The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation. Executive functions help you manage life tasks of all types. For example, executive functions let you organise a trip, what you will wear for the day or an assignment for school. Often, when we think of problems with executive functioning, we think of disorganisation. However, organisation is only one of these important skills. Other abilities that come under the umbrella term of executive functioning are emotional control, sustained attention, time management and planning.
These skills begin to develop in the brain at early infancy and continue to develop and mature well into adolescence and early adulthood. A person’s executive functioning abilities are shaped by both physical changes in the brain and by life experiences, in the classroom and in the world at large. It is important to highlight that when these neural connections are taking place in the brain at a young age, if they are not retained and made more efficient, they will be lost. Therefore it is critical that parents and teachers help children practice and learn these skills for these skills to continue developing into adolescence and adulthood.
How Executive Skills are Assessed:
The following methods are used to assess executive functioning skills:
- Parent Questionnaires
- Self Questionnaires (where applicable)
- Teacher Questionnaires
- Clinical observations by the therapist during the assessment
These methods help us to create a picture of how these skills are affecting the child/adolescent/teenager’s ability to function to the best of these capabilities.
How the therapist approaches therapy and why?
We are a client-centred profession; what your child does, thinks and feels is central to the therapy process. In collaboration with you and your child, goals will be set to develop executive functioning skills. Examples include planning, organisation, time management, etc. We design interventions that motivate your child to engage and to develop skills in a fun and interesting way. We support your child to develop strategies to encourage independence in their daily activities, e.g. getting their belongings ready for school or leisure activities, organising their time table, etc. It is important to note that developing skills that will help them in school work can be achieved through other activities, such as sports and crafts.
How you can help
Having a balanced lifestyle is important in the development of executive functioning skills. How do you help your child balance their time between school/rest and play? The solution is to incorporate a healthy lifestyle plan that is designed to ensure they have balance in their life. A balanced lifestyle ensures that your child gets enough sleep, takes regular exercise, eats a balanced healthy diet, drinks water and engages in regular leisure activities that are meaningful for them.
Contact the clinic on 021 4321 729 to speak to one of our therapists about executive functioning and for further information about how to help your child achieve a balanced lifestyle.