Is Your Kid Struggling with EF?Posted October 16, 2017
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We all know that kid, or maybe we even were that kid, who is carrying around three days worth of uneaten lunches, homework is crumpled up into a ball at the bottom of their school bag, and tends to always be running late. Maybe he or she has difficulties getting ready for school in the morning and needs to be told what to do and in what order. Perhaps there is a major meltdown every time you pull away the IPad. If you find these characteristics familiar, chances are your child has difficulty with executive function (EF).
What is Executive Function? Executive function (EF) refers to the mental processes used to organize and act on information and to solve problems of everyday life. They enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. In addition, EF includes impulse control which is the ability to stop and think before acting and emotional control which is the ability to manage feelings by focusing on the end result or goal.
If you are wondering if your child struggles with EF, ask yourself if you have noticed these characteristics:
- Difficulties starting a task
- Can focus on small details or the overall picture, but not both at the same time
- Has trouble figuring out how much time a task requires
- Does things either quickly and messily or slowly and incompletely
- Finds it hard to incorporate feedback into work or an activity
- Has trouble paying attention and is easily distracted
- Loses a train of thought when interrupted
- Needs to be told the directions many times
- Has trouble making decisions
- Has a tough time transitioning from one activity to another
The good news is if your child has difficulties with their executive functions then there are ways to help them cope. Several ways an adult can help develop a child’s EF are:
- Establish routines
- Be a model with your emotions and tasks
- Present activities that foster creative play and social connection
- Teach strategies in how to cope with stress
- Involve vigorous exercise in your child’s routines
- Provide opportunities for your child to direct their own activities with decreasing adult supervision
- Promote self-regulation
In addition, a few specific tips for school work and time management are:
- Make checklists for starting and completing assignments
- Use tools like time organizers, computers, and watches with alarms
- Break larger assignments into chunks and assign a time frame for completing each one.
- Use calendars to keep track of long term assignments, due dates, chores and activities. Use different colours for different activities
As an OT, I am trained to work with an individual in order to maximize their EF potential. We not only structure and practice the skills the child needs, we also work with you so that you can help facilitate the therapy at home. I look forward to hearing from you to talk about strategies that can help your child succeed regardless of the challenges they may be experiencing with their EF. OT can help your child and your family take small steps to a big victory!
Amanda, Occupational Therapist