Understand Executive Functions and its effect on people.

This blog is for anyone who wants to understand more about the Executive Functions and the troubles that are associated with them.
You will find answers to the following questions:
• What are the executive functions?
• When to use them?
• How do they work?
• What happens when they are altered?
The executive functions correspond to the necessary capacities a person has to adapt to new situations, that are non-routine, for which there is no ready-made solution.
What kind of daily routine activities use our Executive Functions?
Our daily life is filled with them:
• lacing one’s shoes
• turning on the switch when entering a room at night
• putting the ignition key to start the engine
• making coffee and more….
Their realization is based on an automatic implementation: we are not required to think about it, it only requires very little attention.
What about non-routine situations?
Every day, we are confronted with new and complex situations, for which there is no ready, automatic or immediate answer.
Example: Every day, Lisa leaves the office and takes the highway to go home. One day, she follows a truck and sees that a ladder is about to fall from it. Lisa quickly looks in her rearview mirror and decides to get on the other band at the height of the driver. She makes gestures at him, pointing to the back of the car.
 ∞
This summer, John decided to go camping in Iowa. As it’s his first time, he wants to plan to avoid unpleasant surprises. So he inquires about different existing campsites. Then he chose his campsite taking into account distance from the village and the nearest shops, places to visit and existing transport (with their prices and frequencies). Finally, when he called to book his location, he insisted on the type of location desired.
In both situations, there is no ready-made solution. It is necessary to make choices, to make decisions. A plan of action must be developed and implemented.
How does it work?
The commonality between routine situations and new ones is to choose a course of action in a set of different choices.
A situation becomes routine when it repeats itself frequently in our daily life.
Therefore, the way we respond to it can become, by force of nature, automatic.
When faced with this situation again, we “activate” the pilot scenario expected in this case.
Ben returns home at the end of the day. It’s dark outside. He opens the door and presses the switch to light up the room.
 ∞
 Sarah comes out of the bathroom. She puts on a shirt and button it.
 ∞
Jess gets behind the wheel of her car and takes the direction of her work.  She gets on the highway.
All these actions are routine in the sense that their engagement is done automatically. Sarah does not need to think about the way she buttons her shirt.

In the psychologist’s jargon, we say that a set of actions has been selected and that you now work on auto-pilot.

It can also happen to be confronted with familiar situations in which two or more set of activities can be activated simultaneously:
Raphael repaired his lawn mower. His hands are dirty. He enters the bathroom, goes straight to the sink, runs the water and takes the soap.
In the bathroom, there are several accessories: toothbrush, razor, deodorant, nail clipper, toothpaste, … They can all be used to start an activity: brush your teeth, shave, wash, …
However, only one will be activated: wash your hands.
In this everyday situation, a system has selected the appropriate action and prevented inappropriate activities to be engaged.
In the psychologist’s jargon, this system is called the conflict resolution system. Raphael takes the soap and not the toothpaste.
On the other hand, new situations require that we grant them more attention and we respond in a more controlled way.
Mickael returns home at the end of the day. It’s dark outside. He opens the door and directs his hand towards the switch but at the same time realizes that the lamp is already on.
He quickly decides to interrupt his gesture. If Mickael could stop himself from pressing the switch, it’s because his attention was sufficiently focused on the surrounding elements.
He could detect that the light was already on and inhibit ( restrain) his movement towards the switch.
What allowed him to prevent pressing the switch is called in the psychologist’s jargon supervisory attentional system (SAS)
Scott comes out of the bathroom. He puts on a shirt and realizes that he is missing a button. In this case, he must make a decision: change his shirt, sew the button or put a sweater on top. It’s hot, Scott is in a hurry: he’s changing his shirt.
If Scott made this decision, it’s because he took into account the different constraints of the situation. Again, this is the S.A.S underpinning the decision process.
Today Sunday, Lisa decided to visit a friend. She gets behind the wheel of her car and takes the direction of her work.
As she is busy thinking about the news she will announce to her, she realizes too late that she made a mistake. She is on the highway.
What explains that Lisa took the wrong way? While driving, Lisa has her attention directed mainly at what she will tell her friend and not about the way she’s taking.
She behaved as in a routine situation: her conflict resolution system has selected the route she travels most frequently too.
This happened because she was thinking of something else and so her S.A.S was not oriented towards the selection of the route.
This is also due to the limited capabilities of S.A.S which cannot handle several tasks at the same time with the same efficiency.
As we have just seen, the S.A.S fulfills several functions. We will specify six: inhibition, working memory, flexibility, active recovery of information in memory, attention divided and planning.
Inhibition:
The ability to refrain from producing an automatic answer, to stop the production of an answer in progress and rule out irrelevant stimuli from the current activity.
Jess is in the office of one of her friends. She realizes that she is reading the mail. She stops doing so for the sake of discretion.
  ∞
Eva has made some changes to the storage space in her kitchen. She changed the cutlery’s drawer, and since a few days, she must refrain from going to get them in the old place.
  ∞
Lisa and Anna manage to stay attentive to their conversation despite the fact that they hear what is being said in the next room.
Working Memory:
This ability to refresh the contents of one’s short memory (memory in which information is maintained temporarily, the time to process other information) taking into account new information transmitted to it.
At a party at her house, Raphael takes aperitifs order from his friends. The first asks for a coke while the other asks for a sprite. By the time Raphael starts to prepare the two drinks, one of them changes his mind and asks, instead of his coke,
a tomato juice.
Mental Flexibility:

The ability to move from one behavior to another depending on the requirements of the environment.

