(Part 2 in our Executive Function series. Check out last week's EF article: The Importance of Developing Effective Executive Function Skills).
According to the medical website WebMD, “problems with executive function can run in families. You may notice them when your child starts going to school.”
Among other signs, the site recommends being aware of the following:Initiating—planning or starting projects (the but-it’s-due-tomorrow scenario). A student has a major assignment that he or she has known about for weeks (or even months). Let’s say Jenneane’s teacher assigns a history folder that requires several essays, maps and illustrations, and a short presentation. The work could easily be completed by doing one or two sections a week over the course of a month.
Jenneane, however, comes home the night before the folder is due, watches TV, and eats dinner. Around 7 or 8, she starts to look around to see if she has the supplies she needs. Even if she is lucky and finds everything she needs AND manages to convince Mom and Dad to let her pull an all-nighter, the quality of her work is likely to be poorer than if she had prepared properly.
Lack of initiation is often aggravated or encouraged by another EF lack—“estimating how much time a project will take to complete.” Jenneane, when she does get started, is likely to seriously underestimate how long each section will take her to complete. People who are chronically late because they do not factor travel time into their plans may also be exhibiting this symptom.
Memory issues—students with this problem are often genuinely mystified that others expect them to keep track of things like homework, appointments, backpacks, eyeglasses, or retainers. They do not always understand why parents or teachers get upset at their forgetfulness.
For more detailed explanations of EF warning signs by age group, you can also visit Understood: for learning and attention issues.
How can A+ Test Prep and Tutoring help nurture these skills? A+'s Executive Function Coaching!
A+’s Executive Function Coaching program works a little differently than our standard tutoring. We have coaches—highly experienced people—who act as mentors and encouragers. Unlike test prep, EF coaching is open-ended. It continues as long as the student benefits from it, rather than having a set number of sessions or a time limit. The coaching is tailored to each individual student’s needs—there is no “one size fits all”! We like to use the scaffolding model: We provide support to students until they are confident enough to practice their skills without prompting. The time line and scaffolding methods are highly individualistic and will naturally vary from student to student. Any parent knows what a growth spurt is—progress in EF is often achieved in short bursts of “mental growth spurts” rather than evenly and consistently.
At what age or in what grade is it best for a student to start to work on these skills?
Students need these skills at every level, but as they get older the need becomes more complex. The need for Executive Function Coaching can show as early as kindergarten or first grade. Students can lag behind their peers, developmentally speaking, by two to three years. Do some kids grow out of this on their own? Many students do, although these issues can persist even through college. And while many people continue to improve as they mature, some will still exhibit EF problems as adults. For people of all ages, learning strategies for dealing with EF challenges can not only help them succeed in their daily activities, but can reduce the stress and the emotional toll that often come with having EF issues.
If you would like more information about A+’s executive functioning coaching, our Client Service Directors Anne Stanley and Susan Ware are available to answer questions and provide solutions. You may reach either of them by calling A+ Test Prep and Tutoring at 215-886-9188.
Photo credit: Sanuja Fernando