Children with Executive Functioning difficulties are perceiving their environments with impaired sensory processing, attention issues, or delayed executive functions. They do not know that there is a dysfunction when it's part of their being but it is possible to give them the tools to realise that they have a choice in an action.
Putting executive functioning strategies in place takes a lot of practice, repetition, and routine. It takes support, prompts, physical cues, verbal cues, reminders, and lessening input in order to improve independence. Only once these strategies have become automatic can we begin to take the support away.
What can be done to help the child with Executive Functioning difficulties? Several strategies can be used to provide guidance in appropriate Executive Functioning techniques:
· Provide structure and guidelines
· Provide clear expectations
· Coping Cards for addressing self-regulation needs
· Break down the task and work on one step at a time
· Work on one aspect of a bigger issue (like crossing the road without looking)
· Teach the child to Stop and Think
· Talk about what worked and what did not work - self-reflection is hugely beneficial.
· Provide rewards for successful use of strategies or behaviours
· Practice mentally "shifting gears" to transition between tasks
· Demonstration/modelling. Play role-play or imagination games using strategies children can apply in other circumstances
· Use specific rules
· Play the "freeze" game to help children learn to "stop and think"
· Guided practice with feedback
· Instruction and definitions of appropriate behaviour
· Add changes to routines gradually
· Use cues for stopping and changing activities (physical or verbal prompts)
· Use illustrations with examples
· Clear expectations
· Try a checklist
· Rehearse activities, talking through the process
· Act out activities
· Reduce clutter
· Provide colour-coded organisation tools
There are models that can help a child’s ability to control impulses when modulation is an issue:
Zones of Regulation- The Zones of Regulation curriculum provides a systematic, cognitive behaviour approach to teach children about their self-regulation and sensory needs in order to control emotions and impulses, manage sensory needs, and improve the ability to solve conflicts. See the website at https://www.zonesofregulation.com/index.html
ALERT Program - This model for improving self-regulation uses an engine analogy to teach children and adults how to understand their sensory processing needs. See the website at https://www.alertprogram.com/teachers/?doing_wp_cron=1605071972.1898028850555419921875
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all set of strategies for addressing executive functioning difficulties. Interventions for executive functioning will be unique to each child. One place to start is by creating a set of strategies that can compensate for impulse control weaknesses. A child with a set of tools in place can then use a strategy in the moment and then reflect on what did or did not work.
The goal is to provide support for in-the-moment challenges that can be used in the long term. All of this takes time, practice, prompting, more practice, talking about what worked and what did not work., and more practice.
How do we put executive functioning strategies in place?