Let’s do a small recap of what we’ve talked about Executive Functioning recently. Executive Functioning Skills are the mental processes that not only help us plan, organize, keep our focus, remember tasks, and accomplish multiple projects throughout the day, but also enable positive behavior and allow us to make healthy choices for ourselves and our families. It is the management system of our brain, and we need this set of skills to filter distractions, prioritize and manage tasks, plan, and achieve goals, and have self-control. Flexibility is another subset under the umbrella of Executive Functioning.
What is flexibility in this case? It’s the ability to shift between tasks or changes in the environment. Shifting your thinking to make sure you accomplish your tasks.
Now, not every student struggles with flexibility, but typically those who do are the individuals having a significant emotional impact. They get stuck in their way of thinking where they have all the time in the world to finish a task, and at the end of the day get stressed out because time is up, and they didn’t finish.
A student needs to finish a science project due tomorrow and read a couple of chapters from a book. Now, during the day, he has both screen time and a scheduled playdate at the park. If he is indeed struggling with Flexibility, it’s very difficult for him to transition from task to task and make sure every homework is done in time at the end of the day. The student will not be able to manage timeframes appropriately, he will want to play a little longer, stay on the computer for a few more minutes because there will be time for homework later.
Once the student has realized he made a mistake and he ran out of time to finish his tasks, things can get trickier. Problem-solving proves to be difficult for students who struggle with Flexibility because they have a really hard time taking on and understanding a different perspective. They get stuck in their way of thinking.
Many aspects of Executive Functioning are intertwined. We have discussed both Impulsivity and Emotional Regulation in the past weeks and they both go hand in hand with Flexibility because one can trigger the other.
What can we do to help?
We could say that students who struggle with Executive Functioning, in general, are kind of on square wheels, and it’s harder to move along that way – As Dr. Ned Hallowell has said. Our job as parents, aids, or educators is to help round out those wheels so it makes it more manageable for them to transition between tasks. It is not about managing their time or doing it for them but it’s more about taking these different skills and teaching them by providing options or activities where you’re practicing the skills that will help them in the areas where they’re struggling. It is about providing the right resources to help them build and develop the skills themselves.
As part of the process, it is also very important to remind them that flexibility (or any other subset) is just an area that they struggle with, but they are also good in other areas as well.
To go from playing video games with friends to doing your homework is not easy. We are asking them to make a little mental switch they are not truly capable of at the moment. Talking about which part makes it difficult for them, let them explain how the situation makes them feel, and then give them the option to try it differently will help them shift their thinking process. Remember, the goal is for them to eventually be able to develop the skill, to figure it out by themselves what’s the best way to move between tasks in order to complete them all.
If you think a student is struggling with Flexibility, it’s better to start working on it soon. The good news is, if you find the right coach, they will be able to share with your kid the right tools and resources to build their skills.
At Wright Academics, we make sure to have a variety of tools available, different activities for the students and the tutors to work on together. As a company, it’s very important to us to have different tools to share with the students, because one way isn’t necessarily going to work for everyone.
It can be overwhelming to see a child struggling, especially during daily activities that can seem very easy for most people. So don’t be afraid to reach out because whether you choose to work with us or not, the reality is that there is a way to help them build the skills they need to be successful. The resources exist and are available to you.
This is another article on executive function coaching. If you want to learn more about our process, please do not hesitate to contact us. If you have any questions about Executive Functioning Skills, you can send them here: Contact us.