Sarah prepares the ingredients for a chocolate cake using her scale and scoop.
She follows the indications of the recipe. She first weighs .5lb of chocolate then measures 1 cup of milk and then weighs 2 cups of sugar …
  ∞
Eva is a sixth-grade student. She does her math homework and is being asked to perform alternately an addition followed by subtraction.
  ∞
Ben is a teacher. He puts away his exam’s sheets. He throws the question sheets into the bin, makes a pile in front of him with the copies and insert, in the other direction, between each copy, the corresponding draft sheets.
Active recovery of information in one’s memory

The ability to actively and effectively search information contained in your memory.

Ruth made a list of things to buy at the supermarket. In the store, she realizes that she forgot to take it with her. Some things come back to her right away. But on the other hand, she has to make a big effort to remember the rest.
She remembers that while writing the list, her husband told her about a meatloaf, but she does not know why … she remembers the ingredients she needed to make it happen.
Now she is almost certain to have everything but one thing … but which one? Since she does not know what it is anymore, she walks the different aisles of the store, hoping to find what she misses. She goes past the tomatoes, stops: she ended up
finding what she was looking for.
Divided Attention:
The ability to be attentive to two activities at the same time, which allows you to do both simultaneously.
Steve can hold a conversation while watching TV news pictures.
  ∞
As usual, Laura prepares the meal while having an animated discussion with one of her children.
  ∞
John repeats his history class while playing on his computer.
Planning

The ability to organize a series of actions in one optimal sequence to achieve a goal.

Kenny invites 25 people for dinner in his home. He plans to serve an appetizer, a dish, and a dessert. The goal is for the dishes to arrive hot at the table. While preparing, he will have to take into account the cooking time of the different dishes, the time of arrival of his guests and time they will spend on the aperitif …
  ∞
Meryl has a dentist appointment at 4 pm; it is 2 pm. She decides to run some errands: she must go to the dry cleaner pick up some shirts, get some milk from the grocery store and buy a book for her brother’s birthday. To lose as little time as possible and to be on time for her appointment, she decides the order in which she will carry out her errands.
ALTERATIONS OF THE EXECUTIVE SYSTEM
People suffering from a breach of the executive system meet, daily, difficulties to adapt to the family, social and professional life and to manage new situations.
However, some alterations may occur in people without brain injury but to a lesser extent.
Below you will find an illustration of the difficulties in Executive Functions that can be met by people who had a cerebral accident, cranial traumatism or degenerative disease of the nervous system. In healthy people, system malfunctions of the executive functions occur much less frequently. Their intensity is lower. Therefore, occasional malfunctions are less disabling.
Alterations of one’s inhibition
These are manifested by difficulties in preventing oneself from having inappropriate actions.
When she visits her friends, Pauline cannot help but read the mail she sees on the table.
  ∞
John is in a supermarket with his wife. He takes a loaf and goes to the machine to cut the bread. His wife asks him not to cut it. Johns continues his action: he advances towards the machine.
  ∞
Ben is at the restaurant with his wife. They plan holidays. Many times, Ben intervenes in the conversation of the table next to them.
  ∞
Jess has finished preparing the dinner. She throws peelings of potatoes, carrots, the stalks of celery, take the packet of butter to store it in the fridge but throws it into the bin.
Alterations of the working memory
They manifest themselves by the absence of a replacement of the old information with new information
The information that was stored in this memory a few seconds ago is not replaced by current information. In this case, the person continues to act in function of old information and not new information as she should.
Rob receives a phone call from his friend Charles, who gives him an appointment next Saturday at 7:30 pm He tells him about his son’s sports activities. He then remembers that he has to pick him up at 7 pm at his basketball training. He proposes to Robert to postpone the appointment to 8 pm. After hanging up, Robert notes in his agenda 7:30 pm.
 ∞
The secretary announces to Steve that she is exceptionally on leave the next day. They discuss another matter, and while leaving, Lucas tells her to see you tomorrow anyway.
Alterations to flexibility

They are manifested by difficulties in passing from one behavior to another depending on the environmental requirements.

Stephanie attends a meeting. The debate is lively. She is unable to follow the thread of the conversation disturbed by the rapid changes of interlocutors.
  ∞
Saturday afternoon, Rob goes to midtown to shop. He visits several shops and pays each time with his credit card. At the end of the afternoon, he goes to the market. He hands his credit card. He knows, however, that you can only pay in cash at the market.
  ∞
John corrects his dictation while Bert and his mother translate sentences into French. When Lou asks how a word is spelled, his mother translates it into French, instead of spelling it in English.
Alterations of active information retrieval in long-term memory
They are manifested by significant difficulties in remembering events from the past, most often close. However, it’s possible to remember to find these events with some hints.
These difficulties may also concern general knowledge acquired formerly.
Ted talks with his wife. She talks to him about the last weekend with the family in the mountain. Ted says first that he does not remember it. His wife then describes the house
that they had rented for the occasion and the fountain that Ted had noticed. Ted can then remember who was there, what they had eaten at the evening meal, and the Sunday afternoon walk.
Alterations of divided attention

They are manifested by difficulties in performing two tasks at the same time while each of the tasks can be performed individually without difficulty.

