Executive Functioning

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Executive Functioning

We assess strengths and weaknesses and tailor plans for students who need support with academic transitions, transitioning to college, executive functioning, and academic skills coaching.

Our executive functioning coaches get to know students, propose a tailored plan to their needs and work with them one-on-one until their established goals are met. Some of the key skills students learn include the below skills.

  • Organizational systems and time management
  • Metacognition, working memory, and mental flexibility
  • Study strategies, problem-solving and note-taking
  • Goal-directed, persistence, sustained attention, and task initiation
  • Response inhibition and emotional control

For a full list of skills taught, including sample student projects to see those skills in action, scroll to the bottom of this page. 

How we can help:

Executive Functioning Coaching

Some students who understand course content still don’t see the success they would like.  Succeeding in education happens after mastering abilities beyond subject matter like organization, time management, and study skills. By working with students on these fundamentals, we help them reach their potential in school and set them up for success in academic, entrepreneurial, or personal pursuits.

Academic Transitions

When students make a transition, whether changing grades, changing towns or simply taking on a new extra-curricular activity, it’s common for them to experience bumps in the road as demands on their attention and time shift. We’ll help them learn key skills to face challenges with tools like time management, mental flexibility, emotional control, and organization.

Transitioning to College

Even students who excelled in high school may struggle to keep up with the rigor of college coursework and independent learning. We provide action plans for students to support them with the most common challenges, including managing heavy course loads, living independently, and balancing their time. (See our College Transitions Hub.)

Academic Coaching

Sometimes a student needs extra support from a trusted source to make sure they can effectively manage weekly assignments, extra-curriculars, and larger projects. Your child’s academic coach or tutor can give them that organizational boost by setting aside time to focus on the big picture in addition to working on specific subject matter.

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Executive Functioning in Action

Skills We Build

  • Planning and Prioritization

    We hear from parents all the time that children wait until the last minute to study or that they put off major projects. When children are overwhelmed by large tasks, get lost in the details, or lose sight of the big picture, we can give them tools to make a manageable plan and appropriately prioritize steps to success.

  • Organization

    Students who need to work on organization lose time because they can’t find what they need—be it a pencil or the answer to a question. We know how to create an individualized system complete with a plan for ongoing maintenance and will collaborate with your child to figure out what works for them.

  • Time Management

    It’s possible that a child who struggles with time management may be a great planner—but sticking to a plan proves challenging due to their lack of time awareness. Helping students be more aware of how they use time addresses common problems like missed deadlines, lateness, and an inability to accommodate scheduling changes.

  • Memory

    Students who do not have good memories lose track of what to do and when to do it even if they have a realistic plan. They may also struggle with retaining information. The good news is that memory is elastic in adolescents, and the environmental supports that EF coaches design can also go a long way in assisting students while they work to increase their retention abilities.

  • Self-Reflection

    Students who are not in the habit of reflection may turn in work that contains errors or does not fully represent their understanding. They are likely unaware of their strengths and weaknesses, which makes it difficult to establish academic strategies that work well for them. Our EF coaches conscientiously build reflection into our program so that students can come to really know themselves as learners therefore working more efficiently and effectively.

  • Paying Attention

    Students who struggle with attention may find themselves pulled to their phone or other distractions or may simply daydream. These students often have excess energy. We can teach students to identify and better understand their own attention span and needs so that they can work more efficiently and with greater focus.

  • Staying on Track

    For many students, delayed gratification is a challenge. They know why they need to take action but can find it difficult to push through to the completion of a goal and not be put off by difficulties or competing interests. Our coaches help students keep long-term goals present and identify clear short-term goals so that it’s easier to see progress and stay motivated.

  • Self-Control

    Students who lack self-control may act before they think or do the first thing that comes to mind. They may also find that their emotions overpower them at times. Through teaching mindfulness and setting clear expectations, our coaches support students in developing self-control.

  • Getting Started

    Procrastination is a challenge for many students, whether it’s simply starting work and shifting between tasks. Oftentimes, procrastination is closely linked to being overwhelmed, not knowing where to start, or finding a task otherwise unpleasant. The routines, plans, cues, and motivation building that our coaches do all make it easier for students to get going.

  • Cognitive Flexibility and Problem Solving

    Successful students know how to adjust an approach in response to new information, setbacks, obstacles or mistakes. Students who are unable to approach problems from multiple angles can be stymied when their first approach doesn’t work. Encouraging flexible problem solving helps foster a growth mindset.

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Sample Student Projects

  • Develop a Passion Project: Build a “Kid Cave”

    Passion projects can be a wonderful way to build executive functioning skills authentically and in a way that feels less burdensome to students than schoolwork. Recently, one student wanted to build a “boy cave,” a spot in his home just for him, and worked with an EF coach to plan and execute his vision, working through all aspects of the project from time management and organization to problem-solving through the tricky parts. Who said learning can’t be fun? Your child’s passion project may not be a “kid cave,” but whatever they want to accomplish, our coaches can help them engage lifelong skills along the way. Below are the EF skills this particular student developed:

    - Planning and Prioritization: Before any work could happen, the student needed to know the details of what they were working towards and identify the steps to get there.

