Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents
Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents: Assessment and Intervention Peg Dawson, Ed.D. [email protected] Center for Learning and Attention Disorders 1149 Sagamore Ave. Portsmouth, NH 03801 The Cookie Problem Problem to be solved: Which girl wore which color? Rachel, Linda, and Eve were friends sitting in a circle on the grass. Rachel passed three chocolate chip cookies to the person in blue. Eve passed three macaroons to the person who passed her cookies to the person wearing green. Each person passed three cookies to the friend on her left. Rachel, Linda, and Eve were dressed in red, blue, and green, but not necessarily in that order. The person who was wearing green did not get a macaroon. The person wearing red passed along three oatmeal cookies. Who wore which color? Taken from: Get It Together: Math Problems for Groups Grades 4-12, published by EQUALS, Berkeley, CA, 1989. RED BLUE PURPLE BLACK GREEN YELLOW ORANGE RED BLUE PURPLE BLACK GREEN YELLOW ORANGE RED BLUE PURPLE BLACK GREEN YELLOW RED BLUE PURPLE BLACK GREEN YELLOW ORANGE RED BLUE PURPLE BLACK GREEN YELLOW ORANGE RED BLUE PURPLE BLACK GREEN YELLOW Executive Skills: Definitions Response Inhibition: The capacity to think before you act – this ability to resist the urge to say or do something allows us the time to evaluate a situation and how our behavior might impact it. Working Memory: The ability to hold information in memory while performing complex tasks. . It incorporates the ability to draw on past learning or experience to apply to the situation at hand or to project into the future. Executive Skills: Definitions Emotional Control: The ability to manage emotions in order to achieve goals, complete tasks, or control and direct behavior. Sustained Attention: The capacity to maintain attention to a situation or task in spite of distractibility, fatigue, or boredom. Task Initiation: The ability to begin projects without undue procrastination, in an efficient or timely fashion. Executive Skills: Definitions Planning/Prioritization: The ability to create a roadmap to reach a goal or to complete a task. It also involves being able to make decisions about what’s important to focus on and what’s not important. Organization: The ability to create and maintain systems to keep track of information or materials. Time Management: The capacity to estimate how much time one has, how to allocate it, and how to stay within time limits and deadlines. It also involves a sense that time is important. Executive Skills: Definitions Flexibility: The ability to revise plans in the face of obstacles, setbacks, new information or mistakes. It relates to an adaptability to changing conditions. Goal-directed persistence: The capacity to have a goal, follow through to the completion of the goal, and not be put off by or distracted by competing interests. Metacognition: The ability to stand back and take a birds-eye view of oneself in a situation. It is an ability to observe how you problem solve. It also includes self-monitoring and self-evaluative skills (e.g., asking yourself, “How am I doing? or How did I do?”). What Do Executive Skill Weaknesses Look Like in Students? Acts without thinking Interrupts others Overreacts to small problems Upset by changes in plans Talks or plays too loudly Resists change of routine Acts wild or out of control Easily overstimulated and has trouble calming down Gets stuck on one topic or activity Gets overly upset about “little things” Out of control more than peers Low tolerance for frustration Overwhelmed by large assignments Can’t come up with more than one way to solve a problem Doesn’t notice impact of behavior on others What Do Executive Skill Weaknesses Look Like in Students? Slow to initiate tasks Runs out of steam before finishing work Doesn’t bother to write down assignment Loses books, papers, notebooks Forgets directions Lack of time sense/urgency Forgets to bring materials home Keeps putting off homework Chooses “fun stuff” over homework Forgets homework/forgets to pass it in Leaves long-term assignments until last minute Can’t break down longterm assignments Sloppy work Messy notebooks Can’t find things in backpack Passive study methods (or doesn’t study) What Do Executive Skill Weaknesses Look Like in Students What Do Executive Skill Weaknesses Look Like in Students’ Environment? What Do Executive Skill Weaknesses Look Like in Students’ Environment? Why is it important to help kids develop executive skills? 14 INFORMAL ASSESSMENTS Parent and Teacher Interviews Parent interview (look for specific examples of problems in areas likely to be affected by executive skill deficits, including problems with homework, chores, following directions, social interactions, organizational skills, etc.). Teacher interviews (again, look for specificity of examples in relevant areas, e.g., following complex directions, task initiation, handling long-term assignments, response to openended tasks, social interactions, responses to classroom/school rules, etc.). Behavior Observation FORMAL ASSESSMENTS Provide the context for examining other variables such as cognitive abilities, emotional status, and academic skills that can affect or be affected by executive skills. Behavior rating scales Be aware that parents and teachers do not always see the same executive skill deficits Until they are fully developed in children, parents and teachers act as “surrogate” frontal lobes for children. 