Joan likes to walk in the forest. Since his accident, walking requires more concentration, but he can do it when he’s not disturbed. When he walks with
other people who talk to him, he tends to stop to answer; he sometimes loses his balance or stumbles. If he stays focused, he cannot keep up with the conversations
around him or answer the questions correctly.
  ∞
Rina goes to the park with her children. She settles on a bench. Her children run on the playground, she watches them. A lady sits next to her and starts a conversation. After
10 minutes, Rina realizes she was not looking at what her children were doing anymore.
Planning alterations

They are manifested by difficulties in organizing a series of actions in an optimal sequence to achieve a goal.

The alterations can be found at different levels:
Maintaining one goal: It’s time, Pierre goes to the kitchen to prepare dinner. He looks out the window and notes that the lawn is not mown. He takes out his clipper and cuts the grass.
Plan and choose the different plans of actions that will achieve the goal: Since his accident, Sean is no longer able to plan his appointments. He does not program his alarm correctly and doesn’t wake up according to the first activity of the morning. He can not manage to calculate the time needed to be ready on time and the time it takes him to his activities: toilet, breakfast, getting dressed, ride, …
Choose the best course of action:
Johns starts by preparing the main course. It’s a simmered dish for which the preparation takes 25 minutes and 60 minutes cooking time. During the cooking time, instead of preparing the entrees(30 minutes), he waits until the 60 minutes are up.
Initiate an action plan while taking into account the changes and incidents for achieving the goal
Julia goes to the movies with a girlfriend. The session is at 5:15 pm. They decided to meet at 5:10 pm in front of the cinema. She is waiting for the 4:55 pm bus. Not seeing it arrive, she consults the schedule and finds out that it is the summer schedule. The next bus is at 5:10 pm. Instead of calling her friend so that she would already take the tickets, she sits down and waits for the next bus.
For more information on Executive Functions and tips on how to improve them, follow us on http://www.MrMizrahi.blog
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Working Memory

Imagine a teacher reads a word problem in math class. Kids need to be able to keep all the numbers in their head, figure out what operation to use and create a written math problem at the same time.
 
Kids with weak working memory skills have difficulty grabbing and holding on to that incoming information. This means they have less material to work with when they’re performing a task.
 
Working memory is key to learning. Having weak working memory creates obstacles to learning. But there are ways to get around these obstacles. With help from you and supports at school, your child can build up working memory skills so learning is less of a struggle.

Teach Critical Thinking to Your Kids

Critical Thinking Defined

Critical thinking means making reasoned judgments that are logical and well-thought out. It is a way of thinking in which you don’t simply accept all arguments and conclusions you are exposed to but rather have an attitude involving questioning such arguments and conclusions. It requires wanting to see what evidence is involved to support a particular argument or conclusion. People who use critical thinking are the ones who say things such as, ‘How do you know that? Is this conclusion based on evidence or gut feelings?’ and ‘Are there alternative possibilities when given new pieces of information?’

Additionally, critical thinking can be divided into the following three core skills:

  1. Curiosity is the desire to learn more information and seek evidence as well as being open to new ideas.
  2. Skepticism involves having a healthy questioning attitude about new information that you are exposed to and not blindly believing everything everyone tells you.
  3. Finally, humility is the ability to admit that your opinions and ideas are wrong when faced with new convincing evidence that states otherwise.

 

 

A well-cultivated critical thinker:

  • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
  • Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively
  • Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards
  • Thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as needs be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences
  • Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems

6 Crucial critical thinking skills (and how you can improve them)

While there’s no universal standard for what skills are included in the critical thinking process, we’ve boiled it down to the following six. Focusing on these can put you on the path to becoming an exceptional critical thinker.

1. Identification

The first step in the critical thinking process is to identify the situation or problem as well as the factors that may influence it. Once you have a clear picture of the situation and the people, groups or factors that may be influenced, you can then begin to dive deeper into an issue and its potential solutions.

How to improve: When facing any new situation, question or scenario, stop to take a mental inventory of the state of affairs and ask the following questions:

  • Who is doing what?
  • What seems to be the reason for this happening?
  • What are the end results, and how could they change?

2. Research

When comparing arguments about an issue, independent research ability is key. Arguments are meant to be persuasive—that means the facts and figures presented in their favor might be lacking in context or come from questionable sources. The best way to combat this is independent verification; find the source of the information and evaluate.

How to improve: It can be helpful to develop an eye for unsourced claims. Does the person posing the argument offer where they got this information from? If you ask or try to find it yourself and there’s no clear answer, that should be considered a red flag. It’s also important to know that not all sources are equally valid—take the time to learn the difference between popular and scholarly articles.

3. Identifying biases

This skill can be exceedingly difficult, as even the smartest among us can fail to recognize biases. Strong critical thinkers do their best to evaluate information objectively. Think of yourself as a judge in that you want to evaluate the claims of both sides of an argument, but you’ll also need to keep in mind the biases each side may possess.

It is equally important—and arguably more difficult—to learn how to set aside your own personal biases that may cloud your judgment. “Have the courage to debate and argue with your own thoughts and assumptions,” Potrafka encourages. “This is essential for learning to see things from different viewpoints.”

