Tips from Executive Functioning Expert

Do you know a child who interrupts others, gets out of control easily, has trouble with routines, and seems unaffected when you give time warnings?


That child may have a delay in executive functions. It is common in children with ADHD or learning disorders. Executive functions are used in nearly every daily or academic task.


On August 15 and 16, 2012, Trident Academy brought in a national expert on executive fuctions and how they affect students and their learning. Dr. Cheryl Chase, PhD spent an afternoon working with Trident Academy faculty members, and then presented a workshop for the community. Dozens of people attended including private school parents, homeschool parents, and educational consultants.


According to Dr. Russ Barkley, a leading researcher, the five primary executive functions are:


  • Inhibition
  • Nonverbal working memory (like remembering dance steps)
  • Self-speech
  • Emotions
  • Play to the self (like problem solving)


The first step is to identify where a child struggles – that can be done at a school like Trident Academy, or through a behavior-rating inventory like www., which costs about $250.


Once you (and the child) are aware of the specific issues, the next step is to take a dual approach, but know that there are no standard, cookie-cutter treatment plans.


Dr. Chase says, “This is a DOING problem, not a learning problem. These children know what to do, they just do not do what they know at the point of performance.”


She suggested making changes at the point of performance – right after the child does the wrong thing or does not know what to do. Do not wait until the end of the lesson or the end of the day to address the issue.


Dr. Russ Barkley offers five general elements of any executive function treatment plan:


  1. Externalize important information (lists, posters, signs that are bright and obvious)
  2. Externalize time periods related to tasks (use a timer or counter)
  3. Break-up future tasks into many small steps (post the steps of a common task, break large projects into small pieces)
  4. Externalize sources of motivation (immediate and quick praise)
  5. Permit more external manipulations of task components (multisensory teaching)


Do you have questions or need help? Contact Trident Academy at 843-884-7046 and our experienced OutReach director will help to guide you in the right direction.