There is no limit to the skills and knowledge that students can master throughout their time in school. From learning how to study to practicing relevant skills for a specific subject, teachers and students have a lot to learn together! Students with learning differences like dyslexia may need additional help with a beneficial set of skills known as executive function. Executive functioning skills include essential mental abilities like working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control that can significantly impact how students can succeed in school and beyond. Read below to learn more about executive functioning skills and why they matter.
What are executive functioning skills?
Executive functioning skills are a set of cognitive processes that fuel goal-oriented learning. These skills help people do things like memorize, plan, focus, and multitask. Although no one is born with inherent executive functions, children develop them rapidly throughout their lives. From an early age, kids use their developing executive functioning skills to interact with the world around them. Certain activities in early childhood have the potential to help children advance these skills.
Everyone develops executive functioning skills at different rates. Some children, however, need more support from their parents and teachers when it comes to sharpening their cognitive skills. For kids with learning differences like dyslexia, executive functioning skills can be challenging to master.
Why do executive functioning skills matter?
Executive function skills can impact every facet of life for students, especially their academic progress and are crucial to the learning process. Working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control may look different as children grow, but the foundation of these abilities is consistent over time. Working memory allows students to hold onto new information and utilize or regulate what they learn over short periods of time. Mental flexibility makes it possible for children to focus on a task and then shift that focus depending on the environment. And self-control helps kids prioritize tasks and overcome impulses that would not be helpful at a given time. When a student struggles with these skills, it can have a negative impact on overall academic performance, as well as making it difficult to succeed outside of the classroom. As children get older, their increasing responsibilities require use of these skills.
How can educators and parents teach executive functioning skills?
While children with dyslexia may face more significant challenges when it comes to honing their executive functioning skills, providing them with the necessary support can be life-changing. Educators and parents alike can help children improve their executive functioning skills by introducing strategies, routines, and different activities to build these skills in the classroom and at home.
Identifying a child’s specific executive function challenges is an excellent first step in addressing those issues . Discerning what executive functioning skills need reinforcing can set a child up for success by tailoring activities to their needs. Can the child filter distraction? Can the child start and finish tasks efficiently? Can the child manage emotions? Answering these questions helps educators and parents adapt their strategies around the child’s strengths and weaknesses. After recognizing what needs to be reinforced, parents and teachers can do various tasks and activities to hone these cognitive skills. Activities like playing games and giving small rewards can help a child think through complex scenarios and see results from their efforts. Other strategies like utilizing calendars, setting up timers, and splitting tasks into smaller steps encourage children to plan, organize, and manage their time well.
Individuals with dyslexia can achieve great things. By implementing methods to refine a child’s executive functioning skills, teachers and parents are actively encouraging children to learn from both their obstacles and successes.
Helping a child develop their executive functioning skills through various activities can set them up for lifelong success. The Dyslexia Resource is proud to support the parents and educators of children with dyslexia. As a non-profit organization, The Dyslexia Resource offers excellent resources for educators and parents to help them empower children with dyslexia. Learn more about our teacher training programs and our online resources, or contact us today!