How to improve: “Challenge yourself to identify the evidence that forms your beliefs, and assess whether or not your sources are credible,” offers Ruth Wilson, director of development at Brightmont Academy.

First and foremost, you must be aware that bias exists. When evaluating information or an argument, ask yourself the following:

  • Who does this benefit?
  • Does the source of this information appear to have an agenda?
  • Is the source overlooking, ignoring or leaving out information that doesn’t support its beliefs or claims?
  • Is this source using unnecessary language to sway an audience’s perception of a fact?

4. Inference

The ability to infer and draw conclusions based on the information presented to you is another important skill for mastering critical thinking. Information doesn’t always come with a summary that spells out what it means. You’ll often need to assess the information given and draw conclusions based upon raw data.

The ability to infer allows you to extrapolate and discover potential outcomes when assessing a scenario. It is also important to note that not all inferences will be correct. For example, if you read that someone weighs 260 pounds, you might infer they are overweight or unhealthy. Other data points like height and body composition, however, may alter that conclusion.

How to improve: An inference is an educated guess, and your ability to infer correctly can be polished by making a conscious effort to gather as much information as possible before jumping to conclusions. When faced with a new scenario or situation to evaluate, first try skimming for clues—things like headlines, images and prominently featured statistics—and then make a point to ask yourself what you think is going on.

5. Determining relevance

One of the most challenging parts of thinking critically during a challenging scenario is figuring out what information is the most important for your consideration. In many scenarios, you’ll be presented with information that may seem important, but it may pan out to be only a minor data point to consider.

How to improve: The best way to get better at determining relevance is by establishing a clear direction in what you’re trying to figure out. Are you tasked with finding a solution? Should you be identifying a trend? If you figure out your end goal, you can use this to inform your judgment of what is relevant.

Even with a clear objective, however, it can still be difficult to determine what information is truly relevant. One strategy for combating this is to make a physical list of data points ranked in order of relevance. When you parse it out this way, you’ll likely end up with a list that includes a couple of obviously relevant pieces of information at the top of your list, in addition to some points at the bottom that you can likely disregard. From there, you can narrow your focus on the less clear-cut topics that reside in the middle of your list for further evaluation.

6. Curiosity

It’s incredibly easy to sit back and take everything presented to you at face value, but that can also be also a recipe for disaster when faced with a scenario that requires critical thinking. It’s true that we’re all naturally curious—just ask any parent who has faced an onslaught of “Why?” questions from their child. As we get older, it can be easier to get in the habit of keeping that impulse to ask questions at bay. But that’s not a winning approach for critical thinking.

How to improve: While it might seem like a curious mind is just something you’re born with, you can still train yourself to foster that curiosity productively. All it takes is a conscious effort to ask open-ended questions about the things you see in your everyday life, and you can then invest the time to follow up on these questions.

“Being able to ask open-ended questions is an important skill to develop—and bonus points for being able to probe,” Potrafka says.

Become a better critical thinker

Thinking critically is vital for anyone looking to have a successful college career and a fruitful professional life upon graduation. Your ability to objectively analyze and evaluate complex subjects and situations will always be useful. Unlock your potential by practicing and refining the six critical thinking skills above.

Most professionals credit their time in college as having been crucial in the development of their critical thinking abilities. If you’re looking to improve your skills in a way that can impact your life and career moving forward, higher education is a fantastic venue through which to achieve that.

Source: study.comrasmussencriticalthinking.org

Impulse control (video)

The following video is an illustration of how impulse control can come in the way of young students. It important to remind ourselves that having weak impulse control (Response Inhibition) is NOT a character trait, rather a developmental issue that can be solved with coaching.

I encourage you to watch this video with your child (ages 5-8):

Ask them if this situation is familiar, and feel free to share with them the last time it was difficult for YOU to resist what you wanted to say/do. Talk about the how we feel after and how others might feel when we interrupt them in the middle of an activity or a conversation. Finally, invite them to join you in creating ways to deal with the need to say/do something out of turn. Some strategies that work for students in 1st through 4th grades are:

– Sitting on a cushion

– Stretching while sitting

– Asking to be the teacher’s helper.

– Asking to introduce the story (if you are familiar with it).

– Setting a signal with the teacher to take a short break.

These are just examples to help your child think about strategies that work for THEM.

You should feel free to share with me your experience and ask questions if you wish.

 

Enhancing Emotional Control

Learning about emotions begins at a very young age, as the child discovers a wide range of emotions, and evolves over the years. This theme offers a better understanding of the essential stages of emotional development, its impacts, the interrelated abilities, and the factors that build emotional competence.

The foundations of children’s emotional development are based on their relationship with their parents. Through proper care and sufficient amount of attention, kids will learn to:

  • Use words to express their feelings, positive or negative.
  • Empathize with how others feel.
  • Manage strong emotions under challenging situations.
  • Cope with their fears in the face of the unknown.
  • Calm themselves when in distress.
  • Control their anger and learn from their mischief.

Having the capacity to deal with managing their emotions will help children to develop their confidence and be more able to communicate their needs and understand those of others. Indeed, self-confidence is one of the direct outgrowths of developed emotional control.

How important is it?

