I’ve been lurking in Facebook groups, asking a lot of questions and it seems like SO many families are struggling with remote learning. I’m hearing things like, missing work, struggling to focus, refusing to do work, feeling overwhelmed… any of that sound familiar?
For those who aren’t familiar, executive function is the skill set that includes working memory, flexible thinking and self-control. We need these types of skills to be able to “adult” efficiently. Deficits in this area can look like trouble focusing, following directions, regulating emotions, planning and organizing tasks, getting distracted in the middle of a task. These skills are not just important for school they are important for employment and independent living too. If you are assigned a project and you lack time management skills, you can’t plan and organize… you probably won’t keep your job!
Remote learning adds another twist to this deficit because there is a lack of connection over a computer. In school, these types of things can be redirected a little easier, at home our kids are left on their own to tackle these things. Or parents are left in charge… and that’s just hard!
Let’s talk about how we can support executive function learning at home too.
- Staying organized is huge part of executive function and one of my favorite tips is the use of post its. If you come in my office, you’ll see a wall of post its. I write down everything. I have it organized into things to do, important details, upcoming events etc and once I’ve completed a task, I take it down. In school using the post it system is good for many reasons. Our kids all have an assignment book, but it’s not in their face, so it’s easy to close and forget. Post its in front of your face are bigger reminders of upcoming tasks. If they are working on a long term project, using post it’s to keep track of where you left off can help. If they are reading a book and need to take notes, but struggle with working memory, taking notes on a post it as you go through the book, helps them remember the details they need for the bigger project.
Speaking of big projects, how many of you have an accommodation in your IEP or 504 to chunk up assignments? I’m betting a lot of you do! This is really common, but instead of having the teacher chunk up the assignments, we can support our kids through this by helping them set small due dates for themselves. This is a life skill! We all need to know how to manage time, organize and plan projects. I like to use a planner for this but also write down reminder post its so it’s in my face. Even if the big assignment isn’t due for a month, if we can break it up into 4 smaller more manageable tasks, the assignment is a little more manageable.
Anyone have a kiddo overwhelmed by the amount of links and tabs? Yep. Mine too. One of the things that works well is creating a spreadsheet of zoom links. Especially for older kids who are switching classes, this is a time saver because they don’t have to click through a bunch of tabs to get to the next zoom link. Another option is to open up all the classes, assignments etc in different tab for each class. Once one class is over, you make your post it about assignments or expectations and close that tab for the day, then move to the next tab. You have your post it’s to remind you what needs to be done, but there is less clicking throughout the day. You use the zoom spreadsheet and then head to your class tab, but everything is already laid out for you.
Time management is another hard one. I have a kiddo who is frequently a min tardy to class. What we have done is set a timer on his phone. The timer goes off 1 min before the next class starts. You can use Alexa or the Remind app too but find something that works well for your kiddo. A big thing I hear is that our kids don’t want us nagging them, and let’s be honest, I don’t want to nag either! I have more important things to do than remind you 5 times to get to class. Allowing them to set the reminders or timers gives them independence but we are teaching healthy habits they can take into adulthood.
You all know I love check lists. One of the things I’m hearing also is kids are completing the work and not turning it in. Create a check list as a visual reminder of what the process is. You can use words or pictures, but creating a short checklist helps our kids finish out a task. I mean how disappointing is it to do all the work and then forget or be so overwhelmed you don’t turn it in? If that was me, I would have a hard time continuing to do the work when I was getting less points for it. To make a visual check list you can screen shot each section and print it or use bullet points to write down what those steps are. Some kids may benefit from actually checking things off the list, so putting the checklist in a cover sheet and using dry erase may be an option.
A lot of this is building healthy habits and for some of our kids who are struggling with planning, we have to break things up into easy to follow steps. As a working parent, I know I do not have time to sit with each of my kids and stay on top of them for every single task. Your child’s teachers may be more involved in elementary school, but in middle school or high school these skills become really important. Creating these habits now will allow them to be independent later. IDEA law says our childrens IEP should be setting them up for further education, independent living and employment. Executive function skills are ESSENTIAL to being successful for all of those things. If your child is struggling with remote learning, these executive function skills may be part of the problem. We should not be just adding in accommodations to cover this either, we may need annual goals or training for kids and parents to help get us through all of that. Yep, parent training too. Did you know there is a whole section in the IEP for parent training? Need to learn how to zoom? Not sure how to navigate the tabs? Want to be able to support your child learning those executive function skills at home? You can absolutely team up with the school so that you are prepared for what your child needs right now.
Right now I am opening up IEP assessments again until Friday and they are discounted too! In the IEP Assessment, I will be looking for opportunities for improvement with executive functioning in mind!
This assessment includes:
- 30-minute consultation where we identify your parent or teacher goals and concerns,
- Prioritize of accommodations (even during remote learning)
- A complete review of the IEP
- The exact special education language you need to use
- At least 3 specific things you can add or change in the IEP to maximize progress and increase executive functioning skills.
While you are hanging out on my website, you want to check out the 4 part behavior series too! SO many of our ADHD kiddos are struggling with challenging behavior at school. And as a parent, I used to avoid the phone calls from school because I knew there was MORE negative coming from that other line. I knew my kiddo needed help, but I didn’t know how to support him or what to ask for. I’ve created a 4 part series on behavior at school just for you, so that when we return, you understand the process of how schools handle behavior and what you can do to support your child.
After this series you will know
- What to ask for when your child is struggling with behavior
- How school handles behavior
- What the FBA should be identifying
- How to dissect your child’s BIP so that it supports their unique needs
- Classroom strategies that don’t include a clip chart!
The next live chat is September 23. We will be talking about Does my child need an IEP? How do I get one?
For parents who are new to school, or parents who know their kids are struggling. Let’s talk about the process to get more support for our children at school.
As always, if you need more 1:1 support you are welcomed to set up a time for us to chat. I look forward to working with you. https://calendly.com/nicoleschlechteradvocacy