EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING IMPACTS YOUR CHILD’S LIFE IN AND OUT OF SCHOOL
A complex mix of intelligence, attention and memory, Executive Functioning issues can affect a student’s self-esteem and performance. Using Evaluations & Testing results, our expert staff creates individualized programs proven to help your student succeed both in and out of the classroom.
So what exactly is Executive Functioning?
Executive functioning is a set of processes involving mental control and self-regulation. It can affect many regulating skills including, but not limited to:
- Time Management & Prioritizing
- Inhibition & Emotional Control
It is often seen with:
- Working and long-term memory
- Processing speed
- Processing issues
Using research-based exercises and multisensory teaching methods to systematically approach each Executive Functioning skill, TLC teachers ensure mastery before continuing on to harder, more complicated tasks. Program recommendations frequently include at least one of our premier programs.
Working memory is considered by many educational and psychological professionals to be the most critical key to school success. We all understand that the better a student’s memory, the easier it is to learn.
Using well-researched memory strategies such as chunking, telling a story related to the material being learned, and learning how to visualize help students remember and learn bits of information and lists in school, at home, and within the community. Memory tips and tricks are important tools, but nothing beats actually strengthening memory itself. So, students also systematically practice, thus improving, the skill of remembering.
On the surface, working memory appears to be a very specific isolated ability. So, why put so much emphasis on improving it? It turns out that children with weak working memory often have many other issues related to learning. Ina study published in Child Development in 2009, researchers screened 3,189 five- to eleven-year-olds and found 308 to have very low working memory scores. Most struggled with learning, had atypically short attention spans, high levels of distractibility, difficulties monitoring the quality of their work and in generating new solutions to problems. This helps explain why we see so many students improve in multiple areas of learning after improving working memory.
A program unique to TLC, Brain MAPS (previously called Cognitive Educational Therapy or CET) focuses on strengthening the four areas of the brain’s “executive functioning” necessary for learning: Memory, Attention, Processing and Study Skills (MAPS).
Current brain research related to brain plasticity shows that nearly everyone at any age has the potential to develop stronger and faster brain connections. The result of improving those neural connections is more efficient processing, which in turn allows for dramatically increased learning potential.
Using the results of each student’s evaluations and testing, the program works through individualized exercises based on each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Each part of the program is based on research, which has indicated that working on focus, memory, phonological processing, processing, study skills and more does indeed improve learning. Over the years, research has continued to discover statistically what we are told by students and parents every day, that Brain MAPS leads to substantial improvement in learning.
Using carefully planned exercises, students learn what it feels like to focus on one item while ignoring all the other classroom background noises and then progress to multiple items. After training, students are able to more easily pay attention to the teacher even within a typically busy classroom environment. With practice, their sustained attention, divided attention, and other aspects of focus increase.
Training students to control external distractions while strengthening skills needed for sustaining attention, shifting attention between multiple tasks, and paying attention to multiple sources of information at a time dramatically improves attention.
Processing speed is how quickly a student can respond to information, react to questions, understand what is asked and give appropriate responses. Processing speed may affect conversations, reading speed, the ability to keep up with taking notes, and more.
The speed of information processing is not the same as intelligence. It is possible to be very bright, yet process information slowly.
Neurologically, speed is affected by:
- neurotransmitters in the brain
- the fatty covering of neurons (myelin) that speeds transmission
- the size of synaptic spaces (unusually large synaptic gaps slowing information processing)
- the organization of neural networks that support a concept or procedure
- the efficiency of the frontal lobes in organizing and directing information flow
Processing speed is also affected by knowledge, experience, and practice. The more a person knows about a topic, the easier it is to process new information about that topic quickly. That is processing speed at work. Therefore, increasing familiarity with routines in and out of school and increasing content knowledge is very important for individuals who process information slowly.
Processing speed is often difficult to improve because there are so many factors that affect the speed of response. So, Brain MAPS moves students one small successful step at a time by having them complete specially designed tasks at ever increasing speed.
Students must learn and practice specific study skills. Showing a student study skills once will not work. Students benefit most from direct training of individual study skills including organization (of self, time and materials), listening, comprehension, outlining, test taking, note taking, hi-lighting, scheduling, etc.
Monitoring and applying those skills to complete homework is included as a vital part of Brain MAPS. The aim is to develop good study habits and to be able to apply them independently. Students need both a healthy balance of independence and structured support. Independent use of these skills to successfully study for tests, complete long-term projects and for homework and classwork is necessary to be a successful student and therefore is the goal of Brain MAPS.
Focusing Attention on Complete Thinking (FACT)
Our FACT program is designed to build intrinsic focus skills and remediate attention challenges.
FACT’s Pay Attention! Systematically trains students to control external distractions while strengthening skills needed for sustaining attention, increasing processing speed, shifting attention between multiple tasks, and paying attention to multiple sources of information at a time. Through a series of challenging tasks, Pay Attention! works on each individual skill to build a strong executive functioning foundation.
FACT’s Mindfulness curriculum also helps participants re-focus their attention when distracted by their internal, often intelligent and creative (as well as overly worried and sensitive) thoughts.
Working through one of our FACT curriculums, our expert’s guide and teach students to control both internal and external distractions by using three basic steps:
- Bringing nonjudgmental attention to an “anchor” such as each breath or the teacher
- Noticing when the distraction occurs
- Gently refocusing on the “anchor”