Executive Functioning Skills are important in helping a student successfully navigate his or her school day. So, what are they exactly and how do they look within a classroom? Collectively, these skills are what helps a student regulate his/her own behavior. Here is a breakdown of the skills: planning, organization, time management, working memory, and metacognition. Let’s talk in detail about each one a little further.
Planning is what we use to decide what is important to focus on and what is not important to focus on. This is what helps a student reach the completion of an assignment in school. When a student is weak in this skill, a teacher will frequently say that he/she is unable to complete classroom assignments independently. He/she may possibly be working on a different task (such a drawing or writing) during math time.
Organization is shown when a student can easily locate all of his/her materials needed for an assignment. For example, a student who is strong in this skill will be able to independently find the writing notebook, a pencil, collect a new graphic organizer, and overall be prepared for the assignment.
Time management is when a student shows they know how to judge how much time he/she needs to complete an assignment or a classroom project. It’s typical to see a teacher help with this area during class by posting how much time the students have for an independent assignment or group work. If a student is weak in this skill, you may see him/her struggling to pace the time to finish all parts of the assignment to completion. When the time is up and the teacher transitions to the next subject on the classroom schedule, a child who is still working on the beginning of the last assignment would be showing a weakness in time management skills.
Working memory is how our brains hold information in our minds while performing a more difficult task. We do have the ability here to “pull up” past learning experiences and apply them to a task or an assignment. For example, we see this in the classroom when a student is asked to write a narrative. While writing, the student is putting the idea down on paper while remembering to use punctuation, correct use of grammar, and spelling. All of those tools are working together.
Metacognition is when a student has the ability to have a “bird’s eye view” of himself or herself. When this skill is strong, a student would be able to observe how he/she is problem solving and even question himself/herself in how he/she did.
There are more executive functioning skills that we use when we face a new problem or want to achieve a goal. They are: response inhibition, emotional control, sustained attention, task initiation, flexibility, and goal directed persistence.
Response inhibition: This is basically the skill of thinking before you act. When a student is able to “pause” and think before saying or doing something, than that student would be strong in this skill.
Emotional control: This is when a student can manage his or her own emotions so he/she can complete a classroom task or assignment or successfully reach his/her own goal.
Sustained attention: If a student has a strength in this skill, then he/she is able to attend to a task within the classroom even with distractions around him/her and feeling tired or bored.
Task initiation: This is when a student can successfully start an assignment without procrastination. You may see a weakness in the classroom if, after the teacher has given directions to begin a task, a student is walking around looking for a pencil, sharpening the pencil, asking to go to the bathroom, talking to a peer, etc.
Flexibility: This skill involves a student being flexible in a change in the classroom routines, a mistake in his/her work, or any setback or change that may occur during their day. A student who may show weaknesses in this skill would become rigid or upset if a change occurred suddenly during an assignment or in the schedule.
Goal directed persistence: This skill involves a student having the ability to follow through to finish a goal that he/she set for themselves or possibly by the teacher without getting discouraged with a competing interest.
Honestly, we could talk for days on this topic. 🙂 When a student is weak in one of these skills, it affects his/her overall school day as well as at home. It’s important, as parents and educators, to recognize where a child’s strengths and weaknesses are in relation to these skills so we may help support and strengthen these skills. When we allow these skills to continue to be weak without any support, it’s common to see an increased problem in school as the child grows and attends higher grades. For example, “organization” in first grade may look like a child leaving behind a parent letter or forgetting to unpack his book bag at school (or when he comes home from school). Leaving the skills to continuously be weak, in high school, “organization” will look like a messy book bag with a lot of difficulty finding assignments, turning in assignments, and forgetting about assignments. If these skills are strengthened over time, we will see a child who can manage time, projects, and maintain sustained attention. Additionally, once our children understand why they have trouble turning in assignments, keeping track of materials, or finishing activities then they can begin to work to change these behaviors to new behaviors with which they are happy. This enables students, parents, and teachers to partner together to teach the whole child.
If you would like to read more about executive functioning skills, we have a few recommendations.
