Interventions and Supports to Address Executive Function Problems
We have introduced the many types of skills and abilities that are part of the executive functions in areas of metacognition (thinking and problem solving) and the regulation of behavior. Typically, EF skills such as planning ability start to emerge as young as two years of age, while more mature aspects of EF are evident by ten to twelve years of age. However, children with deficits in EF may not develop the skills needed to interact appropriately with their environment, resulting in a variety of cognitive, social, and academic problems.
Targeting Goals for Intervention
Children with EF deficits may demonstrate problems in a number of areas that can affect academic and social functioning, including problems with initiating, organizing, monitoring, and evaluating task performance as well as regulating behavior and emotions. Given the range of possible difficulties, it is important to isolate which of the problems listed are part of the child's dysfunction and then effectively target those areas to help the child improve. The majority of skills can be taught by direct instruction through increasing the child's awareness and then systematically teaching the child how to develop the necessary skill set. In general, the most important aspect of intervention for EF deficits will be to introduce the child to strategies that can be used to effectively apply problem solving skills to goal-directed activities.
Teaching a child to break a task down into smaller steps will allow the child to develop a set of routines for problem solving and a repertoire of problem solving skills that are familiar and successful. Initially, the coach guides the child by asking relevant and leading questions, which the child will eventually learn to ask independently. With practice, the child will begin to internalize these steps, and ultimately, the coach should be able to step aside and cue the child to draw on his own set of questions when that is appropriate.
Did You Know
Parents, teachers, and peers can all serve as coaches for children who have difficulties with problem solving by modeling appropriate problem-solving strategies. They can also teach children to monitor the results as they attempt to apply the skills they have learned to new situations in their daily activities.
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