As stated in the last post task initiation is the ability to stop what you are doing and switch gears to another activity. When we procrastinate we resist starting a new activity. The more immature we are the more we want to procrastinate. For children playing is more rewarding that taking a bath or doing school work. The author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Executive Functioning Disorder breaks this chapter into three age groups: the young child, the elementary child, and the adolescent child. For the young child, we can start teaching how to move to a new task by using “first, then” and “before, after” statements. First we put on our pants, then we put on our shirt. It is helpful to give a countdown before moving to another activity, like we are going to take a bath in 5 minutes. With my monkeys, I find it useful to say “When the numbers on the clock say 7:45, it is time to take a bath.” Pumpkin has a harder time understanding the length of 5 minutes, but a clock is a concrete tool that he can check to see how much time might be left. Take time to praise them for their successes both large and small.
The author introduces the Premack Principle for the elementary child. It builds on the “first, then” concept using the undesirable task first, followed by a desirable task. First we finish our homework, then we play on the iPad. Children may be resistant at first, but if you make a consistent routine of expectations it becomes easier over time. If you have multiple tasks to complete, offer the child the option of what order to do their work in to allow them some control over the situation. Start teaching the child simple goal setting techniques. If a book has to be read over the weekend for an assignment instead of waiting until Sunday night, read a few chunks at a time. Read a chunk on Friday night, read another chuck or two on Saturday, then finish the book on Sunday. To help with task initiation have a set homework routine. Designate a specific location free of technology and schedule a specific time. We actually did this at the beginning of the school year. I created a homework tub with all the supplies needed and it sits in the middle of the homework table. We have a snack when we walk in the door, then we start working on our homework. We are more lenient on Friday night, and break the homework load up over the weekend. I’m going to skip commenting about the adolescent child since we are not quite there yet. One highlight in that section is ensuring that your child gets enough sleep. Sleep is critical to managing a lot of the spokes of executive functioning.
Working memory is the ability to hold information in your mind long enough to do something with it, also known as short-term memory. This is a biggie when it comes to academic success. Working memory is needed in following directions, taking class notes, reading comprehension, and multiple step math problems. Working memory can be broken into two groups auditory (verbal- assists in comprehension of complex directions) and visual-spatial (sight- assists in comprehension of what things should look like). Repetition is very helpful in learning to harness working memory. Ask your child repeat back the directions that they were given to ensure that they heard all of the steps. The author recommends the exercise of assigning the child three items to remember on the grocery list and have them assist you at the grocery store finding the items. Another tip is to encourage your child to write down appointments and assignments. The physical act of write information down helps with memory retention.
Seven tips are suggested for strengthening working memory. 1) Priming- Give a heads up before starting a task. “We have three chores to do before we can play outside. One we need to pick up our Legos. Two we need to pick up the pillows. Three we need to vacuum the floor. When we are done we can go outside.” 2) Rehearsal- repeat what you were told. That is kind of what I am doing with the blog postings for this book. I do a better job remembering when I write down what I learned. I usually take written notes, then type up the notes to help reinforce the information. 3) Clustering- chunk information into groups to assist in memory retention. The author suggestions memory games like- Simon, Memory, Concentration, Bop It! We did get Simon for the kids and they both seem to enjoy it. We will have to see if it makes any difference over time. 4) Mnemonics and Associations- create an acronym, poem, or song to remember what you learned. I remember learning ROY G. BIV growing up to remember the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). For the planets we said “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto). 5) Visualizing- using multiple avenues to process information (hearing, seeing, writing, demonstrating, etc…). The author recommends the website PBS Learning Media. I checked it out. We may need to add it to our study arsenal. 6) Build Recall, Not Recognition- fine tuning the studying process. Flash cards are a great way to promote recall. I think that I was the index card queen in college. I had index cards everywhere, and I color coded my class notes with different colored markers. Flash cards were the key to remembering all of botanical information in the 30+ botany classes that I took. I also used a dry erase board to practice my information. We use dry erase boards with the kiddos for spelling and working out math problems. The online program Quizlet is great. We use it for Pumpkin’s memory verses, but I see a lot of promise for the future. 7) Elaborations- linking new information to information that is already known. An example: When you see a dead tree on the ground in a forest how would you explain the purpose of leaving it where it is? The dead tree can be a hotel for bugs to live inside, but it can also be a restaurant for birds to come and feast on the bugs. The bugs, moss, and mushrooms live on and inside the dead tree. Eventually the wood will become spongy and the dead tree will turn into dirt for other another tree to grow. Understood.com also has some tips for working memory strategies.
This book is fascinating. I believe that there is something for everyone in this book. We are all human and none of us is perfect. I am thankful to learn a few tips that might help my kiddos. I am also thankful for the reminders of the learning styles that I have used forever and taken for granted. I have a feeling that it is going to take me a while to whittle through this book so I bought a used copy online. Hooray! My library book is due in a few days, so I will take a reading hiatus until my “new” book arrives.