Wondering about what are executive functioning skills? Today, I’m very excited to share a mini course that I’ve been working on behind the scenes. This Free Executive Functioning Skills Course is a FREE, 5-day email course that will help you understand executive functioning and all that is included in the set of mental skills.
So often, therapists are asked to explain executive functioning. Parents are looking for insight and how to help kids who struggle with the underlying areas that play a part in attention, organization, working memory, impulse control, and the other executive functioning skills. Teachers are looking for strategies to use in the classroom while understanding exactly what makes up executive functioning and how to help disorganized kids in the classroom.
Does any of these scenarios sound familiar?
This free executive functioning skills course will cover all of the above and describe strategies to help.
Executive Functioning Skills Course
If you have ever wondered how to help kids who struggle with:
Disorganization leading to impulsive actions and inattention in the classroom
The child that struggles to plan ahead and be prepared for the day
The child that lacks insight to cross a busy street without looking both ways
The student that loses their homework and important papers every day
The kiddo that just can’t get simple tasks done like cleaning up toys on the playroom floor
The child that focuses on other kids rather than a classroom assignment and then doesn’t finish in a given time
The kiddo that is constantly late because he can’t prioritize morning tasks like brushing teeth, eating breakfast, and getting dressed.
Do any of THESE scenarios sound familiar?
So often, we KNOW kids are struggling with mental tasks that limit their functioning, safety, and learning. Here’s the thing: executive functioning skills develop over time. Kids aren’t instinctively able to organize, plan, prioritize, or use self-control. These skills occur with age, time, and use.
But, for the child that struggles in any one area, so many tasks that require executive functioning skills suffer. As a result, we see problems with social-emotional skills, self-consciousness, frustration, anxiety, or more!
Information on Executive Functioning Skills, right in your inbox!
So, if you are wondering about executive functioning skills…or want to know more about how executive functioning skills work together in learning and everyday activities…join us in the free 5-day executive functioning skills email course!
A little more information on the executive functioning skills email course:
This course is entirely email-based. All you have to do is open your email and read!
You’ll discover the “why” behind executive functioning, what to do about impulsivity, tips and tools, and loads of resources related to executive functioning skills.
We’ll cover impulse control, including how we use all of the executive functioning skills along with self-control and self-regulation strategies to “get stuff done”.
This email course doesn’t have homework or tests. This mini-course is informative and low-key.
Enter your email in the form below to confirm your subscription to the email course and you’ll be on your way.
Disclaimer: This email mini-course does not provide continuing education units or professional development units. The course is not intended to treat or evaluate any executive functioning or impulse control needs. This mini-course is intended for information purposes only. The reader is responsible for any action or consequence as a result of strategies listed in the email mini-course or on this website. The OT Toolbox and it’s author are not responsible for any results of actions taken as a result of reading this website or it’s email or social media outlets.
Know someone who would be interested in this free executive functioning skills course? Share the images below and let them know!
What is impulse control and what is normal development of impulsivity in child development?
Speaking out of turn. Pushing into a classmate in the bathroom line. Interrupting adult conversations. Grabbing a toy from a friend. Impulse control in kids can look like a lot of different things. But what is normal self-control in kids and what is considered impulsivity that interferes with social interactions and emotional wellness? Below we’re going to discuss what is impulse control and how to begin to work on impulsivity strategies so kids can succeed in learning and social situations. Helping kids learn impulse control can be tricky! It helps to understand what impulsivity looks like, what is normal development, and other considerations.
The definition of Impulse control is as varied as we are as individuals. The thing is, we are all driven by different desires and internal ambitions. Impulse control generally refers to the ability to control oneself, especially one’s emotions and desires. The way these impulses present is expressed as actions, thoughts, behaviors and can occur in any situation but especially in difficult situations.
Impulse control requires self-regulation, internal drive, coping strategies, and other internal skills in order to filter impulses as they present in various situations.
Impulse control disorder
In order to present with a diagnosis of an impulse control disorder, a set of specific symptoms and signs must be present. These specific symptoms vary depending on the individual and other factors such as developmental level, age, gender, internal drive, and other considerations. However, the signs and symptoms of impulse control disorder generally include different behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms. The specific diagnosing factors are not going to be discussed in this particular post but it is worth mentioning that these can present in many different ways. For example, some kids may have aggression, lying, stealing, risky behaviors, low self-esteem, irritability, impatience, and other presenting factors.
For more information on impulse control disorder and if you think this is a concern that should be addressed in an individual, please reach out to a physician.
Medically speaking, the definition of impulsivity refers to an inclination to act on an impulse rather than a thought. Those of us who are generally impulsive in most situations, have difficulty curbing their immediate reactions or think before they act. This can look like the child that speaks without raising his hand in the classroom. It can be a hasty decision. It can be inappropriate comments.
