Tag Archives: executive function


* ask teachers to check if child wrote assignments in agenda
* post schedules and directions and SAY THEM OUT LOUD
* give step by step directions and HAVE CHILD REPEAT THEM
* use checklist and color-coded supplies
* break projects into smaller pieces with OWN DEADLINES
* use graphic organizers or mind-mapping software
* follow daily schedules with built-in times for breaks
* with your doctor, consider ADHD medication
source: http:www.understood.org, adapted from Thomas E Brown PhD
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Keep Up With Homework: Tips

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At Understood.org, Amanda Morin makes these four suggestions (I’ve added a comment or two):

1] Catalog by Class: students can use different colored binders/folders for each separate class. Make headers on papers showing topic and date. Utilize file pockets; identify which pockets will keep ‘pages to be dealt with,’ ‘pages to hand in,’ ‘pages to be filed into a binder/folder.’

2] Have one dedicated space at home where student stores school materials: it’s difficult to stay organized if notebooks, notes, textbooks and writing utensils are scattered through the house.  Have a dedicated desk if possible, but if not, a shelf or cabinet where these can always be found.

3] Create a system for study materials: the system might be as simple as a shoebox filled with paper, pencils, highlighters, staplers, clips, scissors. After finishing work, you or your student restocks the supplies and sharpens pencils for next time. A lot of time is wasted searching for these things.

4] Type up class notes: if a student types notes, they are easier to read. But typing them also helps build memory.  In addition, if he emails them to himself he’s got them at school in case he forgets to bring them to class. Or: use a cloud service (e.g. Google Drive or Dropbox) to access school documents from anywhere with an Internet connection!

source: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/homework-study-skills/at-a-glance-4-strategies-for-keeping-up-with-studying?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=understoodorg

Amanda Morin is a parent advocate and former teacher, and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

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+ Exercise Is ADHD Medication

By James Hamblin (from The Atlantic)

Mental exercises to build (or rebuild) attention span have shown promise recently as adjuncts or alternatives to amphetamines in addressing symptoms common to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Building cognitive control, to be better able to focus on just one thing, or single-task, might involve regular practice with a specialized video game that reinforces “top-down” cognitive modulation, as was the case in a popular paper in Nature last year. Cool but still notional. More insipid but also more clearly critical to addressing what’s being called the ADHD epidemic is plain old physical activity.

This morning the medical journal Pediatrics published research that found kids who took part in a regular physical activity program showed important enhancement of cognitive performance and brain function. The findings, according to University of Illinois professor Charles Hillman and colleagues, “demonstrate a causal effect of a physical program on executive control, and provide support for physical activity for improving childhood cognition and brain health.”

If it seems odd that this is something that still needs support, that’s because it is odd, yes. Physical activity is clearly a high, high-yield investment for all kids, but especially those attentive or hyperactive. This brand of research is still published and written about as though it were a novel finding, in part because exercise programs for kids remain underfunded and underprioritized in many school curricula, even though exercise is clearly integral to maximizing the utility of time spent in class.

The improvements in this case came in executive control, which consists of inhibition (resisting distraction, maintaining focus), working memory, and cognitive flexibility (switching between tasks). The images above show the brain activity in the group of kids who did the program as opposed to the group that didn’t. It’s the kind of difference that’s so dramatic it’s a little unsettling. The study only lasted nine months, but when you’re only seven years old, nine months is a long time to be sitting in class with a blue head.

Earlier this month, another study found that a 12-week exercise program improved math and reading test scores in all kids, but especially in those with signs of ADHD. (Executive functioning is impaired in ADHD, and tied to performance in math and reading.) Lead researcher Alan Smith, chair of the department of kinesiology at Michigan State, went out on no limb at all in a press statement at the time, saying, “Early studies suggest that physical activity can have a positive effect on children who suffer from ADHD.”

Last year a very similar study in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that just 26 minutes of daily physical activity for eight weeks significantly allayed ADHD symptoms in grade-school kids. The modest conclusion of the study was that “physical activity shows promise for addressing ADHD symptoms in young children.” The researchers went on to write that this finding should be “carefully explored with further studies.”

“If physical activity is established as an effective intervention for ADHD,” they continued, “it will also be important to address possible complementary effects of physical activity and existing treatment strategies …” Which is a kind of phenomenal degree of reservation compared to the haste with which millions of kids have been introduced to amphetamines and other stimulants to address said ADHD. The number of prescriptions increased from 34.8 to 48.4 million between 2007 and 2011 alone. The pharmaceutical market around the disorder has grown to several billion dollars in recent years while school exercise initiatives have enjoyed no such spoils of entrepreneurialism. But, you know, once there is more research, it may potentially be advisable to consider possibly implementing more exercise opportunities for kids.

Over all, the pandemic of physical inactivity, as Hillman and colleagues put it in their Pediatrics journal article today, is “a serious threat to global health” responsible for around 10 percent of premature deaths from noncommunincable diseases. But it clearly manifests in ways more subtle than deaths, including scholastic performance, which we’re continuously learning. I talked last week with Paul Nystedt, an associate professor of economics and finance at Jönköping University in Sweden, who just published a multi-country study that found that obese teenagers go on to earn 18 percent less money as adults than their peers, even if they are no longer obese. He believes that’s most likely because of the adversity that obese kids experience from classmates and teachers, which leads to both cognitive and noncognitive disparities between obese and non-obese kids. Because obese children are more likely to come from low-income homes to begin with, that only perpetuates wealth gaps and stifles mobility. Nystedt and his coauthors conclude, “The rapid increase in childhood and adolescent obesity could have long-lasting effects on the economic growth and productivity of nations.”

