What are Executive Functioning Skills and why are they important for learning?
What do you already know about Executive Functioning?
What is Executive Functioning?
Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.
Who can have difficulty with Executive Functioning?
Several types of disabilities and conditions can result in poor executive function, including: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 2. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) 3. Mood Disorders such as Bipolar or OCD. 4. Specific Learning Disorders in Reading or Mathematics (Previously Dyslexia & Dyscalculia) 5. Non-specified learning difficulties such as poor Processing or Working Memory.
Children aren’t born with these skills—they are born with the potential to develop them. Some children may need more support than others to develop these skills.
Executive function and self-regulation skills depend on three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control.
3. Inhibitory (or Self) Control
Executive Functioning helps us manage our daily lives in many areas:
What might Executive Dysfunction look like?
Think - Pair - Share Think about a child you know who has difficulties with their Executive Function. What are two areas they really struggle with?
The good news is that lots of these things you will already be doing in your classes.
First, though - we must have an understanding of what is age-appropriate, vs. what might be a concern. Likewise, it is also important to meet children at their point of need - so understanding where they sit on this continuum will be beneficial in what strategies we use to target Executive Functioning.
Some suggested activities include: Lap games with predictable rules (e.g. peekaboo) Hiding Games Copying Games Simple Role Play
6-18 Months Old
Some suggested activities include: Active Games (e.g. Throwing and Catching, 'Freeze', or Song games such as "the Hokey-Pokey". Narrating children's play & talking about feelings Matching and sorting games Imaginary play
18-36 Months Old
Some suggested activities include: High-level imaginary play (using a variety of props and toys) Storytelling (both teacher and child - in group stories, role play, & bilingual stories) Movement challenges: Songs and Games (including songs with actions and songs that add on - either words or motions) Quiet games (such as matching and sorting, puzzles & cooking)
3-5 Years Old
Some suggested activities include: Card games and board games Games with physical activities (e.g. 'Musical Chairs, 'Simon Says' or 'Duck, Duck, Goose'). Movement/song games (e.g. songs that repeat or singing in rounds). Quiet activities requiring strategy & reflection (e.g. mastermind or I spy)
5-7 Years Old
Some suggested activities include: Card games/board games that are more complex to build cognitive flexibility (e.g. rummy-cub, chess, or Minecraft). Physical activities/games (Organised sports, jump rope, tag) Music, singing & dance Brain teasers (such as crosswords, sudoku, or Rubik's cube).
7-12 Years Old
Some suggested activities include: Goal Setting, planning and monitoring (both in and out of the classroom) Taking on and discussing large social issues. Tools for self-monitoring (e.g self-talk, mindfulness of self and others). Extra Curricular Activities Study Skills (calendars, memory support, timelines, checklists etc.)
Time to choose what's relevant for you! https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1KVvzf6yw6HGw8vlY24qgHwOCmRpWfaxO?usp=share_link