17 Intervening As we get older the world demands greater internalization of executive skills We must 1. Intervene at the level of the environment and 2. Intervene at the level of the child Intervening at the Level of the Environment 1. Change the physical or social environment 2. Change the nature of the tasks we expect children to perform 3. Change the way cues are provided to prompt the child to perform tasks or behave in a certain way 4. Change the way parents, teachers, caregivers interact with children Change the physical or social environment Seat students where distractions are less Classroom engineering; materials, homework bins, routines, procedures – reduce working memory demands Grouping/seating students to promote attention and impulse/emotional control. Environmental Modifications Establish classroom routines to address executive skills such as organization, working memory, planning, time management. Teach classroom rules to address executive skills such as response inhibition, emotional control, flexibility--post prominently, review frequently, and practice following the rules. Establish class-wide and school-wide monitoring and feedback systems (e.g., Power School, TeacherEase). Embed metacognitive questions into instruction. Metacognitive Questions “Good question! How do you suppose you could find the answer?” “How do you think you will do on your math assignment. Why?” “What could you do to get a higher grade?” “Tell me how you figured out your answer to that question.” “This is a big assignment. What will you do 1st? Then what?” “How long do you think it will take you to finish this? Let’s see if you’re right.” “Tell me your homework plan. What will you do first? When will you do it?” Metacognitive Questions “Sometimes it’s hard to get started on homework. What can you do to make it easier?” “What can you do to make sure you keep working until the assignment is done?” “How can you keep from becoming distracted while you’re trying to work?” “Tell me how you came to that conclusion, made that decision, etc. What would be another choice you could have made?” “What can you do to learn the material that will be on the test?” “Let me show you how I thought about the problem when I tried to solve it.” Modify the Tasks We Expect Youngsters to Perform Make the task shorter--reduce the amount of work required or divide it into pieces with breaks built in along the way. Make the steps more explicit. Create a schedule. Build in variety or choice with respect to the tasks to be done or the order in which the tasks are to be done. Make the task closed-ended (fill in the blank, true/false, word banks, practicing spelling with magnetic letters rather than sentences, identifying starting and stopping points. ) Change the Way Cues are Provided Verbal Prompts Visual Cues Schedules Lists Audiotaped Cues Alarm Reminders. Change the Way Adults Interact With the Youngster Before the task: Rehearse what will happen and how student will handle it Use verbal prompts or reminders to elicit the executive skills Arrange for other cues: lists, schedules, alarm Change the Way Adults Interact With the Youngster During the task: Coach the student to elicit the rehearsed behaviors Remind the student to check his or her list or schedule Monitor the situation to understand triggers or other factors Change the Way Adults Interact With the Youngster After the task: Provide positive reinforcement Debrief Consult with others (gened teachers) Intervene at the Level of the Student The ultimate goal is to teach students to develop their own executive skills sufficiently so they can function independently. Teach the skill Motivate student to use the skill Goal: A Clean Room Directive from parent: Clean your room Response from child with executive skill deficits: Nothing Intervention Plan for Clean Room Step 1: The parent acts as an external frontal lobe that works with the child to perform the following functions: Develop a plan, an organizational scheme, and a specific set of directions. Develop a way to monitor performance. Provide encouragement/motivation and feedback about the success of the approach Problem solve when something doesn't work. Determine when the task is completed Step 1: Sample Statements: Let’s start. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper (praise). Hang your clean clothes in the closet (praise). Hang your hats/jewelry on the hooks (praise). Put your books on the shelf(praise). You have school papers under the bed. Put those in a pile and we will go through them at the end (praise). When you are finished you can hang out with your friends. You’ve done a great job staying on task. Step 2: Provide the same information without being the direct agent: create a list, picture cues, audio tape, etc. to cue the child. Parent says to child: Look at your list. Step 3: Parent begins to transfer responsibility to child: Parent says to child: What do you need to do? Step 4: Transfer complete. Child now asks himself/herself. What do I need to do? Goal: Helping a Child Learn to Control His/Her Temper Together with the child, make a list of the things that happen that cause the child to lose his/her temper (these are called “triggers”). Manage or eliminate the triggers. Talk about what “losing your temper ‘looks’ or ‘sounds like’ (e.g., yells, swears, throws things, kicks things or people, etc.). Decide which ones of these should go on a “can’t do” list. Keep this list short and work on only 1-2 behaviors at a time. Goal: Helping a Child Learn to Control His/Her Temper Now make a list of things the child can do instead (called “replacement behaviors”). These should be 34 different things the child can do instead of the “can’t do” behaviors you’ve selected. Put these on a “Hard Times Board.” HARD TIMES BOARD Triggers: What Makes Me Mad— 1. When I have to stop listening to my ipod. 2. When it’s time to do an assignment I don’t like. 3. When my plans don’t work out. “Can’t Do’s” 1. Hit Somebody 2. Break or Throw Anything When I’m Having a Hard Time, I Can 1. Talk to the teacher 2. Count to 10 3. Close my eyes and take a deep breath Helping A Child Learn to Control His/Her Temper Practice. Say to the student, “Let’s say you’re upset because Jared was sitting in your desk in math.” Which strategy do you want to use?” After practicing for a couple of weeks, start using the process “for real,” but initially use it for minor irritants. After using it successfully with minor irritants, move on to the more challenging triggers. Connect the process to a reward. For best results, use two levels of rewards: a “big reward” for never getting to the point where the Hard Times Board needs to be used, and a “small reward” for successfully using a strategy on the Hard Time Board to deal with the trigger situation. TEACH deficient skills Don’t expect the youngster to acquire executive skills through observation or osmosis. Seven Steps to teaching Executive Functioning Skills. 