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Executive Functioning


What is Executive Function

Some people describe executive function as “the management system of the brain.” That’s because the skills involved let us set goals, plan, and get things done. When people struggle with executive function, it impacts them at home, in school, and in life.

There are three main areas of executive function. They are:

  1. Working memory

  2. Cognitive flexibility (also called flexible thinking)

  3. Inhibitory control (which includes self-control)

Executive function is responsible for many skills, including:

  • Paying attention

  • Organizing, planning, and prioritizing

  • Starting tasks and staying focused on them to completion

  • Understanding different points of view

  • Regulating emotions

  • Self-monitoring (keeping track of what you’re doing)

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Support for Executive Function in School


Individualized Education Plan (IEP) via Special Education*

  • Data-based assessment of student’s present levels of functioning in executive functioning (ie. the student’s needs and how disability in this area impacts progress in the curriculum)

  • Goals in IEP related to executive functioning (Ex. “Given a complex task, the student name will organize the task on paper, including the materials needed, the steps to accomplish the task, and a time frame” or “The student will briefly write out steps prior to beginning a project or complex task with 80% accuracy as measured by teacher observation.”)

  • Progress monitoring in IEP to see if student is meeting individualized goals to grow in skills and close gap with peers

  • Services of specialized teachers to teach your child how to achieve their individualized goals and monitor their progress towards meeting goals

  • Monitoring teacher who oversees student’s performance and challenges in all classes. Also coordinates support between student, parent & educators.

  • Classes with an In Class Support teacher for additional support, additional tutorials, etc.

  • Structured study hall led by special education teacher who also interfaces with student’s teachers

  • Accommodations to address student’s unique needs in IEP such as “Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk” or “Large, easy-to-read, erasable color-coded calendar for projects, long-term assignments, meetings, events, activities, chores, etc”

504 Plan

  • Accommodations as noted above in IEP plan


* Reminder: All services provided via special education should be provided in the least restrictive environment, which is a typical classroom whenever possible. Special education is a service, not a place.

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