    - Time Management: In laying out a summer plan, the student estimated the time required for each step and planned out steps out on a calendar so that he could reach his goal by his self-imposed deadline.

    - Staying on Track: Without external deadlines or consequences, the student learned to hold himself accountable.

    - Getting Started: Each week, the summer offered distractions from his goal, but the student and coach worked together to make sure he started in the week’s steps toward carrying out his plan.

    - Organization: Because this project happened in physical space, organizing materials was necessarily a part of the work.

    - Cognitive Flexibility and Problem Solving: With large projects, there are always setbacks and this student’s coach helped him stay positive as he adjusted his plan through to completion.

  • The Fall 2020 Executive Functioning Webinar Series

    Develop as a Writer

    Writing is a skill that students need to hone for success across disciplines and which calls upon a range of executive functions. For students who often find themselves tackling writing projects at the last minute or those who have great ideas but struggle to get them on paper, the structure and clear process that our EF coaches teach can have a multidisciplinary impact and position kids well for both AP and college classes which rely heavily on writing. Writing well necessarily involves the following EF skills:

    - Planning and Prioritization: Good writing happens in multiple steps including brainstorming, gathering evidence, outlining, editing, proofreading, and soliciting feedback.

    - Organization: We often think organization happens primarily in the physical sense, but ideas also need organizing! Building coherent paragraphs that ultimately support a well-developed goal takes practice.

    - Time Management: For many kids, the writing process can get backed up because they don’t have a good sense of how long it takes to effectively complete the required steps. Building an awareness of time is a critical component of writing.

    - Self-Reflection: The kind of task monitoring that allows students to catch errors of grammar and syntax only happens when students are in the habit of reviewing their work.

    - Cognitive Flexibility: Openness to larger edits such as moving paragraphs around for the sake of the argument or adjusting a thesis when the evidence calls for that are reliant on cognitive flexibility.

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    Keep Up as a High Performer

    Because the parts of our brain that govern EF skills aren’t fully developed until we reach our early twenties, even the most successful students stand to benefit from support. In fact, children who are balancing the demands of accelerated academics and extracurricular activities can benefit immensely from the personalized systems and structures that EF coaches can help them develop, leading to greater efficiency, confidence, and flexibility. These are some of the kinds of EF skills that we can help strong students hone:

    - Planning and Prioritization: The more students have on their plate, the more critical it is that they be able to appropriately balance commitments and make good decisions about how to break down larger tasks into smaller steps and determine deadlines. A particular skill to develop may well be deciding when a task is not, in fact, important.

    - Time Management: Overbooked students may have a tendency to run late as they squeeze productivity into each small moment. An EF coach can help ambitious students be realistic about what they can actually get done.

    - Self-Reflection: Having a strong grasp of their own strengths and weaknesses and how those impact the best approach to learning can lead to high performing students working with more efficiency and less stress.

    - Cognitive Flexibility and Problem Solving: When every minute of the day is booked, unexpected challenges or last minute scheduling changes can be difficult for students to accommodate. Focusing on flexibility can lessen day-to-day anxiety.

    - Memory: Even the sharpest minds can only hold a finite amount of information in working memory. Having strong systems of to-do lists can help students free up space in their brains to focus on more challenging or creative tasks.

  • How to Encourage Your Child’s Academic Motivation

    Transition Smoothly to College

    For many students, college is both the first time that their EF skills need to stand solely on their own and the least structured environment they’ve been in. Our EF coaches can provide direction as children navigate this challenging time—offering ideas about how to take advantage of the support structures at college and guiding the process of building EF systems. Some of the EF needs we see most often when working with college students are as follows:

    - Planning and Prioritization: College offers a wide variety of opportunities ranging from social to academic to athletic, and students are simultaneously managing their own physical and mental health for the first time. Juggling everything without forgetting to eat well and do your laundry requires planning and prioritization skills.

    - Time Management: Students typically go from having about 30 hours of contact time with their instructors in high school to half of that in college as “homework” expectations typically double or triple. It’s critical that students have an accurate awareness of time.

    - Organization: Campus layouts, books, digital resources, and notes are just some of the elements that college students need to learn to manage without parents or teachers offering daily reminders or guidance. Our EF coaches can fill in that gap.

    - Self-Control and Staying on Track: Social opportunities are available 24/7 at college, so students need to consistently choose to stay on track. EF coaches help them keep their goals and values front of mind so it’s easier to make those choices wisely.

    - Getting Started: While high school teachers often assign projects in steps, most college professors do not. It’s up to the student to begin working on an essay earlier than the night before it’s due; our EF coaches are here to help reduce the number of all-nighters that your children need to pull to achieve the success they’re looking for.

    See our College Transitions Hub
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