Frequently Asked Questions
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What are Executive Function Skills?
Executive function skills are the core set of cognitive skills required for planning, completing, and evaluating the completion of tasks, as well as overseeing our communication exchanges. These cognitive skills are typically divided into lower-level and higher-level skills. The lower-level cognitive skills refer to functions that control behavior, such as attention, motivation, and emotion regulation. The higher-level cognitive skills refer to metacognitive functions that guide behavior, such as planning, organizing, monitoring, reasoning, problem-solving, and flexibility. There are episodic memories of our experiences that we form into schemas and routines. We retrieve and flexibly apply these schemas for new communication and learning situations while we also monitor our goals, time, and use of strategies. We gradually develop these cognitive skill sets from young childhood through young adulthood.
How do students use Executive Function Skills during learning?
Executive function skills support students to develop independent learning skills by developing the following:
Plan homework, written papers, and projects
Prioritize and initiate tasks
Monitor how plans are working, problem-solve and make changes
Plan and manage time in order to complete work to meet due dates
Use strategies to manage motivation, attention, and energy levels
Manage distractions and return to tasks
Use prior experiences as a guide for completing tasks and working with others
Organize thinking during all aspects of learning and communication with teachers
Use external organizational systems to track papers and belonging
Aware when there are problems and seek resources
How can a Speech and Language Pathologist help my child who has Executive Function Difficulties?
The executive function skills are mediated by language. Even students with strong language skills who suffer from executive function problems have difficulties using their language to set goals, reason, problem-solve and mediate completion of tasks. While there is a large market of organizational tools that can be useful for some students, many students with executive function difficulties need to develop metacognitive and organized language skills in order to benefit from tools that suit their particular learning styles. This supports the idea that executive function therapy goes “beyond the backpack”. Students develop the language skills for understanding, analyzing and applying more efficient strategies that help them become more efficient, independent learners.
Does my child need a Speech and Language Evaluation?
It depends. We recommend that most children complete the formal evaluation process so that we can get to know your child and the various aspects of their schooling, their language, and executive function skills. If you have already had a formal evaluation done by another Speech and Language Pathologist, we would be happy to review it and use that as a starting point.