7 steps to teaching executive skills 1. Identify specific problem behaviors 2. Set a goal. They direct behavior (toward task relevant and away from task irrelevant behavior) They energize They encourage persistence They motivate people to discover and use task- relevant knowledge and skills. 7 steps to teaching executive skills 3. Outline the steps that need to be followed in order for the youngster to achieve the goal. 4. Whenever possible, turn the steps into a list, checklist, or short list of rules to be followed. 7 steps to teaching executive skills 5. Supervise the youngster following the steps. Prompt the youngster to perform each step in the procedure. Observe the youngster while s/he performs each step, providing feedback to help improve performance. Praise the youngster when s/he successfully completes each step and when the procedure is completed as a whole. 7 steps to teaching executive skills 6. Evaluate the program’s success and revise if necessary. 7. Fade the supervision. Use Incentives to Augment Instruction. Incentives make both the effort of learning a skill and the effort of performing a task less aversive. Furthermore, putting an incentive after a task teaches delayed gratification. 7 Steps to Creating Incentive Systems Step 1: Step 2: Step 3: Step 4: Step 5: Step 6: Step 7: Describe the problem behaviors. Set a goal. Decide on possible rewards and contingencies Write a behavior contract. Implement the contract. Evaluate success and make changes if necessary. Fade the rewards. Instructional Strategies Teach organizational skills. Teach the “study” skills necessary to meet course requirements—how to study for tests, how to break down long term assignments into subtasks, how to develop timelines. Instructional Strategies Teach homework skills—e.g., how to plan homework sessions, strategies for getting started, screening out distractions, sticking with tasks long enough to get them done, avoiding temptation (e.g., choosing to play video games, etc.), and problem solving (what to do when you forgot to write down the assignment, don’t understand the assignment, etc). Teach reciprocal coaching (both to work on metacognitive skills such as organization and behavioral control such as following the rules) Resources Resources Coming in May Resources Resources Resources Resources Resources Resources 1. Strategies for Organization: Preparing for Homework and the Real World. A $600 program I found copied on the Internet. http://gustiesgang.wikispaces.com/file/view/strategies +for+organization+(2).pdf 2. Speech Pathologist Blog with graphic organizers. https://jillkuzma.wordpress.com/teaching-ideas-forexecutive-function-skills/ Resources 3. Strategies to Make Homework Go More Smoothly. Document to give to parents http://www.childmind.org/en/posts/articles/2013-8-13strategies-make-homework-go-smoothly 4. Great Website that leads to example lesson plans and more information http://understandingexecutivefunctioning.blogspot.c om/p/what-are-executive-functions.html Resources 5. Lazy Kid or Executive Dysfunction? http://www.ldonline.org/article/Lazy_Kid_or_Executive _Dysfunction%3F 6. Erica Warren’s site (Where I bought the $20 CD) http://www.goodsensorylearning.com/home.html What is coaching? An intervention strategy in which a coach (either an adult or a peer) works with a student to set goals (long-term, short-term, or daily) designed to enhance executive skills and lead to improved self-regulation. Coaching Is a 2-Stage Process Step 1: Help the student establish a longterm goal Step 2: Link the long-term goal to daily plans In the first stage of coaching, we ask students to set goals Goals may be academic, social, or behavioral depending on individual students’ needs. We may ask students to set long-term goals, or we may focus on more short-term goals (marking period goals, weekly goals, daily goals). Throughout the coaching process, we remind students of the goals they have set— and we help them track their progress toward achieving their goals. Second stage: Linking Daily Plans to Goals Basic Format: R.E.A.P. Review: go over the plans made at the previous coaching session to determine if the plans were carried out as intended. Evaluate: how well did it go? Did the student do what he said he would do? If not, why not? Anticipate: Talk about what tasks the student plans to accomplish today--be sure to review upcoming tests, long-term assignments. Plan: Have the student identify when he plans to do each task, and, when appropriate, how he plans to do each task. Goal-Setting Step 1: Define goal Step 2: Specify steps to achieve goal Step 3: Identify barriers to goal attainment Step 4: Brainstorm ways to overcome barriers Step 5: Identify necessary environmental supports will be needed to achieve goal Daily Coaching Sessions Build in mini-lessons where appropriate: How to study for tests How to organize a writing assignment How to break down a long-term assignments How to organize notebooks How to manage time (resist temptations) Coaching Alternatives Group coaching--use during homeroom period or in advisor groups Peer coaching--train honor students to coach at-risk students Reciprocal coaching--have students work in pairs to coach each other Train older students to coach younger students References Anderson, V. A., Anderson, P., Northam, E., Jacobs, R., & Catroppa, C. 2001) Development of executive functions through late childhood in an Australian sample. Developmental Neuropsychology, 20, 385-406. Barkley, R. A. (1997). 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