Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Executive functions are the cognitive skills required to achieve goals. So for example if your child’s goal is to earn A’s and they have the intelligence and the motivation to do so, but they end up getting B’s and C’s, that implicates an executive functioning limitation because the goals are not being achieved.
Approximately 65% of adolescents have some form of production problem due to an executive functioning limitation. School and life require executive functions, but strategies to work with them have not been directly taught...UNTIL NOW.
HeadWorks offers an affordable, flexible, and proven coaching methodology developed by a clinical neuropsychologist that equips your child with the tools and strategies they need to overcome their executive function limitations and realize their full potential for success.
Many children with executive function limitations are not typically identified in elementary school because parents and teachers are directing and cuing them with specificity as to what they want them to do. In many ways, from birth to elementary school, we are the executive functions for our children. But when your child now has more than one teacher, may have to move between classrooms, his or her school schedule and structure has changed, and/or there are greater demands and increased expectations, evidence of executive function limitations often appear. If your child has difficulty starting, completing or turning in their homework, does not remember more than a couple of things at a time, is struggling with organization, appears overwhelmed by school, it is highly probable that he or she has some form of executive function limitation.
If your child has above average intelligence and average academic motivation, then they should get average grades when learning an above average curriculum.
If your child has above average intelligence and above average academic motivation, then they should be getting above average grades even when learning an above average curriculum.
If your child is not earning above average grades, the reason is typically an issue of mismanagement... your child is working inefficiently and ineffectively. That is where we come in to help.
These are all typically executive function issues, and at HeadWorks we can help your child learn the strategies to overcome these executive function limitations.
We embrace and endorse Dr. Ross Greene’s notion that “kids do well if they can.” We do not believe kids wake up in the morning having the goal to underachieve. The idea of a lazy child is more of a myth than reality, and reflects the results of executive functioning limitations. When work is accidentally mismanaged, it all falls apart, and that may look like laziness, but it is not. Executive functions are necessary to avoid procrastination, to get going on things, and to see work through to completion.
HeadWorks was created to help those children who have such executive function limitations by teaching them strategies to overcome them, and by providing a structured space and program to learn how to successfully implement those strategies.
While possible, kids with executive function limitations -- having production that is lower than expected given their intelligence -- frequently and incorrectly receive this kind of attribution. We see this all the time, with some teachers saying in report cards that kids are, for example, “Choosing to rush through the work,” “Choosing not to study,” and “Choosing not to check their work.” Ultimately, if a child does indeed choose not to work, it represents the culmination of years of frustration, hopelessness, and the feeling that no one understands them.
At HeadWorks, we believe children do not make such volitional choices. We help our students to effectively and efficiently complete their work by utilizing proven strategies to overcome executive function limitations.
Oftentimes children with executive function limitations complain that school learning and homework are “boring.” This is actually an indication that their executive functions are shut down. When your child is talking with friends, playing sports or playing video games, their executive functions are working just fine and that’s why they can do these things for hours while not feeling bored. Boredom is not a choice. Rather it is an indication that your child is trying to rely on limited executive functions to resist distractions and impulses in order to begin working.
HeadWorks helps children to develop strategies to assist them in overcoming such executive function limitations that will benefit them both in school and in life.
One of the brain’s executive functions is task initiation. Many kids with executive function limitations have trouble beginning or getting started on work, but they can play video games or talk with friends for hours with excellent attention and motivation. This is because the brain naturally receives a shot of dopamine (a brain chemical or neurotransmitter) whenever one is doing something intrinsically interesting, which helps to operate executive functions. In contrast, these same children can have significant trouble starting their homework and can become distracted within five minutes of starting because dopamine is no longer available. When kids have trouble beginning work (homework or chores), it means that there is not an intrinsic interest in doing it and their dopamine is depleted.
If your child is doing homework in their room by themselves and the homework is not interesting to them, they will procrastinate and have great trouble getting going until it is very late. Then, ensuing anxiety will motivate them to begin, but at a high cost.
At HeadWorks, kids are placed in an ideal work environment with other students who are also working. The HeadWorks milieu helps them initiate work and stick with it to completion.
