What Is Executive Functioning, Why It Is So Important and How We Can Support Our Kiddos
Executive functioning is a term you may have heard from one of your therapists, in progress meetings with your child’s teachers or when speaking with a doctor or clinician.
The term itself sounds a bit heavy, but Executive Functioning is really just a whole bunch of different skills that support a person’s day to day life.
What Is Executive Functioning?
An easy way to think of EF is the self management system of the brain that allows us to plan, focus our attention and juggle multiple things at once. It’s a large umbrella for a lot of smaller, but very important skills that help kids and adults move through their day successfully.
Executive functioning skills begin to develop in early childhood but continue well into adolescence and even into early adulthood. This makes the importance of strong foundational EF skills in childhood crucial! Our kiddos will carry, and build upon, these skills throughout their lives.
Why Are Executive Functioning Skills So Important?
Strong executive functioning skills allow our kiddos to assess situations, determine goals and wanted outcomes and then mentally make a plan to achieve their goal. When we stop and think about it, this sort of thinking happens hundreds of times each day.
For example, let’s look at the process of getting ready for school, something our kiddos do almost every day.
A child is asked to get dressed, brush their teeth and put their lunch into their backpack.
For a child with weak executive functioning skills, they may not be able to remember all three directives or aren’t able to prioritize which to do first. They may have trouble managing their time for each task making the morning run late or perhaps they become overly focused on one small part of the process and can’t move past it.
For those who struggle with executive functioning, the day to day tasks that many take for granted become major obstacles.
Strong executive functioning skills not only help to make a day run smoothly, it can impact the independence and self confidence a child feels. When our kiddos feel they can effectively manage their own time, tasks and daily schedule, that brings a big self esteem boost!
How Can We Support EF Skill Building at Home?
There are a lot of easy ways to help strengthen those skills, and build confidence, throughout your child’s day!
Create a Visual Schedule
For kids with EF challenges, knowing what is happening next throughout their day helps them better plan and prepare for what is ahead – the less spontaneous their day, the better!
Use timers for various tasks
An easy way to help kiddos better understand and manage their time is to set a timer for tasks and work periods.
Have a set checklist for regular tasks
Creating an easy to follow to-do list allows kids to self manage and form good time management habits
Set consistent routines for everyday events
Consistency is key! Having regular and consistent daily routines is crucial in supporting kiddos with weaker executive functioning skills.
Offer rewards and incentives
As you are creating these healthy and helpful routines and strategies to support strong EF skill building, give kids rewards and incentives to work toward!
Provide consistent and positive feedback
Be your child’s cheerleader and best supporter by letting them know how well they’re doing, areas that may need a bit more attention and how proud you are of all their hard work! Your attitude will influence theirs!
EF skill practice also happens in all of the therapies provided by our fantastic Beyond Speech therapists! Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech and Social Work all utilize important EF skills and our therapists are absolute experts at incorporating those higher level organizational thinking into each child’s session.
Executive functioning and everything it covers can feel a bit overwhelming at first. However, when you break it down and look at some of it’s bigger components, it’s easy to find strategies, therapies and support to address any challenge your child may be having.
Remember we are here to help as well! Feel free to reach out and schedule a visit with one of our therapists!