executive functioning skills for kids

Improving Executive Functioning Skills for Kids is Often a Top Therapy Goal

As our Fort Myers pediatric therapists can explain, improving executive functioning skills for kids is one of the most common goals listed in our patients’ plans of care. That’s because these skills play a crucial role in a child’s overall development and success in various areas of life, including academics, social interactions, and daily functioning.

What Are Executive Functioning Skills for Kids?

Executive functioning refers to a set of cognitive processes that allow individuals to manage their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions to achieve goals. It’s not a single skill. Rather, it’s a set of skills that together allow a person to:

  • Focus, pay attention, and remember
  • Plan
  • Prioritize
  • Work toward goals
  • Self-regulate behaviors & emotions
  • Adapt to new & unexpected circumstances
  • Engage in abstract thinking & planning

Executive functions in childhood are inherently a challenge. They start developing in that very first year of life, but they aren’t fully formed until adulthood. They’re meant to be worked at, and they won’t happen overnight or at the same time for every kid.

That said, successfully mastering age-appropriate executive function is often tougher for kids with conditions like autism, down syndrome, language delays, learning disabilities, etc. You’ll notice when they struggle with things like tantrums, impulse control, staying organized at school, remembering instructions, managing their time, etc.

How Speech, OT, and ABA Therapy Can Help

Executive functioning skills for kids aren’t usually developed in a neat, linear progression. Some skills they’ll pick up faster, others will take longer – with variability often dependent on the child’s unique stresses, family stresses, and educational opportunities.

Early intervention therapies like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and occupational therapy can be game-changers in helping kids who struggle with executive functioning to catch up with other kids their age. The sooner we can start, the more malleable a child’s brain – and the greater success we’ll have.

We provide assessments and individualized plans of care, based on the child’s individual abilities and goals. We help families devise structured routines and schedules – which provides a measure of predictability that helps kids develop skills like time management. Therapists are trained to break down tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks that helps kids learn how to master each one individually and sequentially – ultimately improving organization skills. Visual supports like calendars, checklists, and schedules give kids a way to “see” the task and the time allotment. In turn, this helps them stay calm, organized, and efficient. Play-based interventions can improve memory, social skills, and behavior self-regulation as well – all part of executive functioning skills.

If your child is struggling with executive functioning skills, our pediatric therapists at FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers can help.

Additional Resources:

Executive function in children: Why it matters and how to help, Dec. 16, 2020, By Johanna Calderon, PhD, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School

More Blog Entries:

Why Occupational & Speech Therapists in Fort Myers Teach Kids Inferencing, Aug. 31, 2023, Fort Myers Speech Therapy Blog

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