Executive function disorder is fast becoming a known
learning disabilities diagnosis among elementary school children in our
twenty-first century schools. Learning more about this unique disability and
how parents and educators can guide these students to greater levels of
achievement and success is vital.
Executive functions are those skills that allow one to
coordinate and integrate more fundamental knowledge and skills in an attempt to
pursue particular goals, and to adapt to changes in the environment .The
executive functions are concerned, not with what one knows and can do, but
rather, with how and whether one uses his/her knowledge and skills in goal
There are six specific areas that make up an individuals
executive function, they include:
- Inhibition of impulsive responses
- Flexibility of cognitive shifting
- Abstract reasoning
- Organization and planning
- Working memory
- Interference control
†Definitions of these
specific functions, current medical and educational research, and additional
information on the disorder can be found on the following reviewed web pages:
Organization and planning is a
component of EFD that specifically addresses an individualís ability to
prioritize tasks in order to achieve desired outcomes.† Elementary students with organizational
difficulties can experiences many degrees of frustration across the curriculum
and throughout the school day.† The
recommendations that follow are presented as a vehicle for parents and
educators to gain a greater understanding of organizational weakness in EFD and
there implications on learning.† Many of
these strategies and techniques will help these students acquire greater access
to the curriculum.
A few GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS are highlighted below,
followed by a more in depth look into organizational deficits as they pertain
to; INSTRUCTION, TESTING, and HOMEWORK.†
In general the external support and structure provided for EFD students
can be used throughout all aspects of the general curriculum.† In classrooms, these strategies can and will
provide benefit to all students who experience any type of organizational
A few simple starting points and principles are necessary
when working with children who experience difficulties with organization and
planning.† Taking these points into
consideration will greatly improve the quality of school life for both the
child and the teacher.
to the student and believe that you will find strategies that suit
that many of the studentís behaviors and frustrations are related to
his/her organizational difficulties and should not be seen as defiant
presenting a new technique or strategy always ask the student if he/she
felt that new way was helpful.
provide consistency and continuity, keep communication between home and
school open, focusing on the techniques that are working/not working in
the studentís areas of difficulty and assist him/her in prioritizing tasks
by pre-planning and breaking things down into steps.
clear schedule charts that the student can constantly refer to.
possible, limit the number of transitions from the classroom.
with the student after each incident of disorganization to determine ways
Learning new information and acquiring new academic skills
can be difficult when organizational skills are impaired.† Students will require supports and
modifications to instruction in order to reach desired levels of learning.† The following ideas should be developed in
consideration with an individualís learning style.
skills should be taught in a meaningful context, not in isolation.† The use of thematic teaching with
integrated skills is desirable.
information should be presented visually and verbally.† It should always be previewed for new concepts,
new vocabulary and main ideas.
material meaningful through the use of: visual aids, handouts, maps,
demonstrations, experiments, discussions, and hands-on activities, always
emphasizing the main ideas/concepts.
should always be clearly and simply stated.† The student should often be asked to
repeat/rephrase the instructions to ensure understanding.
models and examples of what is expected, particularly before the student
is expected to attempt an independent assignment.
the student in retrieving previously learned material with the use of
visualization, memorization, and word cues.
team-teaching, cooperative learning and peer-modeling into a studentís
school experience. The ability of others to cue the learner broadens the
scope of knowledge retrieval.
try to reintroduce skills and topics previously covered to help the
student with retrieval organization.
in the early grades providing instruction on how to study.† Such lessons and programs can cover
taking notes, making outlines, keeping assignment books, creating
flashcards, and structuring written assignments.† These study skills should be adopted
within a school and developed at each grade level.†
who experience high degrees of disorganization can not only become
frustrated but unhappy students.† As
a teacher take the time to foster the childís self-esteem within the
classroom by highlighting his/her strengths and accomplishments.
Testing can be a highly stressful situation for a student
with organizational deficits.† Often the
studentís ability to retrieve learned information is inconsistent and does not
always provide a true picture of the studentís actual skill level and present
knowledge. Providing structure, consistency, and a willingness to develop
optional testing methods will help the student reinforce healthy testing
a quiet environment free from external distractions.
the student to always ask for clarification.
specific skills, for example a science essay should focus on science not
spelling and grammar.
the number of questions on a test, always assessing what the student has
learned.† Be mindful that the
quality of the answer is more important that the quantity of questions.
your studentís learning style and be willing to provide alternative means
of testing:† oral exams,
multiple-choice, fill in the blanks with choices, etc.., Providing many additional prompts will assist the
student in correct retrieval.
a few cues prior to testing to tap the studentís memory.† Review the directions and questions and
encourage the student to recall the subject matter.† For example, prior to a science test the
class may be reminded to recall a previous experiment.
extra time and untimed testing situations, speed
should seldom be an expected factor.
that the student take time at the completion of a test to review all final
- Try to
provide immediate feedback after testing.†
Always allow the student to make corrections and analyze his/her
MODIFICATIONS FOR HOMEWORK
Homework is designed to be a
means of reinforcing skills introduced in school.† It can be a difficult part of the day for a
child with organizational and planning problems, as well as for their
parents.† In order to achieve the full
benefit of reinforcement that homework should provide, parents and teachers
need to provide supports and the proper environment for their students.
- The most important rule with homework should be that
it is the studentís not the parentís assignment.† If the parent is involved past the point
of providing space, time, materials, and additional clarification, then a
meeting between student/parent/teacher may be necessary.
- A homework notebook/assignment book is a useful tool
when checked by a teacher or an aid at the end of the school day.† This can be used to determine if the
child has the correct assignment, appropriate materials, and an
understanding of the expectation.†
Sometimes it may be helpful for the teacher to include an estimated
amount of time necessary to complete the home task.†
- Some students may be offered the opportunity to start
the homework in school and show it to the teacher, this can ensure greater
- Providing one specific space in the home where
assignments are done, supplies are kept and materials are retrieved each
day will help maintain routine and order.
- Maintaining and helping a child maintain a
clutter-free environment will assist in removing distraction and aid in
- Provide the tools necessary to complete the
tasks:† calculators, computers,
- Know your child and provide snack and activity breaks
- Encourage the child to review the assignment when it
is completed; check calculations and reread written products.
- Parents should see that work is complete, provide
clarifications as needed and be conscious of the time allotments.† Parents should also have a clear
knowledge of what the school policy on homework.†
Elementary school children with
Executive Function Disorder can display a variety of different weaknesses in
one or more of the components of executive function.† The ability to organize and plan is a key
skill necessary to reach goals and adapt to changes in their environment and
life.† The recommendations presented here
will hopefully provide guidelines for teachers and parents as they guide their
students to greater organization and learning success.