Emotional Competence (EC) is a developmental process that involves three interrelated competencies: 1) emotional expression, 2) emotional awareness, and 3) emotional regulation (e.g., being aware of his emotion and changing them if needed). In infancy, children already experience a wide range of emotions in social situations through non-verbal messages (e.g., hugging or making a face). Then, as cognitive development progresses, children can determine their feelings and those of others and the circumstances that led to their expression. This understanding of emotions, in turn, allows children to control and modify their emotions to cope with stressful situations.

Emotional development during infancy and early childhood are essential for many interrelated skills. Children with healthy EC are more likely to excel in at least three of the following. 1) persevere in learning, 2) engage in empathic and pro-social behaviors, 3) express appropriate emotions in various contexts, 4) use adaptive strategies to cope with conflicting and disturbing emotions (anger, disappointment), and 5) to reduce multiple risk factors related to psychopathology. Together, these skills predict academic success in the early years at school and positive interpersonal relationships with peers and family members.

What do we know?

Emotional control as a skill varies with age. It is also manifested in different ways from one culture to another. The culture in which children grow up tends to influence the intensity and type of emotion expressed. Notably, the expression and understanding of feelings are likely to vary among children depending on how children socialize, the presence of comforting objects, the proximity of parental figures and situational contexts.

Emotions do not all appear at the same time. Primary emotions (fear, anger, sadness, interest, and joy) appear in the first year of life, while secondary emotions (embarrassment, guilt, and shame) are usually expressed at the end of the second year. The mental representation that children have of “themselves” evolves at the age of two as well.

Emotions play an essential role in the appearance of psychopathologies during childhood. Children who have experienced adverse social experiences, such as abuse or insecurity, tend to be very vigilant in detecting signs of threat.

As a result, they engage in anxiety, aggression and fear behaviors as a means of self-protection. Their negative affectivity, inadequate regulation of emotions, and imbalances in the different emotional systems in their brains (anxiety, care, and research systems) predict internal and external disorders (depression, aggressiveness, respectively).

What can we do?

In order to enhance emotional competence in children, parents are encouraged to model various emotional expressions. Since emotions at home greatly affect the emotions that children express with their peers and at school, positive parent-child interactions is imperative. Particularly, parents will benefit from using positive parenting practices and support their children when faced with challenges. Interventions at an early age will help to improve the emotional control and emotional parent-child synchrony is greatly encouraged.

Improve Response Inhibition

Who's Turn Is It? 94

 

Response inhibition is the ability to cease or delay an action and to be able to reflect rather than display impulsive behavior. Simply put, response inhibition helps individuals to stop and think before acting. It also helps one to ignore outside interference. This skill allows a child to plan and display appropriate behaviors. Response inhibition is imperative in tasks such as maintaining safety, problem solving efficiently, and behaving in a socially appropriate manner. This skill is also needed for focusing on the task at hand, rather than reacting to other situations in the environment. Follow our recommendations below to improve response inhibition.

Home and School Situations Requiring Response Inhibition

  • Raising one’s hand before answering a question in class
  • Waiting for one’s turn to play in a game or to speak during a conversation
  • Ignoring distractions while working on homework
  • Putting a helmet on before getting on a bike
  • Reading the directions before starting an assignment
  • Being patient with a younger sibling
  • Completing a long, multi-step task
  • Waiting in line at school or at a store
  • Keeping oneself from falling back asleep in the morning
  • Not talking back to one’s parents when upset

Hints and Strategies to Improve Response Inhibition

1. Have your child think about their answer to a question a few seconds before they verbalize the answer. Teach your child to count to 10 before acting. Practice this by counting together out loud before making a decision.

2. Arrange for your child to play games with other children that require them to wait for their turn. An example of a game that involves patience can be “Chutes and Ladders.” An example of a game that involves both patience and concentration, (when counting the number of spaces to move) can be “Trouble.” “Chess” can also be helpful to improve concentration and patience because the game requires the player to be constantly thinking about their next move.

3. Take a break. Let your child take a break from a situation that is upsetting to them. Doing so will keep your child motivated, as well as keep them from growing upset and irritable. Your child may tend to become angry or upset, and possibly give up on a difficult assignment if they are being forced to complete it all at once. For example, if your child has to write a lengthy paper, giving him/her a 10 minute break will allow them to remove him/herself from the stressful situation and begin with a fresh start again after the break. Model the same procedure by showing your child how you take a break to handle a difficult or frustrating experience. Display your own strategies by walking away but later returning to solve a problem.

4. Model response inhibition for your child. Talk to your child about the strategies that you use to exhibit response inhibition and self-control and then model these strategies. For example, you may tell your child, “I really would like to watch TV… but I know I have to clean the basement first.” This will help show your child how to develop a form of response inhibition and structure.

5. Review homework assignment directions with your child so that they know what to do before starting. Discuss what needs to be done and help show your child how to follow the directions. If a teacher assigns a worksheet, have your child read the instructions to you and discuss them, rather than allowing your child to dive in without reading.

6. Encourage your child to play puzzle-based video games. Examples of puzzle-based games include the following: “Bejeweled,” “Tetris,” and “Bubblicious,” in which your child can earn bonus points by delaying a first response. Many of these puzzle games will reward patience when the player is able to combine a number of shapes that match or create a larger pattern rather than simply pairing the first two that fit with each other. Most importantly, ask your child to describe to you how (s)he can earn the maximum number of points; engage in a discussion about how inhibiting or delaying an action results in a higher game score.

