How to Improve Executive Function

Executive functioning resources
Here, you will find a variety of information on executive functioning. These are resources curated from around the internet designed to improve executive function. I wanted to create a space that has information on executive functioning skills that can be accessed all in one place. It is my hope that this space is one where you can find strategies and tools for addressing problems with attention, organization, task initiation, planning, prioritization, and many other mental skills that cause so many individuals to struggle. Use these tools, tips, and information to work on executive functioning by starting at the beginning!

Wondering how to improve executive function? Here are 20 online resources for understanding executive functioning skills.
Improve executive function skills in kids or adults with these strategies and tips.

If you’ve noticed anything about The OT Toolbox, it may be that I love to share a lot of tools and resources that can help parents, teachers, and of course, occupational therapists. The information in this post are resources and tools that I share on one of our Facebook pages, Executive Functioning Toolbox. Some readers who do not have access to Facebook have asked for access to this collection of information. It’s my hope that THIS can be an executive function toolbox!

Here are strategies to help the adult with executive function disorder. Many of these tips and strategies are great for teens as well.

How to Improve Executive Function

Free email course on executive functioning skills
1. First, you may want to sign up for our free Executive Functioning Skills Email Course, if you haven’t already. Over the course of 5 days, we’ll cover everything from what executive function means, to the “why” behind actions, and things that may be occurring beneath the surface in the individual with executive function disorder or simply challenges with one or more of the mental skills. You’ll also get great tips and strategies to work on executive functioning skills, too. 
Read more about what you’ll learn and sign up for the free executive functioning course here.
Use these resources to improve executive function in kids and adults.

More information and tools you can use to improve executive function:

2. There are many benefits to having kids with attention or learning challenges participate in martial arts. Here’s why martial arts can help kids with attention problems
3. Inhibition is a big part of executive functioning skills that play into many other EF skill areas like planning, prioritization, task initiation, perseverance, and more. Here are some Impulse Control Strategies.
4. Here is a self-test to help determine if you or someone else has an executive function disorder. 
5. Foresight, or the ability to think ahead, is a big part of executive functioning. This skill works together with working memory, and other skills to allow us to problem solve, plan, and prioritize tasks. Here is more on foresight and activities and games to improve foresight.

6. “Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.” Here is more information on executive function and self-regulation.

7. Here are 9 Best Apps and Sites to Improve Executive Function– These can be a helpful tool for so many!

8. Looking to add items to your child’s holiday gift list that serve a purpose? Keep these games in mind when choosing gifts for a child who struggles with executive functioning skills. 

9. An introduction to working memory: “Compared to short-term memory, working memory plays a more influential role in students’ academic performance. This is because many academic tasks involve multiple steps with intermediate solutions, and students need to remember those intermediate solutions as they proceed through the tasks. Examples of working memory tasks could include holding a person’s address in mind while listening to instructions about how to get there, or listening to a sequence of events in a story while trying to understand what the story means. In mathematics, a working memory task could involve keeping a formula in mind while at the same time using the formula to solve a math problem.”
10. Understanding what it’s like to have executive function disorder: “It only took three-and-a-half minutes of simulated executive functioning issues to bring me to tears of frustration. It still makes me panicky to think about it.”
11. This site has much information, resources, articles, and tools for addressing executive functioning skills and needs in these mental skill areas.
12. Does a lack of executive function explain why some kids fall way behind in school? This report discusses the idea.
13. Here is general info on EF skills, anatomy of executive functioning, and a quick list of instruments used to assess executive behavior.
14. What is executive function disorder, and how is it different than ADHD? Here is a nice explanation.
15. Here is an assessment of Sensory Processing and Executive Functions in Childhood..
16. Want to understand more? This article is informative: “There’s no diagnosis called executive function disorder. You won’t find it in the DSM-5, the manual clinicians use to diagnose conditions. But you can still identify weaknesses in executive function by having your child evaluated.
Executive function is complex, so it can be tricky to evaluate. But there are specific tests that look at a wide range of skills that are involved in executive function. These skills include…”

17. Wondering how executive functioning skills develop through childhood?

18. Need ideas to work on  EF skills? Here are a few completely free and no-prep games that build executive functioning skills: “Parents who want to stimulate their children’s brain development often focus on things like early reading, flashcards and language tapes. But a growing body of research suggests that playing certain kinds of childhood games may be the best way to increase a child’s ability to do well in school. Variations on games like Freeze Tag and Simon Says require relatively high
levels of executive function, testing a child’s ability to pay attention, remember rules and exhibit self ­control — qualities that also predict academic success.”

19. Need creative ways to address executive function weaknesses? This bundle of card games are helpful for improving working memory, attention to detail, response inhibition, sustained attention and mental shifting.Get a set here (affiliate link).

20. Looking for more information on executive functioning skills? Here is all of the executive functioning skills items on this website that can help.

21. Finally, here are more executive function resources.

Stay tuned for more tools being added to this page all the time.

These executive function resources can help improve skills like working memory, attention, and other executive functioning skills.

What You Need to Know About Depth Perception

Depth perception information and activities

Depth perception is a pretty amazing thing. It allows us to see the world in three dimensions; for us to crawl, navigate stairs, play catch with a ball, drive and many more activities. But what happens if our depth perception is impaired? These activities become exponentially more difficult, and may be even impossible. Read more about visual problems here.

