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Executive Functions Summary

Let's talk about executive functions, what they are and how they impact a student. Executive functions are the cognitive skills that allow you to achieve goals. It's about self-control.

For example, let's say we wanted to lose weight, that's our goal. We all know are intellectually capable of losing weight, but you need a certain set of skills to be able to pull that off. You need to be able to plan out how you'll do it, come up with a reasonable timeframe of how you'll do it, but most importantly, is one's ability to inhibit an impulse. So when I go out and I know that I would like to lose weight, and there's a brownie ala mode, I have to have the cognitive skills to be able to inhibit that impulse to eat that thing and make sure that I stay on the trajectory to get my goal met.

Similarly, children need these skills in order to pull off school. They might have a goal of doing well in school and they might be intellectually capable and motivated to do it, but do they have the executive functions to be able to pull that off.

Executive functions are things like being able to inhibit an impulse. A child, there's a party, he'll really like to go, but he has that five-page paper that he has to write. The ability to inhibit the impulse to keep watching the next Netflix episode rather than beginning the homework.

Another executive function is the ability to shift to not be overly focused on a thing. Some kids will get overly focused on watching YouTube videos and then not be able to transition back to work, so that might interfere with them getting their homework done.

Emotional control is another area of executive functioning. Some kids when they get very anxious, they shut down and they just can't begin the work. Your ability to soothe yourself when you start feeling emotional about something are overwhelmed. A lot of kids who get overwhelmed, they can't resist the impulse to withdraw into something like electronics. Initiating work, being able to begin a task. Kids will know I have to begin this work right away, but they just have a hard time beginning. So initiating a task is also another area of executive functioning.

Forgetfulness, or what we call a working memory, that's not real memory. It's your ability to remember to remember. So children will come home and they've forgotten what homework they have to do. or they forget that their parents told them they have a doctor's appointment after school. Forgetfulness can really interfere with a child's ability to get work done. Planning time management. Kids will come home from school and say, 'I have plenty of time to begin this homework and get it all done, it will only take an hour.' Then before you know it, it's 8 or 9 o'clock at night, and they still haven't begun it.

Keeping track of time, monitoring how long things take, planning out long-term assignments, breaking the long-term assignments down into manageable chunks and planning them days in advance to make sure that they're completed on time.

Monitoring work for errors. A lot of kids will go to school and take a test and leave thinking, 'Oh, I knocked the cover off that. This is gonna be an A for sure.' And then they show up later just to find out that they got a 'C' because they made a lot of little mistakes in their work.

These are all examples of executive functioning that here at HeadWorks we teach these skills directly. So it's not tutoring. We're not teaching specific subjects like reading or math or writing. We're teaching kids strategies of how to make sure that their executive functions don't fail them so they can work quickly and efficiently.