Strategies to Support Executive Functioning

Executive functioning skills are intrinsic to our organisational, attention, self- regulation, memory and time management abilities.
In my own family, my daughter experiences specific challenges:

  • Organising her room and personal space
  • Keeping track of belongings
  • Packing for holidays and outings
  • Becoming overwhelmed by details, or focusing on details and missing the ‘big picture’
  • Planning time
  • Keeping appointments
  • Giving directions
  • Planning assignments and workload
  • Blurting out what is on her mind without ‘filtering’
  • Coping with criticism
  • Becoming overwhelmed with emotions
  • Struggling carrying out tasks under time pressure

Over the years I have seen these challenges played out in social and interpersonal settings as well as in the academic and learning environment. It took me a while to realise that playing a family game of Cluedo was a challenge. In this game, information needs to be gathered, recorded and prioritised, remembered and interpreted. Playing a large group game where she was the nominated scorer proved difficult as she had to make quick judgements about people’s actions, scan the scoreboard for names and numbers, and record accurate information all whilst under intense time pressure. Definitely not fun for someone who functions best when allowed to go slowly at their own pace.

So here are a few ideas that have helped her:

  • Maintaining a planner – overview of the year, months, weeks and time schedule for each day
  • Colour coding information in study
  • Colour coding subject books
  • Healthy diet and plenty of exercise
  • Taking physical breaks between study activities
  • Keep a list of items that need to be packed in the school bag each morning
  • Keep a list in the school bag of what needs to come home each night
  • Breaking down assignments into easy-to-manage chunks – cutting up activity sheets into single tasks, writing each
  • step of an assignment onto a single page
  • Taking the TWINK approach to assignments and motivation
    • Think about the task
    • Write down 3 steps that need to be completed
    • Initiate the first step
    • What’s Next?
    • Keep going!
  • Using mind-mapping to externally organise thoughts and ideas on a topic
  • Keeping ‘fiddle toys’ handy to help expend some additional energy and encourage focus
  • Setting family and personal routines
  • Helping to regulate the external time pressure
  • Relaxation

The internet is full of many great ideas and resources to help you organise your family life and personal time. Make use of planners, colours, visual cues, recorded information. There are strategies that can be found to support each individuals’ executive function needs. Newcastle Speech Pathology can help you find the strategies that work best for you.

Written by Alison
Speech Pathologist
Newcastle Speech Pathology