Need information on depth perception? This visual skill is important for reading, moving, and completing tasks. This article explains what depth perception is and how to improve this visual skill.

 

What is Depth Perception?

Depth perception is a visual processing skill that allows us to perceive visual input in multiple dimensions. The American Academy of Ophthalmology describes depth perception as the ability to see things in three dimensions (including length, width and depth), and to judge how far away an object is. Read here for more information to understand this visual skill

When Does Depth Perception Develop? 

We are not born with the ability to perceive depth. In the beginning, we are only able to see two dimensions, making everything appear flat, for the first 6 months of life. During this time, our eyes are not yet working together and monocular vision is predominant. 


Around 6 months of age, our eyes begin to work together, and binocular vision, the use of the eyes together, becomes a dominant pattern.  Binocular vision patterns is what allows our brains to perceive depth and view the world in a three dimensional way.  This is because both sides of the brain are receiving input, and interpreting that information in synchrony. 


However, our depth perception must grow and develop over time as new challenges are presented.


As we move through gross motor development from rolling, to sitting, crawling and walking, our depth perception and binocular vision is constantly challenged to meet our gross motor needs. 


As the left and right sides of the brain begin to strengthen communication through the reciprocal motor patterns of crawling and walking, our binocular vision, neck strength and neck control is also then indirectly developed. 

Impact of Impaired Depth Perception

Impaired depth perception can leave a child with significant challenges in life. Individuals with impaired depth perception may struggle with sports, navigating familiar and unfamiliar spaces, and may even struggle with driving. These are just a few areas that may be impacted, but in reality, all areas of a person’s life are affected by impaired depth perception. 

Signs of Impaired Depth Perception

The signs of impaired depth perception are often very subtle and may be missed at a young age or passed off as “slow” to develop, with serious concerns being caught at an older age. 


Signs of impaired depth perception include: 


 Late to crawl or walk 
 Hesitancy or fear of surface changes 
 Resistance to going up and down stairs 
 Exaggerated stepping over lines in the floor or parking lot
 Frequent falling 
 Inability to catch/hit a ball—early anticipation or late response 
 Runs into furniture, walls or items in a familiar environment that have not changed position 
 Difficulty anticipating turns or space needed to navigate playground equipment and use ride on toys 
 Overshoot or undershoot when reaching for an item 
 Heavy footsteps or stomping up down stairs and over items/changes in floor surface 
 Frequent falling up or down stairs

How is Depth Perception Assessed? 

Due to the complexity of monocular and binocular vision, your therapist may recommend an evaluation with a developmental optometrist if they note any of the signs of depth perception impairment above. Chances are that your therapist has also noted other vision concerns during a vision screening that has lead them to suspect poor or impaired depth perception. 

Depth Perception Treatment

Depth perception impairments are treated in vision therapy as directed by a developmental optometrist or an occupational therapist with special training in vision therapy. Treatments provided by either professional utilize special equipment, lenses and activities that challenge binocular vision directly. 

Final Note on Depth Perception

Poor or impaired depth perception can be identified and addressed at any time throughout childhood. Like many vision impairments, there are a wide variety of presentations and levels of severity in which your child may present with. If left unaddressed, your child may continue to struggle with self care, sports, driving, and many other tasks later in life. If you have concerns, ask your OT for a vision screening and to discuss your concerns. 

What if you suspect vision problems?

Now what?  When vision problems are suspected after a screening by the OT, it is best practice to refer the family to a developmental optometrist.


A developmental optometrist will complete a full evaluation and determine the need for corrective lenses, vision therapy or a home program to address vision concerns.


As occupational therapists, it is imperative that we rule out vision problems before treating handwriting or delays in visual motor integration, to ensure the best possible trajectory of development and success for the child.

Occupational Therapy Vision Screening Tool

Occupational Therapists screen for visual problems in order to determine how they may impact functional tasks. Our newest Visual Screening Tool is a useful resource or identifying visual impairments. Visual screening can occur in the classroom setting, in inpatient settings, in outpatient therapy, and in early intervention or home care.
This visual screening tool was created by an occupational therapist and provides information on visual terms, frequently asked questions regarding visual problems, a variety of visual screening techniques, and other tools that therapists will find valuable in visual screenings.
This is a digital file. Upon purchase, you will be able to download the 10 page file and print off to use over and over again in vision screenings and in educating therapists, teachers, parents, and other child advocates or caregivers.
A little about Kaylee: 
Hi Everyone! I am originally from Upstate N.Y., but now live in Texas, and am the Lead OTR in a pediatric clinic. I have a bachelors in Health Science from Syracuse University at Utica College, and a Masters in Occupational Therapy from Utica College. I have been working with children with special needs for 8 years, and practicing occupational therapy for 4 years. I practice primarily in a private clinic, but have experience with Medicaid and home health settings also. Feeding is a skill that I learned by default in my current position and have come to love and be knowledgeable in. Visual development and motor integration is another area of practice that I frequently address and see with my current population. Looking forward to sharing my knowledge with you all! ~Kaylee Goodrich, OTR

Wondering what is depth perception? This article explains information about depth perception and includes strategies to help with visual processing skills.