John Ratey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard, suggests that people think of exercise as medication for ADHD. Even very light physical activity improves mood and cognitive performance by triggering the brain to release dopamine and serotonin, similar to the way that stimulant medications like Adderall do. In a 2012 TED talk, Ratey argued that physical exercise “is really for our brains.” He likened it to taking “a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin.” As a rule, I say never trust anyone who has given a TED talk. But maybe in this case that’s a constructive way to think about moving one’s body. But not the inverse, where taking Ritalin counts as exercise.

Copyright © 2015 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved.

This article available online at: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/exercise-is-adhd-medication/380844/

Orton Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Behavior: Training Preschool Brains in Self Control

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In another of his excellent articles in the New York Times, Benedict Carey suggests that certain exercises can help children become more self-possessed at a very early age.

Around age two or three, he writes, little brains seem to send multiple messages to the body and the result is they become interruption machines.  One reason is that an area of the brain which is critical to inhibiting urges, the prefrontal cortex, is still a work in progress.

The density of neural connections in the 2-year-old prefrontal cortex is far higher than in adults.  Levels of neurotransmitters, the mind’s chemical messengers, are lower.

While some children’s brains adapt quickly, others’ take time.

Executive Function Said to be More Importhant Than I.Q. For Success in School

Carey writes:

But just as biology shapes behavior, so behavior can accelerate biology.  And a small group of educational and cognitive scientists now say that mental exercises of a certain kind can teach children to become more self-possessed at earlier ages, reducing stress levels at home and improving their experience in school.  Researchers can test this ability, which they call executive function, and they say it is more strongly associated with school success than IQ.

Adele Diamond, a professor of developmental cognitive science at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, says “We know that the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until the 20’s, and some people will ask, ‘Why are you trying to improve prefrontal abilities when the biological substrate is not there yet?’  ”

“I tell them that 2-year-olds have legs, too, which will not reach full length for 10 years or more — but they can still walk and run and benefit from exercise.”

Three important skills are involved in executive function.

  • The ability to resist distraction: to delay gratification in order to finish a job (e.g., finish the book report before turning on the TV).
  • Working memory: the capacity to hold multiple numbers or ideas in mind (e.g., do simple addition without pencil and paper).
  • Cognitive flexibility: the ability to adapt when demands change (e.g., when recess is canceled and there’s a pop quiz in math). 

Researchers are able to rate these abilities with some precision.  They give young children several straightforward mental tests.  In one, they sit in front of a computer and when a red heart appears on the left side of the screen, they strike a key on the left, and when it appears on the right screen they strike a key on the right.  Most children do well with this.

But if the scientists change the rules and have the children strike a key on the right when the symbol appears on the left and vice versa, the test gets harder.

The number of errors they commit, and the time it takes the children to answer, are considered measures of their ability to regulate themselves.

Other similar tests track improvement in working memory and intellectual flexibility. 

Some Newly Designed Curriculums for Building Skills  

Researchers have designed school-based curriculums intended to improve each of these abilities.

In a 2007 study Dr Diamond led a team that compared one of these programs — called “Tools of the Mind” — to a standard literacy curriculum in several preschools in the Northwest. 

The Tools program features a variety of exercises including a counting activity in which children pair off.  One child counts a given number of objects from a pile and separates them, and then the other child checks the sum.  The “checker” has a sheet of paper with a list of numbers, each beside a corresponding number of dots: for example, four dots line up beside the number 4.

By placing the objects on the dots, the child can see whether the count was accurate.  This double checking is intended to force the “counter” to be more careful and to stall the other child’s impulse to grab an object.

Another paired activity has one child tell a partner a story based on pictures in a book, while the other child listens.  The listener holds a drawing of an ear — a visual reminder that his role is to listen and not interrupt.  The child telling the story holds a drawing of a mouth — a reminder of her role as the speaker.

After about two months, children didn’t need the props any more: they had internalized their roles — the listener listens until it’s her turn to speak.

“The activities are specifically designed to promote self-regulation, and they are embedded in the teaching,” says Deborah J Leong, an educational psychologist and professor emerita at Metropolitan State College of Denver, who designed the Tools program with Elena Bodrova, principal researcher at McREL, an educational research group in Denver.

The program also focuses on pretend play with a purpose.  In a dramatic role-playing exercise, children decide beforehand what their roles are and must stay in character — making it an exercise that draws on all aspects of self-regulation.

The 2007 preschool study tracked 85 preschoolers in the Tools program, as well as 62 in the basic literacy curriculum.  After one year, teachers in one school judged that children in the special program were doing so well that all students were moved into it.

After two years, factoring out the effects of gender and age, the researchers found that the students in the special program scored about 20 percent higher on all of the demanding measures of executive function.

The authors of the study wrote “Although play is often thought frivolous, it may be essential.”

Parents can also help children, according to neuroscientists Jessica Fanning and Helen J Neville, neuroscientists at the University of Oregon.  They are testing how parent training classes affect the same kind of executive skills in youngsters.  The preliminary finding: children of parents taking the training have developed significantly better concentration and self-discipline than the others.

The researchers say that parents can use a variety of home activities to help children sharpen executive skills.  Some are obvious: read to your child while continuing to establish eye contact.   Tilt a book so the pictures are obscured — you force him to follow the words carefully, and hold more of them in mind at one time — a function of working memory.

Sing a bedtime song or a cleanup song: this can keep a child resisting distractions and focusing on the chore at hand.  If she knows the song, the familiar verses tell her how much time she has to finish a task.

sole source: Benedict Carey’s NY Times article on 9/15/08.  www.nytimes.com .  To see an interactive graphic showing how the brain develops throughout childhood, visit www.nytimes.com/wellchild   For Tools of the Mind, see  http://www.mscd.edu/extendedcampus/toolsofthemind/index.shtml

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com