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Stuck?  12 Ways to Encourage Cognitive Flexibility

Stuck? 12 Ways to Encourage Cognitive Flexibility

The best way to describe the executive function of cognitive flexibility is to think of Einstein’s definition of insanity. “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” That would be cognitive inflexibility. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to notice when your thinking process is not working or to notice when changes have occurred and to be flexible enough to adapt the thought process and to think differently about it. It may be that the goal of the project changed, something in the environment has changed, or the next step cannot be completed due to outside forces and thus the individual becomes stuck and can’t continue. On the Behavioral Inventory of Executive Functions (BRIEF) there are two categories that relate to this skill; cognitive shift and behavioral shift. Together they can indicate a student’s ability to try different approaches to something whether it is in their thinking or in actually changing their behavior when they notice it is not working. Solving a math problem is a good example of this. The student knows what the answer should be and solves the problem. When the answer is not right, they erase it and try again. Often they are repeating the same mistakes without realizing it. In students: Stuck on a math problem but not realizing they are doing the same thing and are surprised the answer isn’t different. Difficulty adjusting to changes in plans Projects have various parts to them and when students get stuck on one piece they are unable to move forward. Creative writing is a real challenge as they cannot generate new ideas as...
What to Do When They Won’t Change Their Mind

What to Do When They Won’t Change Their Mind

I once had a student that was having difficulty turning in his homework. He would do it, but when it came time to pass it in, he could not find it. He had a “homework folder” where all of his finished work was supposed to go, but his work was not there. When asked, “Where else did you look?” He was unable to answer. In his mind (we later discovered), if it wasn’t in the homework folder there was nowhere else to look. Does this sound familiar? This is an example of cognitive inflexibility – difficulty changing or shifting your mindset when the most logical answer does not bring results. Needless to say, upon further searching, other homework papers were found at the bottom of the backpack, stuffed inside a text book and also on his desk at home. All papers exactly where he had left them, yet he had no recollection. Cognitive inflexibility is real. It is one of the Executive Function skills that develop in the pre-cortex of the brain. It can be measured on certain IQ tests and on the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functions. It has two components: a cognitive shift and a behavioral shift. Simply put, if your child cannot change their thoughts or their behavior when they realize something is not working, then it may be from cognitive inflexibility.  You may have seen it when they get “stuck” on their math, or they don’t know what to do, but won’t accept your help because you, “don’t do it like the teacher.” Or have you ever noticed their perspective of what happened, does...
Academic Coaching for Girls or Boys Grades 6-8

Academic Coaching for Girls or Boys Grades 6-8

Leaving elementary school can be both exciting and a bit scary for many kids. For the first time students will be asked to juggle expectations and homework for five, six or even seven different teachers.  They’ll be carrying what they need around with them without a backpack. Schools understand that their spines are still developing and if they carry a heavy backpack around with them all day, they could damage their backs and so most schools do not allow backpacks during the day.  However, in spite of that, few teachers have changed their requirements of what they want for each class. (Color coded binders, separate notebooks, and a folder, etc.) For students with or without ADHD or Executive function challenges, just juggling their supplies is a challenge not to mention the homework, projects and tests. Think about how this past school year went. Was your child able to handle the homework, projects and tests? Were they overwhelmed, frustrated or difficult to deal with? Did you hold your breath each time they said they “studied for a test” and felt that they did well – only to discover later that they did not? Is your child capable of higher grades than they received? Did you watch your child spend hours on homework only to find out that they never passed it in? Executive function (EF) skills are those skills involved in planning, organizing, getting started, staying focused, keeping emotions in control and finishing tasks. There are other names for the EFs and several more that all seem to impact learning.  As adults we often take these executive function skills for granted....
ADHD/ADD and Executive Function Skill Class

ADHD/ADD and Executive Function Skill Class

For students with ADHD and Executive function (EF) challenges school can be a continuous struggle. A new school year is about to begin. Do you want to see your son or daughter struggle like they did last year? Don’t wait, get your child/teen the help they need to succeed. In order to be successful in school (or work in the adult world) we depend on certain skills and strategies like goal setting, planning, organization, stress management, and problem solving. We have to be able to focus and control how we monitor impulses in order to make the best choices based on our understanding of our thought processes. Simply put we have to think about our thinking in a logical and practical way and maintain the focus to get the job done. To do this we rely on our executive function skills. As adults we often take these executive function skills for granted. For teens, they struggle because their EF’s are not fully developed yet. Have you ever tried to do something that you knew you didn’t have the skills or knowledge for? That’s what it feels like for teens every day. Wouldn’t it be nice if your teen could learn strategies that would help them problem solve and develop strategies to help compensate for weak, underdeveloped EF skills? Well they can! I created this program to help students learn about their Executive Functions (EFs) and develop strategies that work for the way they think. Our 4-session class uses hands-on activities to get teens to problem solve, develop strategies and test their theories in a safe, nonjudgmental class with their...
What is Executive Function?

What is Executive Function?

Executive dysfunction or executive function deficit is defined by Web MD as a “set of mental skills that help you get things done.” It is a simplified definition but when you break a task down into all the components needed to complete it, it is easier to see how having one or more weak areas can stop the progress. Just take a look at the processes and skills that are needed for “thinking” in the graphic to the left. That does not take into account the other skills needed to actually get something done. These executive function skills develop in the prefrontal cortex of the brain which continues to develop until around age 25. However, these skills seem to be really important during the teen age years, yet are not quite developed enough to be depended upon. Executive function skills help you: Manage time and be realistic about what you can and cannot do in the time available Regulate your emotions and behaviors to avoid saying or doing the wrong thing Determine what you should pay attention to and what you should not Switch focus based on the feedback you receive about the effectiveness of what you are doing Plan and organize in a logical, methodical way to complete tasks and thoughts. Remember what you need to remember at the right time Allows you to make decisions based on your past experiences and avoid repeating your mistakes In school, executive dysfunction can look like missing homework, forgetting to study for tests, doing poorly, spending hours on homework, or not being able to find things they know they have. One...
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