Executive functioning skills are essential for individuals to navigate the complex demands of daily life. From planning and organizing to decision-making and problem-solving, these cognitive processes enable us to achieve our goals effectively and efficiently. However, many individuals struggle with executive functioning, which can hinder their independence and success in various areas of life. The good news is that even small changes and strategies can have a significant impact on improving executive functioning abilities.
This year in my ADL classroom, I thought a lot about how to increase executive functioning skills while teaching the typical “ADL” skills you would think like cooking, cleaning, and maintaining a living space. Personally, I feel like executive functioning skills are going to be what truly make our student independent, so that they can carry out their activities of daily living.
When individuals are able to monitor their own behaviors and progress towards goals without relying on external cues or reminders, they gain a sense of autonomy and control over their lives. This ability to independently assess one’s performance allows for adjustments and improvements without needing constant supervision or guidance from others. Self-monitoring empowers individuals to make informed decisions based on their own observations and evaluations.
In my classroom, I tried to incorporate ways to have student self-monitor their organization in different areas of the classroom. I used these organization templates, where I would just take a picture of the area organized, and then place the picture on to the template. I would put the visual on to a binder ring, and hang it in the area. This is pretty easy to make yourself, but I do have a template available in the resource vault.
Another way we incorporated self-monitoring was in our daily money token economy. As with any well-run token economy, it was important for my students to know exactly what behaviors were going to earn them their money. However, having students really reflect on whether or not they met the behavior was what helped with long-term, lasting change in their behavior. You can purchase my money token economy pack here.
Timers serve as external cues that help individuals better understand the passage of time and make them more aware of how they allocate their valuable minutes. By setting specific time limits for tasks or activities using timers, individuals are encouraged to break down complex tasks into manageable chunks and prioritize their work accordingly. This not only trains the brain to allocate resources more effectively but also promotes independence by reducing reliance on reminders or constant supervision from others.
There are definitely a variety of timers that are available. A simple kitchen timer can work, but you can also incorporate visuals timers. These really help students see how much time is left and helps them develop a better understanding of how much time they have left to complete a task.
Target Executive Functioning Using Visuals
Visuals are a simple way to help students increase executive functioning in the classroom. They are low tech, and easy to implement in to your students’ day-to-day routines. For example, the priorities list in my executive functioning visuals pack helps students organize themselves. Personally, I have used the “materials needed” visual countless times with students as a means to plan and organize themselves before starting work.
It can seem tedious to incorporate executive functioning skills into your life skills classroom, I know. With a little bit of planning, it doesn’t have to be difficult.
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