Impulse control development
The thing is, impulse control is a HARD skill to refine. All of us have trouble with impulse control at one time or another! Think about that last time you received an unexpected bill. Maybe you grabbed a cookie or six to calm your nerves. What about when you ran over a pot hole and ended up with a flat tire on the freeway. Did an expletive escape your lips? Impulse control is hard when our minds and body’s are dealing with difficult situations.
The thing is, that we learn to deal with the everyday stuff without eating dozens of cookies or yelling obscenities at our car radio. We filter information, adjust to situations, and make behavioral, mental, and psychosocial responses accordingly.
How does development of impulse control happen?
Impulse control skills reside in the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain doesn’t fuly develop until we are in our twenties. It’s easy to see why impulsivity is such a common theme up through early adulthood!
Additionally, sensory modulation, emotions, outside situations, difficult environments, illness, stress, anxiety, and so many other issues can compound impulsive acts.
In fact, impulse control doesn’t begin to develop until around age 3.5- 4.
We will be covering development of impulse control more thoroughly in an upcoming blog post.
What does impulse control look like?
We’ve talked about how impulse control looks so different for different people. We’ve covered the fact that different situations can bring about different impulsive responses.
The thing is, impulse control is so varied!
Here are some examples of impulse control in kids:
Keeping negative thoughts to oneself
Not saying exactly what one is thinking about in the moment
Controlling anger and using a coping strategy instead of physically acting out
Raising a hand instead of speaking out in the classroom
Standing in a line without pushing or shoving
Asking to join a friend’s game or activity instead of jumping right in
Asking to look at or share a toy instead of just taking it
Being patient when having to wait
Waiting for instructions on an assignment before starting right away
Resisting distractions in the classroom or while doing homework
Waiting until dessert to eat a sweet or special treat
Self-reflection is a tool that kids and adults can benefit from. Reflecting on one’s actions and behaviors is a great way to grow as an individual and to meet personal goals. Think about a time you’ve set a personal goal. Maybe you wanted to start exercising and lose a few pounds. By self-reflecting on a day’s events, you can determine what worked in meeting your goal and what didn’t work. You can intentionally put a finger on the parts of your day that helped you meet your goal of going to the gym and what stood in the way of eating healthy meals. Self-reflection is essential for goal-setting! Most of these occupational therapy activities are free or inexpensive ways to address self-reflection in kids.
These self-reflection activities can be a vehicle for helping kids to address areas of functioning in several areas. Improving self-reflection can help kids with self-regulation, knowing what coping strategies to pull out of their toolbox, how to act with impulse control, how to better pay attention, how to improve executive functioning skills, and how to function more easily.
Additionally, self-reflection pays a part in mindfulness. If we are practicing attentiveness in the moment and attending to internal and external experiences, we can self-reflect on what worked, what didn’t work, and how to make things work better next time.
Self-reflection can be so helpful in social-emotional skills, academic learning, functional task completion, organization, and well-being!
Self-Reflection Activities for Kids
One of the first steps in raising self-reflection to to help kids be more self-aware. They can use tools to improve mindfulness to notice how they feel, how the react, or how they behave. Most kids will struggle with this ability in the moment (It’s tough for adults, too!) but they can identify what worked and what didn’t work in a particular situation through conversation.
Using self-control strategies like the Zones of Regulation can be helpful in talking about feelings and self-awareness.
Explore along with the child. When a child is playing or exploring their environment, it can be helpful to play right along with them. Use play experiences to communicate through play.
Use play experiences to mirror actions. When a child is playing, play right along with them! Mimic their actions and words to be more aware as a caregiver of the details of a child’s interactions and to bring awareness for the child. Use this tactic only when the child is in a positive mood. Mirrored actions should not be completed when a child is behaving poorly or to bring attention to behaviors.
Reflect on the day as a family. Plan a family meeting and talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the day. It’s a good way to talk about ways to work on areas of need.
Create a Choice Collection. Come up with options that include coping strategies or tools to use in different environments. These could be part of a sensory diet or self-regulation strategies.
One of the big executive functioning skills is the ability to self-monitor oneself. Self-monitoring plays into one’s ability to notice what is happening in the world around us and what is happening in our own body. The ability to “check” oneself and monitor actions, behaviors, and thoughts as they happen play into our ability to problem solve. Use the tips below to help kids learn how to self-monitor and problem solve. These self-monitoring strategies for kids are applicable in the classroom, home, sports field, or in social situations.
Self-monitoring is a process of metacognition. Metacognition is the ability to plan for and
execute a task, monitor one’s
actions, analyze a problem,
apply a strategy, maintain attention, and evaluate or
monitor completion of an activity. Ideally, metacognition should occur naturally and instinctively as we engage in an activity.
Self-Monitoring Strategies for Kids
In talking about self-monitoring skills, let’s first discuss what exactly self-monitoring is and what it means for kids to self-monitor their actions, thoughts, and behaviors.
