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10 Ways You Can Boost Your Child's Executive Functioning (for children with ADHD)

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

  • ‘‘If your child is struggling with organisation, you can use assistive technology and collaboratively create daily (picture) schedules, annotated calendars, checklists, systems and routines. Modelling organisation, using storage equipment, labelling and colour-coding cupboards, drawers and boxes will help distinguish subjects or projects and create the habit of creating places to keep essential things. This will introduce the belief that everything has its place.

  • If your child struggles with sustained attention, you can encourage them to exercise and do sports. Exercise immediately releases norepinephrine and serotonin, which play an essential role in concentration. You can be alongside your child if they are happy with it to keep them on track, or you can use a buddy system. You can encourage your child to work in short bursts followed by movement breaks. You can remind your child that everyone has concentration lapses, that it is okay, and that you can help them get back on task. Engaging, exciting, and developmentally appropriate activities will do wonders. Quick wins, genuine specific praise, incentives, and small, tangible rewards for a well-done job are entirely necessary. Work in collaboration to increase attention gradually and sometimes stop and do something fun because your child has done so well.

  • If your child is struggling with planning and prioritisation, you can work with your child to prioritise based on urgency (ex., deadlines) and importance. You can use your child’s preferred calendar system, visual plans, checklists, and reminders. Electronic aids can be excellent tools for those who enjoy technology.

  • If your child struggles with goal-directed persistence, you can simplify processes by breaking big projects and assignments down into smaller chunks. You can reinforce focus and completion by using a reward system and slowly increasing the length of the tasks. Start with goals your child wants to work towards and provide them with something they look forward to when they finish a job or activity. Ensure quick wins when first starting with a target. Inspiration and motivation are vital. If your child is struggling with getting into a routine at home, you can start by creating one daily habit that will push them closer to their goals. Once momentum happens, you can together add one more pattern. Rewarding your child for following a routine and celebrating small wins with pre-selected motivators that work for them is essential.

  • You can work on delayed gratification if your child is struggling with response inhibition. You can use role-play scenarios and social stories that require impulse control. You can read stories about situations where people find inhibiting responses challenging and discuss the consequences of not thinking before acting. You can model, encourage and reinforce thinking before serving. If you are struggling with your child’s behaviour, please know that behaviour is communication. If you change the environment, the behaviours will change.

  • If your child struggles with emotional control, you can prepare them for what might be. You can practise coping strategies and role-play so that your child is better equipped to deal with stressful situations in the future. You can remind your child that feelings don’t last forever and express confidence in dealing with their emotions. Remind your child that they will be okay no matter what happens. Let them know that you are proud of them and that you will always be there to help them.

  • If your child struggles with flexibility, including shifting attention, you can encourage choice, control, and independence. You can provide warnings and think about things that could not go as planned and what to do in that scenario. You can introduce change gradually and reinforce successfully dealing with this. If you are struggling to remove your child from screens (ex., laptops / iPads etc.), you can give your child firm instructions before providing them with screen time. This may involve collaboratively deciding when screen time is over. An alarm or timer can aid this. You can tell your child that if they independently remove themselves from the screen, they will gain two points instead of one point towards their weekly chosen reward or pleasurable activity. You can then unexpectedly give them an extra point at the weekend just because they did well alone. Specific praise after on-task behaviour does wonders.

  • If your child is struggling with working memory, ensure you have their attention before giving them instructions. Use verbal, written, and visual reminders and schedules with the steps required. Repeat and rehearse lists and facts consistently.

  • If you struggle with your child’s time management, you can use apps to manage time, alarms, timers, and visual timekeepers. Introduce and follow a reasonably predictable, but not obsessively so, daily schedule. Ask your child how long specific tasks will take. You can invest in an Android watch or use analogue clocks. Use planners, visual reminders, and a calendar system pitched at the right level for your child.

  • If you are struggling with your child’s metacognition, encourage daily self-reflection (ex., What went well? What would you do differently next time?) and promote a growth mindset.

We know now from studies on neurodiversity that it takes (around) 66 reiterations for the neuro-distinct brain to build habits (depending on habit difficulty and/or other comorbidities).

The best way, therefore, to use the above strategies is alongside coaching. These are not standalone strategies or accommodations. They need to be tailor made, tweaked and measured regularly.

You can book a complimentary call with Anna here to speak more about your current challenges and the best way forward.


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