How do you teach executive functioning skills to a rigid child?

Today I spoke to a mom of a 10 year old boy who is struggling in school. This student, Ben, is a bright boy who had been diagnosed with ADHD and a processing speed disorder. Ben’s reading, writing and math fluency scores are below his achievement in each area. While Ben has the accommodation of extra time it doesn’t help him, as he won’t use the extra time available to him.

Ben has trouble organizing his thoughts, so he has a difficult time starting a task. Additionally, his working memory skills are weak making it hard for him integrate new ideas with previous knowledge. Ben would rather do things the way that he has always done them which makes it hard to teach him new strategies. Ben tends towards having a meltdown when he doesn’t like someone or something.

My suggestions to Ben’s mom were:

  • Continue working with their medical doctor for interventions for ADHD.
  • Start with an educational coach or specialist who understands executive functioning and rigid thinking.
  • Begin the intervention with full homework support and slowly begin pointing out areas where a plan would help him.
  • Developing Ben’s awareness of his thought processes through discussions of what he is thinking, along with using metacognitive strategies will allow him to begin to build the skills needed to begin new tasks. The metacognitive strategies can also be designed to help him with his behavioral regulation.
  • Once Ben is comfortable with his new helper, the educator can begin using the STOP, THINK, PLAN, DO mantra to help Ben begin to figure out how to approach a task. Learn more about using this mantra and building flexible thinking skills at Flexible Thinking
    stop think plan do jpeg

As Ben begins to learn how to approach a task and becomes willing to consider options that will help him learn better, he will be ready to learn the executive functioning skills of organization and time management.

2 Responses

  1. Lisa

    Hi. I wish I found your information a couple years ago. My son began to show trouble with academics in middle school. We had him tested and found he has good verbal comprehension but much lower visual processing. He is now a sophomore in college and is consistently a C student which I accept but I know studying is always a struggle for him in many ways. At this point I am wondering how his strengths and weaknesses, particularly this comprehension vs processing discrepancy, will affect his capability in a career. I’d like to help advise him to pursue work that will not be as frustrating as studying has been. Also, in your experience with slow visual (I wonder if that is the best word) processing, do these individuals tend to take a long time to respond to any question you ask them? My son really does. There is just a pause. I wonder about the lag almost as if it takes him longer to receive the meesage of the words or to put together his response and get them out. This pause has been a source of bewilderment to my husband and myself and, no, it is not only when he is responding to his parents. Any feedback would be of interest. Thank you.

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