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In the brain, the ability to hold onto and work with information, focus thinking, filter distractions, and switch gears is like an airport having a highly effective air traffic control system to manage the arrivals and departures of dozens of planes on multiple runways. Scientists refer to these abilities as executive function — a set of skills that relies on three types of brain function: working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control.

Children aren’t born with these skills-they are born with the ability to develop them. The brain continues to mature and develop connections well into adulthood. A person’s executive function abilities are shaped by both physical changes in the brain and by life experiences, in the classroom and in the world at large. Early attention to developing efficient skills in this area can be very helpful. As a rule, it helps to give direct instruction, frequent reassurance and explicit feedback.

There is no single test or even battery of tests that identifies all of the different features of executive function. Educators, psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and others use a variety of tests to identify problems.

A student may have problems with executive function when he or she has trouble:

• Planning projects
• Comprehending how much time a project will take to complete
• Telling stories (verbally or writing), struggling to communicate details in an organized, sequential manner
• Memorizing and retrieving information from memory
• Initiating activities or tasks, or generating ideas independently
• Retaining information while doing something with it, for example, remembering a phone number while dialing

There are many effective strategies to help with the problem of executive function challenges. Here are some methods to try:

• Rely on visual organizational aids.
• Ask for written directions with oral instructions whenever possible.
• Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames.
• Prepare visual schedules and review them several times a day.
• Organize workspace, minimize clutter.
• Create “to-do” lists, estimating how long tasks will take.

Back to Basics offers 1-on-1 tutoring in executive function and we would welcome the opportunity to enhance your child’s abilities in this area. Please call Angie Carbine at 302-594-0754 for more information.

Back to Basics Learning Dynamics is the undisputed leader in one-on-one tutoring in Delaware. In addition, the company offers a unique Department of Education-approved K-12 Private School in Wilmington, Delaware and a Delaware Business and Trade School for ages 16 and older. Back to Basics is the winner of numerous awards for academic and business excellence including the Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics.

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