Exploration: Choosing a Best Fit
- Keys to your future
- Your Vocational Profiles
- Occupational Profiles
- Informational Interviews
- Final Review
Part 1 is designed to be used in homeschools or co-op settings. Cheri includes many web-links and resources right at the beginning of the guide to get you started on the road to understanding your student. Some examples include Learning Styles, Motivation Triggers, Grit Scales, Business Essentials, to name a few.
Career Exploration & Prep Course Part 2:
In part 2, students are guided through a capstone project in their career area of interest. This section will allow students to define and hone skills relevant to the career areas that they have selected in Section 1.
Part 2 Overview – Career Preparation: Skill Smart
- Capstone Projects
- Skill Smart
- Professional Portfolio
Students are also encouraged to read a biography of their choice as well as “Start Here” and “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
The Guide consists of reading, assignments, and projects. Students should plan on 3-4 hours per week to complete the lessons, reading, and longer-term projects. Students should prepare to partner with their parents or a cohort, such as our Orienteering course will provide, to make the most of this course.
So what do I love about this program?
I love how this program starts off right by encouraging students to seek and find a team of mature mentors that they can learn and grow from. It is an excellent exercise in seeking out Godly leaders who can speak into their lives.
Additionally, there is a fantastic Bible Study right out of the shoot that sets up the Biblical basis for work. Conscientious, hard workers are in high demand these days. Cheri guides the kids through a Bible study on this and lays such an excellent foundation for the joy, responsibility, and God-given inspiration for work. Directly following, there is a study on family and cultural expectations. This facet is an oft-overlooked section of most career exploration programs. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I love the fact that students look at the careers and vocations that are part of their family. We are often more influenced by family members and legacies than we realize.
A Cost of Living Project is also included. An excellent project that every high schooler should complete before their graduation from high school!
All of this before the student begins a Vocational Profile, which includes Personality Inventories, Occupational Profiles and Evaluation, Credentialing Evaluation, and Job Shadowing. This Vocational Profile is a thorough and detailed overview of career exploration for each student based on their personality and interests.
Part II will focus on students building their skills and showcasing them in a way that will take them into the beginning stages of developing their professionalism.
The Capstone project includes critical thinking, public speaking, research skills, self-sufficiency, team-work, planning, media literacy, planning, and goal setting. Students will learn and understand the difference between hard and soft skills. As a podcast host, focusing on Soft Skills, this makes me happy. The Capstone project asks the student to create a quality program or experience for themselves that will develop their professional self and ability. SMART Goals, resumes, and interviewing skills are covered.
Career Exploration and Prep is an excellent course for young adults of all ages. The target ages are 16 and up, but the resource is acceptable for motivated younger students as well. I would recommend this Guide for families and co-op situation.
A great addition to our Academic Advising Program, and integral to our Orienteering Course offered this fall and taught by Lisa Nehring.