By: Olivia Brown, M.A., CCC-SLP
Executive functioning refers to the cognitive skills we use to initiate and maintain attention, follow directions, remember events and information, organize information and demonstrate self-control. Trouble with executive functioning can be present in many different ways. Some children with impaired executive functioning may have difficulty transitioning from one activity to another, complete their homework but have difficulty turning it in, or even have challenges with prioritizing tasks to be efficient with their time. Here are a few ways you can help improve your child’s attention and executive functioning:
Create a Routine
Creating a routine provides children with consistency. At infancy, it allows your child to begin using their working memory to anticipate activities or steps in their routine (i.e. bath, story, and then bedtime). A great way to start is by describing the steps/order of an activity:
- “It’s time to get ready for bed. First, we take a bath. Then, we read a book. Last, we go to bed.”
- “Now it’s time to get ready for school. First, we eat breakfast, brush our teeth, put on shoes, and off to school”
This helps your child to understand the order of events while also expanding their vocabulary.
For older children, it gives them a chance to use and refine their working memory to plan and/or execute their routine with increased independence. You may start with a visual schedule or guided reminders and then help them work toward completing the tasks without your guidance. Remember to start small to allow your child to learn while also being successful. This is also referred to as errorless learning.
Break Big Tasks Into Manageable Pieces
Turning a large task into smaller ones allows your child to make accomplishments on their own. if your child is unable to complete a task, give them the opportunity to ask for help while still recognizing independence in previously completed steps. This will increase their ability to advocate for themselves in future years and in situations when you cannot be there to help them.
As an infant, games like peek-a-boo or tickling increase your child’s selective attention. Reading books is great for both selective attention and divided attention as your child learns to focus on both you and the words/images in the book.
Board games or card games are a great way to teach your older child about following rules and impulse control. This can also lay the groundwork for turn-taking and patience.
Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs. At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center, our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success. Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.
740 Community Drive, Unit A
North Liberty, IA 52317
5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300
Johnston, IA 50131