Here are a couple of fantastic reads:
Christina and Wendy
After you’ve had your initial meeting (Know Your Forms-Referral For Help), the next meeting will be to discuss all the data and any new evaluations that have taken place since your last meeting. There are 14 categories a child can qualify under in North Carolina. They are the following: Autism, Deaf-Blindness, Deafness, Developmental Delay, Serious Emotional Disability, Hearing Impairment, Intellectual Disability, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Specific Learning Disability, Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Visual Impairment including blindness. Your child must meet at least one of these areas to qualify for special education in North Carolina. There are times where a student will meet two of the criteria and you can list a primary disability and a secondary disability on the eligibility form.
Each of the fourteen areas have their own worksheet with specific criteria for qualification. Again, here is the link to a list of the worksheets and forms from NCDPI http://ec.ncpublicschools.gov/policies/forms/statewide-forms Your team will meet to discuss the overall evaluations which were conducted and any new data as well as review which categories your child may fit best under. Each worksheet for each possible category must be filled out and discussed at your child’s eligibility meeting. Remember, you are meeting as a team (Who Is On Your Child’s Team?). If your child meets the criteria on at least one of the worksheets, the team can then decide that he/she qualifies for specialized education and you can then move on towards writing an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). The DEC 3 form will also be filled out and all members of the team will sign the form in agreement. It is common to move directly into developing an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). To keep this post shorter and focused on the eligibility requirements, we are going to have a separate post this week regarding the IEP.
After this meeting, you will have a copy of the following forms: Invitation to the meeting, Eligibility Determination (also known as a DEC 3), the completed worksheets of the categories that were discussed at the meeting, and the DEC 5 (The Importance of a DEC5).
This determination is good for 3 years. Every three years, your child’s special education teacher (0r case manager) will have a Reevaluation meeting (the form is called a DEC 7) to review your child’s data as a team. The team will decide if he/she continues to meet the criteria for the disability and a new DEC 3 form as well as the qualifying worksheet(s) will once again be filled out and discussed. It is a good idea to keep all of your copies of your child’s paperwork organized at home. It’s also a good idea to be aware of the last time your child had his/her Eligibility Evaluation meeting and when his/her three-year mark is up.
As always, your school should offer you a copy of the Parents Rights and Responsibilities Handbook in Special Education at each meeting. Here is a link with the newest copy of the handbook: http://ec.ncpublicschools.gov/parent-resources/ecparenthandbook.pdf
If you have any questions about a referral or eligibility meeting, drop us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love hearing from you!
Christina and Wendy
As we begin a new school year, it’s helpful to remember who is on your child’s team at school. By definition, a team is “a number of persons associated in some joint action.” Special education meetings are made up of a team that meets to discuss and make decisions about your child’s specialized needs. Ideally, just like a team, all members are participating for one common goal…to help your child succeed. There are certain members that are required to attend each meeting and it is okay to put a meeting on hold until all members are there.
So who is on your child’s team? Who should be at a meeting to discuss your child’s specific needs in special education? Teachers are stretched for time these days with the requirements that are put on them by the state. However, legally, you should not have a meeting when one of these members is absent. These members must be present even if your child is in a separate setting and even if your child is a “speech only” student. They are the following:
LEA Representative: This will typically be your school’s principal or assistant principal. This person is responsible for making any final decisions and is the person who has all knowledge regarding budget and how your district meets state and federal requirements.
Regular Education Teacher: Typically, your child’s general education teacher will be at your meeting. There are times, however, where another teacher that works with your child may be in attendance. Sometimes, there may be more than one general education teacher that attends. This is more frequent in middle and high school where your child has several general education teachers. Even if your child is in a separate setting, there should still be a regular education teacher present from your child’s grade.
Special Education Teacher: The exceptional education teacher will most likely be running most of your meetings and answering specific questions regarding the process. This EC teacher will typically also be your child’s case manager and the contact person for specific questions.
Parent or Guardian: This will be yourself.
If the meeting is to discuss special education services from a school evaluation, than someone who is qualified to interpret the results needs to be present (for example, a school psychologist or a speech language therapist).
As a parent, you also have the right to bring people who can speak on behalf of your child such as: advocates, your child’s tutor, therapist, or person that privately evaluated your child to the meeting. When you receive your invitation to your child’s meeting, you can write in who you are bringing to the meeting as part of your child’s team. Once your child turns 14, he/she is legally invited to attend the meetings as well.
Christina and Wendy