Perspectives on Whole Child Literacy

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Supporting Students as Executive Functioning Skills Develop

Categories: Assistive Technology, Education & Teaching, Reading Strategies for K-12

Upon finding my son’s homework in the trash, I asked, “Honey, why is your homework in the trash?” His response, “Mom, I’ll be honest with you. I looked at that homework and thought about how long it was going to take me and so I threw it in the trash.”

If this conversation sounds familiar, you might be the parent or teacher of a student with executive functioning issues. Their approach to coping with the rigorous demands of school may not always match our expectations. Your student may also struggle to stay focused on complex reading assignments. Learning Ally can help!

Research shows how executive functioning impacts reading and learning.  Students who struggle with it often:

  • lack critical thinking skills
  • struggle to persevere
  • find tasks requiring working memory challenging 
  • struggle with reading  

Read Executive Skills and the Struggling Reader, by Kelly B. Cartwright for an excellent, in-depth overview of how executive skills play an essential role in reading. 

The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a proven multisensory reading accommodation specifically designed for students with reading deficits causing them to struggle with decoding, fluency or comprehension. It acts as an effective boost to any instructional strategy by bridging the gap between a student's reading ability and their cognitive capability.
If your student also struggles with executive functioning, consider implementing some of these tips to help:

  • Motivation - If a student has trouble getting started with reading, set small achievable goals and reward them with praise or tangible rewards to encourage their progress.
  • Tactile reminders - Students who struggle with executive functioning may need to keep a printed page in their notebook or taped near their reading area to remind them how to log-in the  Learning Ally Audiobooks App.
  • Routine - Try to establish a reading routine that is the same time every day in the same location. Help the student set a timer to know when he or she should begin reading and encourage parents to create reliable reading routines at home as well.
  • Focus Tools - Remove distractions and/or provide tactile supports to help students who need to fidget in order to focus. Simply wearing headphones while reading an audiobook can help students ignore distractions!  Sometimes students with executive functioning challenges can benefit from the use of bicycle chairs or bouncy bands so they can silently move their feet while they read. Finally, tactile objects such as modeling dough, a palm weight or a tangle of pipe cleaners can help students stay focused on their reading. 

With the right support, students who struggle with executive functioning can complete their assignments, make progress on reading grade-level text and gain confidence in their own skills.

We want to hear from you!  What has worked in your classroom or at home for students who struggle with executive functioning?  Leave a comment!

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