7. Encourage high levels of activity during leisure time. Children who struggle with response inhibition often find themselves in trouble due to too much movement. Encouraging your child to exert him/herself when it is appropriate may help in getting your child to sit still when necessary. Teach your child basic yoga, meditation, or breathing techniques. Learning one or more of these strategies can be very useful for children who act before thinking. Regular practice of one or two small techniques is something that can be used in a situation where the child tends to respond quickly and get into trouble. Teaching one or two yoga stretches may be particularly helpful for children with movement-based response inhibition difficulties. For example, learning the “mountain” and “sun salutation” poses (which essentially consists of standing with one’s hands extended above the head and breathing) can be very useful for delaying actions. Further information about a number of yoga poses can be found on http://yoga.about.com.

Games and Activities That Can Practice Response Inhibition

“Choose Your Own Adventure” Books – Encourage your child to read any books in the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, which will allow him to recognize how each decision made can lead to a distinct consequence.

Playing board games (e.g. “Trouble,” “Chutes and Ladder,” “Candyland”) – These, or similar games, will allow your child to practice waiting for their turn to play, while other players count spaces or play out their own turns.

“Dance Dance Revolution” and “Guitar Hero” – Both of these games enhance response inhibition in that the player must really concentrate and think about which note to play or square to step on in order to achieve success.

“Simon Says” – The traditional game of “Simon Says” will allow your child to practice delaying an action until the appropriate cue is heard.

Freeze Tag -Playing freeze tag with your child or having them play this game with friends or siblings will encourage the stop-and-start action of appropriate behaviors as well as the delaying of impulsive action.

Reading with a partner – Read with your child, alternating turns, to allow for practice in waiting for one’s turn and patience.

Websites and Articles on Response Inhibition

LearningWorks For Kids: The premier resource for executive function information, offering a detailed explanation of response inhibition, tips for parents, and activities to improve this skill.

Education.com: This site offers examples and techniques for parents to use when helping their children to develop self-control.

Illinois Early Learning Project: This site provides tips for instilling impulse control in their children, as well as links to other informative sites on related topics.

National Association of School Psychologists: This handout describes important step-by-step strategies and skills for parents and teachers who are hoping to teach self-control skills to children.

Books on Response Inhibition

Cooper-Kahn, Joyce, Ph.D. and Laurie C. Dietzel. (2008). Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House. [Chapter 11]

Cox, Adam J., Ph.D. (2007). No Mind Left Behind: Understanding and Fostering Executive Control–The Eight Essential Brain Skills Every Child Needs to Thrive. New York, NY: Penguin Books. [Chapter 9]

Dawson, Peg, Ed.D. and Richard Guare, Ph.D. (2009). Smart but Scattered. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. [Chapter 11]

Kulman, Randy, Ph.D. (2012). Train Your Brain for Success: A Teenager’s Guide to Executive Functions. Plantation, FL: Specialty Press, Inc. [Chapter 7]

Richard, Gail J. and Jill K. Fahy. (2005). The Source for Development of Executive Functions. East Moline, IL: Lingua Systems.

Schwarzchild, Michael. (2000) Helping Your Difficult Child Behave: A Guide to Improving Children’s Self-Control-Without Losing Your Own. New York, NY: Authors Guild.

 

Source can be found here.

Improve Working Memory

Notepad...Working memory is the ability to keep things in mind while performing an activity. It helps in remembering while you are in the process of learning. It involves the maintenance of information in mind so that an individual can use it for planning, learning, reasoning, and producing a result. Working memory helps to hold a thought or long-term memory in mind so you can act more efficiently in the present moment. For example, working memory might involve shutting off a television and remembering to gather one’s coat and backpack before leaving a friend’s house. Improve working memory by following our recommendations below.

Home and School Situations Requiring Working Memory

  • Taking notes in class
  • Recalling plans made or an assignment due date
  • Remembering the rules to a game or sport while playing
  • Following multi-step directions at both school and at home
  • Doing math computations in one’s head
  • Recalling answers to reading comprehension questions
  • Remembering a list of chores, items, or tasks

Hints and Strategies to Improve Working Memory

1. Simplify directions as much as possible. Your child will be more likely to recall short, simple, and direct instructions. For example, saying, “When you finish those two math worksheets, you can watch one episode of ‘Adventure Time’,” is much more direct than saying “When you finish your homework you can watch some TV.”

2. Encourage your child to seek assistance from others. Emphasize to your child that it is acceptable to ask the teacher to repeat instructions or to ask a classmate to borrow their notes. Role-play these scenarios at home so that your child will feel comfortable when the situation arises.

3. Find a mode of technology that is helpful to your child. For example, use a tape recorder to record notes or directions, or a cell-phone to program in reminders and scheduling changes. Digital picture frames can show a sequence of activities that are easily forgotten, such as eating breakfast, putting dishes away, and washing up.

4. Practice verbal memory like rehearsal, chunking, or mnemonic devices. Help your child to rehearse by whispering directions or lists to him/herself. Also, practice chunking devices that can help your child to whittle down two-step instructions to one, such as brushing her teeth and washing her face together. Mnemonic devices can be especially helpful, such as how ROY G BIV is often used to recall the colors of the rainbow in order.

