By Melissa Mullin, Ph.D. and Karen Fried, PysD.
Planning, organizing and following through on your plans require strong executive functioning skills. Developing these skills can take patience, guidance and practice. There are parents, teachers, executive functioning coaches and tutors who do a great job of guiding students towards mastery of their time, workload and achievement. The K & M Center has been working on building executive functioning skills in all of our students for the past 15 years.
We have found the ability to STOP and THINK, along with the ability to talk yourself through a task, helps develop executive functioning skills. The challenge for students with weak executive functioning skills is to not get lost in their own thoughts. They want to get the work done, they just aren’t able to follow the path from A to Z without getting stuck or distracted.
Picture a new high-rise building being built. First the foundation is created, then the scaffolding is built to support the structure until it is strong enough to stand on its own. When the foundation has proven to be secure, and the building structure is stabilized, the scaffolding is removed and the new building stands on its own. This analogy has long been used for learning new skills and is apropos regarding executive functioning.
Every teacher knows that the content areas like reading, writing and math need strong foundations of basic skills: phonics, fine motor skills, spelling, number sense and counting. The basic skills start to be developed in kindergarten and first grade. There is a sequential path of developing the student’s knowledge year by year and adding the new information layer by layer. Unfortunately, no sequential system exists at this time to build executive functioning skills.
Recent studies are highlighting the benefits of play in preschools in the development of executive functioning skills. However, very little research has been done on how to develop these skills in grade school children. What we do know is that not all students learn these skills automatically. Rather they need the steps broken down for them so that they can practice the skills over and over until they have been internalized. Once the skills are internalized the students own them and no longer need external guidance to complete a task.
The Executive Functioning Workbook provides external scaffolding that gives support and guidance so that students can learn to internalize a system that helps them master their thoughts and therefore their behavior and workload.
I am very pleased to announce that we have finally finished the Targeted Learning Concepts (TLC) Executive Functioning Workbook so we can offer it outside our center to those of you who can benefit from what it offers.
The Executive Functioning Workbook increases the student’s ability to plan, start, and finish work autonomously. It exercises the neurological activity that creates Executive Functioning by identifying the student’s aims and challenges, building thinking skills, and practicing organizational strategies. The program establishes academic independence as the student determines goals and develops the habits that will achieve them.