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Staying on Track: Executive Functioning
Penny Angelo

Dr. Kimberly Harrison, a local clinical psychologist, spoke to AOS parents about executive functioning skills and how they can help their children to improve their abilities and stay on track. Many students struggle with planning, organizing, and moving from task to task without procrastinating, and these daily procedures can become overwhelming as schoolwork increases and becomes more complex over time. Dr. Harrison explained the ins and outs of executive functioning and provided some solutions to parents who may have observed their child struggling in this area.

Dr. Harrison first outlined the six main executive functions, how different people approach them, and what might impair executive functioning. The functions include: self‐management to time, initiating, planning and organizing, thinking and problem solving, working memory and cognitive flexibility, organization of materials, and shifting from task to task. Some individuals approach tasks in a logical and linear way, while others take a more creative approach and gather information while working in a more circular way. Sometimes, depression, anxiety, external conflicts, ADHD, and simply “the teenage brain” can inhibit an individual’s executive functioning.

Dr. Harrison explained that the best way for parents to help their children is to avoid opportunities to enable the behavior. She reinforced that ultimately, the child must put in the work to improve their skills and parents and teachers should assist where necessary and slowly taper off the help as a child learns to work independently. Dr. Harrison gave two major tips to parents. Younger children thrive on routine and schedule and this will help them in the long run. It is important to have a system in place for them to manage their time and behavior both at home and at school. For older children, Dr. Harrison recommended various reminder options whether it be electronic notifications, Post-it notes, or agendas.

In the final portion of her presentation, Dr. Harrison discussed how parents can best help their children with school work. She shared better ways to give auditory instructions, how to adequately manage breaks between working sessions, organizational techniques for managing assignments, and even a series of apps that can help children to limit the distractions brought on by constant internet browsing. 

Dr. Harrison’s presentation was extremely helpful for parents, and everyone walked away with several valuable tips and tricks to help their children in the area of executive functioning. To learn more about this presentation, or to find more information about Parent Ed, visit the Parent Ed resource board.

 

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