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Promoting executive function


Snowfall
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My dd is 6.5 and could really, really, really use some work in this area, lol. I read a year or two ago about the Tools program being used in some pre-school and K programs, and now that I've been reading the book Nurture Shock, I've been reminded of it. I sort of let it slide back when I first read about it because dd was littler and I wasn't sure how one would implement anything like that at home anyway. I figured she'd grow into a little bit of self-control by now (a little - I promise my expectations aren't developmentally inappropriate!). It's not really happening, though, and now I'm wondering what I can do at home with a class size of 1 and only 1 sibling, who's a baby and much too young to be involved in any sort of planned playing.

 

Whatever we do, it simply cannot be something that is going to require other children. While we do get out of the house for classes and activities, we aren't in any position that would allow me to set up the sort of situations that would have children planning their playtime and sustaining it for any amount of time. It's not possible. At least, not more than for a week or two a year, when my sister's kids come stay with us for a while. So what can I do? My daughter would really benefit from improving her executive function. Really, really, really! Help.

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Whatever we do, it simply cannot be something that is going to require other children. While we do get out of the house for classes and activities, we aren't in any position that would allow me to set up the sort of situations that would have children planning their playtime and sustaining it for any amount of time. It's not possible. At least, not more than for a week or two a year, when my sister's kids come stay with us for a while. So what can I do? My daughter would really benefit from improving her executive function. Really, really, really! Help.

 

I had to read it twice... what is the idea of the program again?

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Ok, here is a book list:

 

http://www.parentbooks.ca/Executive_Function.html

 

Articles recommended by the neurologist who said my son has problems in this area:

 

http://www.schoolbehavior.com/disorders/executive-dysfunction/overview-of-executive-dysfunction/

 

http://www.klis.com/chandler/pamphlet/executive%20functioning/Executive%20Functioning.htm

 

Will post more in a few mins, sil called.

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I have never heard of this. What is executive function and why do you want to do it?

 

Executive function is kind of like self-control, but more than that. It's the ability to plan, to follow through, to consider consequences...lots of things. :) In the Tools programs, when kids are turned loose to play, they have to write a play plan. So if, as in the book example, the teacher has decided they're going to play firefighters for the next hour, she has set up 3 different play areas, all related to firefighters. Maybe one is the house that's on fire, one is the fire truck, and one is the fire station. Then the kids have to decide what part they want to play in this game. Each child has to turn in a sentence or two describing what they'll be, like, "I am going to be a mother whose house is on fire," or whatever. Then they have to sustain that play, each in their decided roles, for one hour.

 

It's not just about play, of course, but that's the example I read in both the book and the article. The kids also have to take turns analyzing each other's work, listening to each other read, and all kinds of other things. What they've found is that the kids who go through this program not only perform MUCH better on standardized tests, but have fewer behavioral problems.

 

Obviously, this isn't something I can replicate at home, but my daughter has some issues with executive function that I don't believe are developmentally appropriate for her age. I'd like to work on that at home. :)

 

Thanks so much for all that info, Zenz!

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Just going off the cuff here, but you could practice by thinking of a goal and then having her list things she could do to reach the goal and then checking off as she goes along until reaching the goal.

 

For instance: Make your bed

 

1. pull up the sheet

2. pull up the blanket

3. pull up the bedspread

4. put pillows on the bed

5. put stuffed animals on the bed

 

 

This would be a very easy one, but I think the key is getting them to think of the goal and listing the steps themselves (so they have to actually think through in their mind what it takes to get to that goal) and then following through all the steps without getting distracted until the goal has been attained.

 

Does that make sense?

 

These are the kinds of things the neurologist explained to us for his age (which was 5 at the time).

 

Basically coming up with a goal, he thinks of what steps it takes to reach that goal and he works on those steps until they are done. The hard part is always getting him to stay on task with the steps and not go off to do something else in the middle of it all.

 

Admittedly we have not practiced this as much as we probably should!

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We've been talking about executive function issues on the special needs board, so you might like to head over there. Basically, if you're seeing this, you're looking at ADD/ADHD, which means anything for those labels will be helpful to you too. There's no reason to deal with this alone, and certainly that complicated play structure you described is not your only option. You have everything from meds to therapy treatments that work the affected parts of the brain to... That play stuff you described to me is more of a coping mechanism. I do those things with my dd anyway. But Cogmed, PACE cognitive therapy, IM, OT (for spd), there are lots of things you can do to move it a bit. We saw improvement as a side effect of VT. The VT works those parts of the brain, so it improves. She started remembering to feed the dog and all sorts of things she never did before.

 

If they have poor working memory, you're not going to have much success working with so many steps.

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I purchased the Tools of the Mind book http://www.amazon.com/Tools-Mind-Vygotskian-Childhood-Education/dp/0130278041/ref=pd_sim_b_1 to try to learn more but I was overwhelmed with how to implement anything like it in my home. I've not looked at the book in several years and it was covered in dust in a stack of books under my "2nd" desk. I'm going to dust the thing off and see if there is anything that might be helpful for me or you--or do you already have they book?

 

Science shows the brain is plastic and able to learn if things are missed early on. I say that because homeschooling gives us a unique opportunity to remediate things at older ages than might be possible for a schooled child. So, in my mind, if you do the preschool/K things at early elementary it's still beneficial. As far as lack of playmate siblings and etc.--one of my kids is on the autism spectrum so he's not developmentally/socially ready for the late preschool/early K stuff even now though he's closer than he was back then. I think parent as playmate in the pretend scenarios has to be beneficial. It's not the same as peer of course and I think if you can find peers--especially multiple age peers--that she can play with regularly that would be ideal even if there wasn't a formal program in place. Neurotypical kids sort of naturally do this stuff left to their own devices anyway I think/I've noticed.

Edited by sbgrace
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PMed you about my copy...My dh used to play certain games with my ds to practice some exec skills: Simon Says, where you have to NOT do something based on what Simon says - that used to be *very* difficult for him. Also, Follow the leader type games. I'll ask him later if he can remember what other games we'd play. It really helped in learning self-control for situations we couldn't practice, like children's church class once a week.

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