How to Strengthen Executive Functions in Child with Autism
The skill-based modal of executive functioning helps to set clear goals that will help a child in the real world and also guide school interventions. It is also valuable for parents to select activities and challenges that they believe will engage their kids so they are most effective.
Organization, planning, attention, working memory, and self-control all fall under the umbrella of executive functioning. Each component plays a vital role in developing a self-sufficient and independent child.
Individuals on the spectrum often have specific memory strengths. Some can easily remember and store information regarding a topic of interest. However, some may struggle to execute the tasks to complete common life skills, such as brushing their teeth or getting dressed in the morning. Working memory is so essential and needed to accomplish daily tasks.
Working Memory Ideas:
- Play games such as memory or telephone.
- Chunk information into smaller parts.
- Use visuals to support a topic.
- Make a checklist of steps for a task.
- Use concise language.
- Use gestures to support an activity.
- Have the child make connections to their lives.
- Continue to review mastered skills.
- Limit distractions.
- Teach child to picture the idea you’re working on mentally.
Children need to execute organization to ensure that they can efficiently arrange materials and thoughts in an orderly fashion. I’ve found while teaching that child on the spectrum do so much better when the room is organized.
- Label important areas and things in room.
- Make sure everything has a place in the room.
- Use schedules and make sure the child are aware of the sequence of events for the day; Make sure to make the child are aware of changes to the schedule.
- Ensure that you and your staff are prepared for the day.
- Teach organization and model organization regularly.
Maintaining attention during activities is fundamental to learning. Children with autism can be easily distracted by outside stimuli and may struggle to comprehend critical information while distracted. Teaching strategies that promote attention will better ensure that the child understands the information being taught.
Attention Ideas :
- Use favourite topics during instruction.
- Use flexible seating options to guarantee that the child gets enough sensory feedback while learning, promoting attention.
- Less is more for child with autism, don’t over decorate the room, keep it simple and limit distractions.
- Use timers or transition cues.
- Teach and model active attention.
- Meet sensory needs to warrant attention, allow child to use fidgets. Repeat critical words or directives.
- Use first-then language, visuals, or both to support tasks.
A child’s ability to think of the future, create a plan, and prioritize is an important area of cognitive development.
Planning Ideas :
- Discuss with families and child goals they would like to accomplish.
- Create a step-by-step plan to achieve the goal. Frequently go over that plan with the child.
- Make sure the goals are attainable.
- Take data and use data to support results.
- Give choices and explain the outcomes of specific decisions.
- Create a self-monitoring checklist for your child.
- Allow child to use timers to stay on-task.
- Encourage movement breaks.
Problem Solving Ideas:
- Use visual supports to demonstrate emotions and social situations.
- Act out and model social situations.
- Teach the ability to make choices.
- Allow child to take a break.
- Teach child and model how to self-talk a problem.
- Have calming tools available for child. These tools can include but aren’t limited to music, headphones, fidgets, and slime.
- Use the zones of regulation.
- Create a social story for a difficult social situation.
- Use social scripts.
- Practice problem-solving.
- Teach child to be aware of their triggers.
- Have staff be aware of child’s triggers.
- Use reinforcement to encourage positive behaviours.
- Make the classroom a calm and safe place.
Our daily lives rely on executive functioning. Child on the spectrum may struggle with deficits in executive functioning. However, with the proper support and strategies, they can successfully close the gaps and lead a productive life.