We all have a natural attention span, but kids with executive function limitations typically have shorter attention spans. They are sprinters rather than marathoners.
At HeadWorks we work with your child to help determine how long they can go before getting distracted. We teach them strategies about when, how, and what kind of break they should take to help them to rejuvenate their attention and what drains should be avoided.
Some kids are great at starting things, understand when and what kind of break they may need, but then have difficulty getting back to work. Kids with executive function limitations can have trouble transitioning from breaks back to work because they are not getting that dopamine hit from intrinsic interest. To the frustration of their parents, however, they have no trouble transitioning from work to breaks.
At HeadWorks, students benefit from a group atmosphere where they absorb the energy of a working environment while also using timers and other cuing systems to monitor their breaks. When they are in a place where everyone is working hard and successfully transitioning, they too are able to do so.
If your child is not hyperactive or impulsive, then “careless” errors in their homework and on tests are not likely due to rushing, but due to limitations in task monitoring. Monitoring is an executive function and the ability to be aware and keep track of how deeply you look into work being completed. The idea is the same as with highlighting text while reading. Some people highlight every sentence because their task monitoring system identifies everything as important or salient. Kids with executive functioning limitations can be low in this skill. When they read, their brain isn’t identifying much of anything as important. So, they miss important information in test directions, during classroom instruction, etc. This causes lower than expected grades due to small errors, especially in subjects that require sustained mental effort (e.g. math). Similarly, challenges with monitoring interfere with note-taking in class because kids do not know what is important to write in their notes.
At HeadWorks we focus on error awareness strategies to prevent errors and to review work to find and fix errors if they have been made.
So many executive function limitations may be at play in answering this question. Task initiation? Organization? Planning? Transitioning to work? Time management?
Homework headaches typically have little to do with knowledge, and more to do with self-control. People with executive function limitations benefit from external structural support. At HeadWorks we teach our students strategies to plan out short and long term assignments by prioritizing work, breaking work down into manageable “bite-size” chunks, scheduling, and assistance with monitoring to ensure compliance, completion and completed project submission. No work is considered complete until it is turned in.
It could be due to an organizational limitation where work is lost in class, in their backpack, or in their locker. It could also be a monitoring issue, perhaps when your child doesn’t notice classmates turning in their homework. Also, children with executive functioning limitations can be forgetful despite having an excellent memory. This is a working memory issue and can manifest, for example, as forgetting to turn in work after completing another task like pencil sharpening. Therefore, they remember to sharpen their pencil but subsequently forget to turn in the homework. Some teachers are highly structured and specifically instruct students to turn in homework. Therefore, the teacher cues the students, so few executive functions are needed. When homework collection is more unstructured, those with executive functioning limitations can have trouble managing, despite being quite intelligent.
At HeadWorks our coaches work with students to assist with strategies to help them maintain organizational systems, to monitor their work for errors, and to remember to remember. Importantly, we do not just tell kids what to do. Our approach engages our students to help them understand and identify a problem so they will be able to apply critical and incremental thinking for solution strategies. We ask, “What have you tried so far? Does that work? If not, let’s come up with a different solution.”
Tutoring is often a one-on-one intensive specific subject matter educational process. Students may meet with a tutor once a week for an hour to strengthen their understanding of a specific subject, ie math or science.
Academic coaching teaches students techniques that apply to all classes regardless of subject matter.
At HeadWorks Academic Coaching, we end the homework battles, restore peace at home, and help your child develop strategies to manage executive functions that are critical for both academic success and success in life.
For maximum student benefit, we recommend students attend three coaching sessions per week for two hours each. Some students respond fairly quickly to learning these strategies, while others benefit from repeated reinforcement and application over a longer period of time.
We understand that children have other obligations, and have made our schedule as flexible as possible to accommodate everyone.
HeadWorks is open from Monday thru Friday from 3:30pm to 9:30pm, and Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
Students are welcome to join us for as many sessions during the week as they may wish, with the understanding that the greater the frequency, the greater the benefit for the student.