What is self-monitoring?
The ability to self-monitor is made up of two main areas:
1.) Observation- In this stage, a child is able to identify a specific behavior, thought, or action that occurred. This might happen during the action or afterwords. In a child who struggles with talking out in class, they may catch themselves as they are interrupting. Another child may realize they spoke out of turn only after the teacher mentions the interruption. In both cases, the child is able to identify what behavior has occurred through self-assessment. This level of self-monitoring is a real struggle for some students and working on the ability to notice the behaviors or actions that are inefficient or inappropriate for the situation. This stage requires a lot of reflection and the ability to recognize an ideal response or appropriate behavior for a specific situation.
Observation, or self-assessment may require work in order for the child to understand targeted behaviors. Some supports for self-assessment can include:
Lists of appropriate actions or behaviors
Journaling in a notebook or a tool such as the Impulse Control Journal
Role-playing practice Self-talk
Modeling from peers
The goal of this stage is to get students to move from a teacher/parent/therapist/adult support of self-assessment to a self-assessment status where the child identifies behaviors and actions that are off-target.
2.) Recording- This stage of self-monitoring is a means for moving from an awareness of actions and behaviors to function. In the recording stage of self-monitoring, children are able to note their actions and make changes based on what happened in specific situations. Jotting down deviences of targeted behavior can help kids to become more aware of what happened in a specific situation and how they can make adjustments in the future to avoid specific behaviors, or how they can use accommodations and self-regulation tools to respond and react more appropriately.
Recording or measurement of actions can occur through several methods:
Parent/Teacher/Student communication sheets (where the child inputs behaviors throughout the day)
Journaling in a notebook or a tool such as the Impulse Control Journal
Data collection sheets
Frequency collection forms
When children self-monitor their actions and thoughts, so many areas are developed and progressed: Attention
You can see how each of the executive functioning skills play into the ability to self-monitor and how self-monitoring skills play into the development and use of each of the other executive functioning skills.
Teach Self-Monitoring Strategies to Improve Function
There are also functional skills that are developed and improved through self-monitoring:
Follow-through on learned skills
Below, you will find additional self-monitoring strategies that can help children with the ability to identify and self- assess and self-adjust behaviors that may occur within the classroom, home, or other environment. These strategies should be viewed as supports that can be used independently by the child following instruction and input to teach strategy methods.
Make an outline for writing tasks, homework assignments, or multi-step assignments in order to keep the child on task.
Utilize a self-monitoring schedule- Ask the child to stop and self-check their actions, behaviors, or thoughts to make sure they are on-task.
Try an index card or other visual reminder on desks for a list of appropriate behaviors.
Use social stories to teach appropriate actions and reactions to specific situations in the home or classroom.
Incorporate a schedule of self-regulation strategies to address sensory, attention, and focusing needs. A sensory diet can help with this.
Teach the child to check and recheck- Teach children to stop and check and then re-check their behaviors.
Want to access this article as a printable PDF? Use the printable version in education to parents, teachers, therapists, and other professionals. Simply print off the printable version and add it to your therapy toolbox.
Note: In order to access this file, you will need to enter your email address. This allows us to send the PDF directly to your email. You will then be added to our subscriber list which receives weekly updates regarding tools for development, new article posts, resources, and more. As a subscriber, you also receive access to The OT Toolbox free printable library. You may unsubscribe from our newsletter subscriber list at any time. Get the printable version of this article on Self-Monitoring Strategies for Kids HERE:
This is a 5 page printable self-monitoring strategy outline for educating those who work with kids with self-monitoring skills in kids.
When saying “calm down” just isn’t enough…
When a child is easily “triggered” and seems to melt down at any sign of loud noises or excitement…
When you need help or a starting point to teach kids self-regulation strategies…
When you are struggling to motivate or redirect a child without causing a meltdown…
When you’re struggling to help kids explore their emotions, develop self-regulation and coping skills, manage and reflect on their emotions, identify their emotions, and more as they grow…
References on self-monitoring:
Cook, Kathleen B., “Self-Monitoring Strategies for Improving Classroom Engagement of Secondary Students” (2014). Georgia
Association for Positive Behavior Support Conference. 65.
How To: Teach Students to Change Behaviors Through Self-Monitoring. (n.d.). Retrieved February 01, 2018, from http://www.interventioncentral.org/node/961544
Menzies, H. M., Lane, K. L., & Lee, J. M. (winter, 2009). Self-Monitoring Strategies for Use in the Classroom: A Promising Practice to Support Productive Behavior for Students With Emotional or Behavioral Disorders. Beyond Behavior, 27-35. Retrieved February 1, 2018, from https://www.wisconsinpbisnetwork.org/assets/files/flash/ClassroomManagement/ConsequenceSystems/story_content/external_files/SelfMonitoring.pdf.
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