5. Practice reading comprehension. Read the same material as your child and then have a brief discussion about it. This may help to increase your child’s focus and stretch their memory as an active component of working memory skills.

6. Showcase your own working memory difficulties by dramatizing your strategies to compensate for them. Many adults report difficulties with working memory in simple tasks such as remembering what they meant to do when they went into the kitchen or leaving the house and forgetting something important. Use compensatory strategies such as making notes, using Post-its, asking someone else to give a reminder, or doing something immediately when it comes to mind. Exaggerating and dramatizing your strategies for compensating your own working memory difficulties may be helpful for a child who has similar difficulties.

7. Select video games for your child that require the use of working memory skills.Brain training games, such as “Mind Quiz” and “Brain Age 2,” require the use of working memory skills and visual memory tasks. Other longer narrative games, such as “The Legend of Zelda” series, require the player to keep in mind incidents and objects from earlier in the game in order to be successful in strategies on later levels. Most importantly, try and get your child to recognize how memory skills can help in games and encourage your child to try out different strategies. These strategies can include the following: visualizing what (s)he needs to remember, over-learning math facts so that they become automatic, and repeating things out loud. These strategies may help your child in a number of memory tasks.

Games and Activities That Can Practice Working Memory

Playing board games – Most board games require players to use working memory to recall rules, remember whose turn it is, and relate the spin or roll to the appropriate move. Asking your child to help you remember what happens next in the game will even further improve this working memory activity.

Grocery shopping trip – Ask your child to help you keep track of the next three or four items you have to find. Have your child count them as you find each one.

“Memory” – This card game challenges players to match pairs of cards by turning them over two at a time while they are face down, allowing your child to practice his working memory skills.

“I packed my suitcase” Game – Players in this game have to picture and remember an increasing list of items. One child starts by saying, “I packed my suitcase and in it I put a toothbrush.” The next player repeats that phrase and then adds another item. This game can continue for as long as the players enjoy adding more items, and remember what came before what they’re about to say next.

“Big Brain Academy” – This game requires your child to keep facts in mind in order to successfully play the game.

 

Source can be found here.

What are Executive Functions?

 

Executive function is like the CEO of the brain. It’s in charge of making sure things get done. When kids have issues with executive functioning, any task that requires planning, organization, memory, time management and flexible thinking becomes a challenge. The more you know about the challenges, the better you’ll be able to help your child build her executive skills and manage the difficulties.

Executive Functioning Explained and 20 Strategies for Success

Many students are now being diagnosed with executive functioning problems, and schools are scrambling to meet the needs of this population of learners. Because many teachers and administrators don’t understand the difficulties associated with this problem, countless students with these difficulties are mislabeled as careless, lazy, or unmotivated. Unfortunately, these misunderstood learners often become discouraged, and many experience feelings of helplessness, depression and anxiety.

So What Can We Do to Help?

First, we need to understand the complex nature of executive functioning. Then, we need to educate teachers and administrators on what they can do to accommodate these capable learners.

What Is Executive Functioning?

Executive Functioning (EF) is the command and control center of the brain. Much like an air traffic controller, EF manages and manipulates information traveling in and out of our consciousness. It’s a place where learned experiences and present actions connect. Another appropriate metaphor is to think of EF as the conductor of cognitive skills. EF directs the cognitive performance played by our senses.

How Does EF Impact a Learner’s Cognitive Performance?

  • Slows processing speed
  • Impairs motivation
  • Undermines stamina
  • Sabotages goal-directed persistence
  • Impedes one’s ability to hold and manipulate information
  • Blocks one’s ability to retrieve information
  • Triggers impulsive behaviors
  • Minimizes one’s ability to sustain attention

How Does EF Impact a Learner’s Emotional Regulation?

  • Minimizes one’s ability to manage frustrating situations
  • Triggers an overall negative attitude
  • Sparks feelings of anxiety
  • Blocks one’s ability to prioritize
  • Inhibits one’s ability to self-regulate

How Does EF Impact Schooling?

All of these internal difficulties can have a profound impact on a learner’s educational experience. Common manifestations include:

  • Difficulties initiating schoolwork
  • Problems recording assignments
  • Issues locating and handing in assignments
  • Problems maintaining an organized book bag, locker, and homework space
  • Trouble arriving to class on time and keeping appointments

What Are Some General Strategies that Can Help Those Who Struggle with EF?

  • Participate in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Embrace meditation and mindfulness training
  • Pursue cognitive remedial therapy in areas such as working memory and emotional regulation
  • Maintain a structured daily routine
  • Use planners and PDA technology

What Are Some Academic Solutions?

  • Create a structured routine for completing homework
  • Make to-do checklists
  • Help student motivation by offering incentives and positive reinforcement
  • Create and use graphic organizers for writing
  • Use technology, such as a smartphone, to create reminders
  • Work with someone who can help:
    • Set and monitor priorities
    • Break large assignments into manageable chunks
    • Demonstrate note-taking skills
    • Teach study skills and test-taking strategies
    • Generate memory strategies
    • Teach metacognitive skills by thinking through the process aloud

Academic Tools for Success

There are a number of tools on the market that can help support the needs of students with executive functioning challenges. Here are some free sample pages from my publication, Planning Time Management and Organization for Success. If you want to strengthen executive functioning while having fun, try my Executive Functioning Card Games.

