What is Executive Functioning?
The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.
The information below is an excerpt from an excellent article I found on LD Online outlining the key skills involved when we talk about executive functioning.
The list was complied by Drs. Gerard A. Gioia, Peter K. Isquith, Steven C. Guy, and Lauren Kenworthy:
- Inhibition – The ability to stop one’s own behavior at the appropriate time, including stopping actions and thoughts.
- Shift – The ability to move freely from one situation to another and to think flexibly in order to respond appropriately to the situation.
- Emotional Control – The ability to modulate emotional responses by bringing rational thought to bear on feelings.
- Initiation – The ability to begin a task or activity and to independently generate ideas, responses, or problem-solving strategies.
- Working Memory – The capacity to hold information in mind for the purpose of completing a task.
- Planning/Organization – The ability to manage current and future oriented task demands.
- Organization of Materials – The ability to impose order on work, play, and storage spaces.
- Self-Monitoring – The ability to monitor one’s own performance and to measure it against some standard of what is needed or expected.
So, when we ask our child to go put his or her laundry away it may seem like a simple task, but when you look at (and THINK about) all the skills involved, it is no wonder it sometimes ends in frustration for both parent and child.
When the maiden first came to my home she loved to fold her own laundry. She would spend hours folding everything NEATLY. As she grew older, the novelty wore off, yet my expectation that she could still maintain that ability remained. She would haphazardly fold her clothes and they would stay in the laundry basket until the next week (because she got distracted when she went upstairs or just forgot what she was supposed to do or was overwhelmed about where everything went) or the clothes would get shoved into drawers where they didn’t belong (even after putting pictures of what belonged where).
If I take a look at each step required in putting laundry away, and what it requires from her brain, I am able to be more understanding and supportive. I don’t have to put her laundry away for her, but I can stand in the door or sit on her bed and provide direction or assistance as needed.
In 2018/2019 the FASD Network of Saskatchewan developed a series of tips.
This one was for execution functioning:
The following 17 page guide, Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Children from Infancy to Adolescence created by Center on the Developing Child by Harvard University was shared on another site. It includes activities for 6 months up to adolescence. Not FASD specific but another resource to try.
The activities that follow have been identified as age-appropriate ways to strengthen various components of executive function. Although scientific studies have not yet proven the effectiveness of all these suggestions, their presence here reflects the judgment of experts in the field about activities that allow children to practice their executive function skills. Practice leads to improvement. These activities are not the only ones that may help; rather, they represent a sample of the many things children enjoy that can support healthy development.
Stay tuned, another FASD support tip tomorrow!