Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed.
16 Ways To Sneak Executive Function Into Your Child's Summer (While Lighten Parents' Loads)
| by Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed., TPT Teaching and Coaching, 5/20/2023|
In the perspective of learning science, active learning is a useful way to build and foster ADHD/LD students' executive function skills. Active learning means the student is constantly using the mental models they have learned by transferring the knowledge into actionable steps and making it an integral part of their daily living implementation. When a student consistently practices a specific executive skill repeatedly, the skill gets absorbed all the way to the prefrontal cortex, which is the brain region where executive skills are housed (Stanislas Dehaene, How We Learn). Therefore, there is a higher chance that the skill gets thoroughly absorbed and remembered later on. Memory-enriching techniques are vitally important as students with ADHD/LD often have working memory deficits. However, you can help your child deepen their executive skills during the summertime where time is less restrictive as your child is on summer vacation and he/she can devote this time to hone executive function skills. Below are some practical, daily activities where you can help your child strengthen their executive skills and sometimes it may even lighten your load as a parent:
1. Co-author a grocery list with your child and send your child off with the grocery list down the store aisle while watching how your child does it. Your child is helping you out while practicing life skills. Two in one, no?
2. Have your child plan and pack their own luggage for family vacation. Give your child a few pointers at first (maybe think out loud with them while they write a list), then let the child pack using the list. Experience is the best teacher, provide guidance if they stumble along the way. Hint: Always use a timer/stopwatch. It will escalate the process and reduce ADHD's time blindness.
3. Have your child create a list of eligible summer movies. Show organization is fun by mixing it with enjoyable activities. If they can organize this, then the skill will transfer to other things like keeping a tidy, clean bedroom and backpack when they start school in the fall.
4. Have your child (ren) take turns assigning weekly chores to sibling(s) on a wall calendar. There's nothing that makes a student become more matured than taking a small leadership role in the family to practice leadership without intimidation. Parents will need to induct the student into this process at first, but you just sit back after you onboard them into the grown up role and watch how they blossom. If they get sidetracked, then you redirect them with a visual reminder to avoid reiteration every time. Have a visual checklist ready!
5. Guide and facilitate your child to create a monthly theme for each summer month. This is great practice for flexible thinking. You are training the child to translate ideas into organizational compartments like planning, organizing, and executing. This is the ultimate how-to-get-things-done activity. Your child will be doing it while you guide them.
6. Have your child plan a birthday or family party In most cases, there is bound to be a summer party. This is the perfect occasion to give your child a small role in organizing this party. It could be putting your child in charge of writing the list for disposable supplies only: napkins, paper plates, trash bags, balloons etc. This is a fun way to help the child practice their executive skills.
7. Together decide on 3 cleaning rules your child will do during weekdays, so they don't have to use the weekend to clean. If you would like your child to practice time management, specifically using time wisely. This is a seamless way to get it into your child's daily routine to help them understand the creativity behind time and task placement.
8. Together decide a healthy sleeping time and weekend rewards if followed 5 days a week. This activity will pay off big time for parents when school returns because your child will be ready to start strong with a healthy bedtime routine because they had already had plenty of practice during summer and parents don't have to re-train the child.
9. Have your child time you using a stopwatch while you're doing the dishes/other daily tasks. Then, switch, you time the child while they clean their room. This is making time estimation way more fun than your student could realize. Make a game out of it! Play Who Cleans Faster! Write down how long cleaning takes every time and gamify it to see if your child can clean faster next time to beat the record.
10. Lay out outfits competition/contest. Time your child to see how many outfits they could lay out in 5 minutes. The perfect induction to helping a child start a morning routine. Again, gamification is a great way to introduce the idea of planning ahead to students.
11. Let your child decide where to put new toys and he/she needs to follow his own rule for keeping the toy kingdom neat. If parents want to clean less, then this is a great way to introduce your child into organizational routines and habits that will pay dividends big time down the road, so you won't have to clean after them. This skill will easily transfer to other self-management skills too.
12. Have your child alphabetize book titles. This is an excellent way to usher organizational habits into your child's life by starting small. You can also add bright music and fun snacks to the activity to spice it up.
13. Help your child come up with a saying to help them remember the local public library's operation hours by heart. This is a fun way to activate working memory, and it teaches the student how to invent new acronyms and visual representations to remember just about anything.
14. Assign your child/teen as the IT captain in the house to patrol to make sure everyone's devices are plugged in before going to bed. By having your child check to see if everyone plans ahead the night before, the child internalizes the concept of organization and begins to plan the night before himself. It is about self-actualization based on learning science and student ownership.
15. Have your child reorganize shoes by color. The intentionality here is a vital stepping stone for a young child to begin thinking about the idea of organizing. This will serve as an important building block to developing other executive skills as the child gets older.
16. Put your older child/teen fully in charge of updating the family's wall calendar. The more a student engages in organizational routines that occur daily, the easier it will be for them to realize that organization is a natural and vital part of efficiency and predictability. Offer weekly rewards for timeliness and accuracy in updating information.
ADHD research shows the ADHD brain learns best by doing. Hence, putting your child in the driver's seat with the age appropriate activities would be the fastest way for them to learn the executive skills over a consistent duration of time. What's more, if they do it daily and cooperate with other family members, the skills become very real and it's not just something they hear about or see on a sheet of paper.
Dehaene, S. (2020). How We Learn. Penguin Random House.
Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed.
As a Certified ADHD Professional/Coach and Licensed Educator for 18 years, Thuy's holistic approach combines Learning Science with ADHD Science to design brain hack strategies that foster students'/individuals' long-term independence, motivation, and self-management skills. She is diligent in understanding her students and adults on all levels (ADHD, Executive Dysfunction, Autism, Dysgraphia, Anxiety, Depression, Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors-BFRB, Written Expression Disorder, Specific Reading Comprehension Deficit-SRCD, ADHD and Syncope-fainting spells). She listens deeply and spots the missing piece very quickly then she swiftly turns around to personalize tailored strategies to meet her clients' unique needs. She believes in evidence-based practices as well as giving the student/individual the best of all worlds: learning science, cognitive science, and ADHD science. Her favorite part is recognizing the missing puzzle and customizing the "brain hack" in a language that is unique to that individual while meeting all their needs. She especially enjoys helping students/adults translate their challenges into actionable steps and likes letting them know that they are well loved!
Learn more about how Thuy marries a student's cognitive style with brain hack strategies here.