 

Source: http://minds-in-bloom.com/executive-functioning-explained-20-strategies-success/ 

Development of our Executive Functions

Executive functions develop gradually and slowly from birth to the end of adolescence or early adulthood.

If the first manifestations of executive functions are visible from the first year of life, the process of maturation is slow and the development of these abilities also involves learning. It is therefore normal for children to have difficulty in controlling themselves, to focus their attention for a certain time, to adapt to changes, to stop an activity to start a different type of activity, to follow rules, to manage complex tasks, to give up immediate gratification …

The progressive development of executive functions explains that one or more EF deficiencies exist during childhood and persists partly in adolescents. The development of executive functions is rapid during the preschool years and accelerates again in adolescence. It must be emphasized that individual variations are common.

  • At 3 years, children are able to perform tasks that have two different rules (for example: if you see a red apple on the screen, press such button, if you see a green apple, press another button). They are able to focus their attention on one of the two rules the time necessary to reach the goal and to inhibit the other rule, the two instructions being maintained in the short-term memory.
  • While it is difficult for 3-years-old to consider several representations of the same object, from 4 years old, children can recognize an object for what it is and its resemblance to another (it is a sponge, it looks like a pebble).
  • After the age of 3, the efficiency of the inhibitory control increases, the child gradually becomes able to defer a reward to obtain a greater one. He controls his desires and emotions.
  • At age 5, the child can inhibit one rule to activate another even when it concerns two characteristics of the same object (if the red object is round, press a button, if the red object is square, press a other button). He can successfully resolve a conflict and inhibit an action that has become routine (after pressing a button several times for the red object, it must change the button if the object is also square). As memory develops, the child remembers the places and objects he has already explored, and he can think of different strategies and imagine alternatives.
  • The executive functions of 7 years old children approach those of adults, if we stick to what can be visualized in brain imaging, ie concerning the development of neural connections involved in executive control. Children of this age can focus their attention on a task. The self-regulatory capacity continues to develop between 10 years old until the end of adolescence.

The development of executive control also implies a diversification of the processes involved, a specialization (the child is gradually able to remain focused on a goal and choose the behaviors best adapted to a situation) and a control more and more self-directed ( it depends less and less on the adult and the context to self-regulate) and anticipated (he is capable of more planning).

Divergent Thinking

The goal of divergent thinking is to generate many different ideas about a topic in a short period of time. It involves breaking a topic down into its various component parts in order to gain insight about the various aspects of the topic. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that the ideas are generated in a random, unorganized fashion. Following divergent thinking, the ideas and information will be organized using convergent thinking; i.e., putting the various ideas back together in some organized, structured way.

To begin brainstorming potential topics, it is often helpful to engage in self analysis and topic analysis.

Self Analysis

Ask the following questions to help brainstorm a list of potential topics.

  1. How do I spend my time? What are my activities during a normal day?
  2. What do I know about them? What are my areas of expertise? What am I studying in school?
  3. What do I like? What are my hobbies? What are my interests?
  4. What bothers me? What would I like to change in my world or life?
  5. What are my strongest beliefs, values and philosophies?

Topic Analysis

Ask the following questions to help narrow and refine a broad topic into a specific, focused one. Substitute your topic for the word “something.”

  1. How would you describe something?
  2. What are the causes of something?
  3. What are the effects of something?
  4. What is important about something?
  5. What are the smaller parts that comprise something?
  6. How has something changed? Why are those changes important?
  7. What is known and unknown about something?
  8. What category of ideas or objects does something belong to?
  9. Is something good or bad? Why?
  10. What suggestions or recommendations would you make about something?
  11. What are the different aspects of something you can think of?

Techniques to Stimulate Divergent Thinking

1. Brainstorming. Brainstorming is a technique which involves generating a list of ideas in a creative, unstructured manner. The goal of brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible in a short period of time. The key tool in brainstorming is “piggybacking,” or using one idea to stimulate other ideas. During the brainstorming process, ALL ideas are recorded, and no idea is disregarded or criticized. After a long list of ideas is generated, one can go back and review the ideas to critique their value or merit.

2. Keeping a Journal. Journals are an effective way to record ideas that one thinks of spontaneously. By carrying a journal, one can create a collection of thoughts on various subjects that later become a source book of ideas. People often have insights at unusual times and places. By keeping a journal, one can capture these ideas and use them later when developing and organizing materials in the prewriting stage.

3. Freewriting. When free-writing, a person will focus on one particular topic and write non-stop about it for a short period of time. The idea is to write down whatever comes to mind about the topic, without stopping to proofread or revise the writing. This can help generate a variety of thoughts about a topic in a short period of time, which can later be restructured or organized following some pattern of arrangement.

4. Mind or Subject Mapping. Mind or subject mapping involves putting brainstormed ideas in the form of a visual map or picture that that shows the relationships among these ideas. One starts with a central idea or topic, then draws branches off the main topic which represent different parts or aspects of the main topic. This creates a visual image or “map” of the topic which the writer can use to develop the topic further. For example, a topic may have four different branches (sub-topics), and each of those four branches may have two branches of its own (sub-topics of the sub-topic) *Note* this includes both divergent and convergent thinking.

Source: Faculty of Washington