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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Executive Functioning: Problems and Solutions

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Many young learners are being diagnosed with executive functioning weaknesses and schools are struggling to meet the needs of this population of learners.  The problem is that many teachers and administrators don’t understand the difficulties associated with this problem and therefore find accommodating these students an ever increasing challenge.

What is Executive Functioning?
  •  The command and control center of the brain
  •  The conductor of cognitive skills
  •  The cognitive process that connects learned experiences with present actions.
  •  The place that encodes, retrieves and manipulates information.
What is the Impact of Executive Functioning Difficulties?
On the one hand, a weakness or deficit in executive functioning can impact an individual internally in a number of ways:

1) Cognitive Performance:
  • Slow processing speed
  • Difficulty maintaining motivation
  • Limited stamina
  • Poor goal-directed persistence

2) Emotional Regulation:
  • Problems curbing frustration
  • Difficulty maintaining a positive attitude
  • Struggles with controlling anxiety

3) Monitoring and Management:
  • Poor self-awareness  - prioritizing and self-awareness
  • Difficulties with self-regulation – time management, organization and planning

4) Memory:
  • Problems encoding information – holding and manipulating data
  • Difficulties retrieving information – word finding and connecting new concepts to prior knowledge
5) Attention:
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Problems sustaining attention
  • Difficulties shifting focus
  • Poor goal-directed persistence
On the other hand, difficulties with executive functioning can also impact an individual externally in a number of ways:

1) Social:
  • Difficulties arriving on time for social gatherings
  • Problems planning events
  • Difficulties engaging in-group dynamics
  • Struggles with recalling people’s names
2) Family:
  • Problems arriving on time for family gatherings
  • Difficulties finding items
  • Struggles with maintaining an organized space
  • Problems regulating emotions with family members
3) Educational:
  • Difficulties recording assignments
  • Problems initiating schoolwork
  • Struggles with locating Handouts and homework
  • Forgetting to submit completed assignments
  • Problems maintaining organized materials and space
  • Trouble keeping appointments
4) Occupational:
  • Problems maintaining stamina on projects
  • Difficulties organizing materials
  • Struggles to keep appointments
  • Problems finding materials
  • Difficulties arriving to work on time
What are Some General Solutions?
  • Meditation and mindfulness training
  • EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Cognitive remediation in areas such as working memory and emotional regulation
  • Individual or family therapy
  • Structured and routine oriented lifestyle
  • Use of planners, a PDA (such as a smartphone or computer) or hiring a personal assistant
What are Some Academic Solutions?
  • Create a structured daily routine
  • Set priorities
  • Generate a homework plan
  • Break large assignments into manageable chunks
  • Make to-do checklists
  • Teach study skills
  • Illustrate note-taking skills
  • Demonstrate time management skills by breaking large assignments into manageable chunks with numerous deadlines
  • Teach test taking strategies
  • Demonstrate memory strategies
  • Help student motivation by offering incentives and positive reinforcement
  • Create and use graphic organizers for writing
  • Teach metacognitive skills by thinking through the process aloud
  • Use technology such as a smartphone to create reminders
Academic Tools for Success:
To help with strategies and more, I created a 116-page publication that offers methods and materials that structure, guide, and support students in the areas of time management, planning and organization (executive functioning skills).  This comprehensive document includes agendas, questionnaires, checklists, as well as graphic organizers for writing and test preparation.  You will also find advice and materials in the areas of reading, math, memory, motivation, setting priorities and creating incentives programs.  These materials were all created over a 10 year period for my private practice.  What’s more, the materials accommodate learners of all ages from elementary to college.  Come get a free sample assessment from the publication, as well as view a free video on executive functioning.  CLICK HERE

If you would like to view a Prezi that I created for this blog, CLICK HERE
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Friday, February 14, 2014

Strategies for Teaching the Different Types of Angles and Lines

Using multisensory instruction always makes a lesson more engaging and fun for students.  In fact, one of my favorite learning modalities to integrate into instruction is kinesthetics or movement.  For many learners having to sit still is not conducive for learning, and other children just need to get their bodies moving and their blood circulating from time to time to fully focus on a lesson.

One of my favorite topics to teach are the different type of angles and lines.  I like to cover these concepts with a multisensory and interactive PowerPoint that I created, then I get the students to use chants as well as their bodies to encode the information.  Just this week I created a free YouTube video, where I share some fun activity ideas for lines and angles. 
If you like the video and would like to also acquire my multisensory PowerPoint presentation, Click Here to learn more.
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Color-Coded Writing: A Scaffolding Approach for Word Formation

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Many young learners struggle with the sizing and formation of letters.   In addition, writing across the paper in a straight line can be challenging.   For these students, I like to offer a color-coded scaffolding approach that provides support and also brings the fun factor into the learning process.  I call it, Color-coded Handwriting and it helps my students master this difficult, fine motor task. 

What's the Process:

  1. I offer my students color-coded paper as well as color-coded letters.  
  2. I tell my students that all the letters have to match up with the colors.  
  3. I share with my students that the colors represent, “the sky - blue, the grass – green, and the ground - orange.”  Letters that are green, such as the lowercase letter “o” are called grass letters, tall letters such as “t” are grass and sky letters, and letters such as the letter “g” are grass and ground letters.  All letters rest on the line below the grass. 
You Can Make This Yourself, or Purchase it Ready Made:

You can make the paper and letters with handwriting paper and highlighters, but if you would prefer to have the paper and letters already made for you, you can purchase my publication, Color Coded Handwriting for only $4.99. This downloadable, printable PDF comes with color-coded upper and lower case letters, as well as a variety of lined, color-coded templates in small, medium and large. Furthermore, it offers a two column option that is ideal for spelling words.  Finally, this product suggests a fun game-like activity.  
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Embracing Positive Learning Environments

Part of the learning process is making mistakes.  However, inadvertently teachers and parents often correct young learners with negative remarks.  Kids continually hear the words "no," "incorrect" and "wrong."  What’s more, in moments of frustration, many children must withstand cutting, belittling names such as careless, lazy and unmotivated.  I think we have all been called these names at some time in our life, and I can promise you, these negative labels never help the situation.  It only breeds frustration and disempowerment.  In fact, if teachers or parents get too critical, students can feel dejected and even develop a sense of learned helplessness.

Stop the Negative Labels:
Have you seen Dan Siegal speak about the psychological impact of the word, “no?”  Here is a link to a YouTube Video where he shows an audience the difference between “no” and “yes” responses (Click Here).  I hope you have a moment to view it.  

Replace Negativity with Words of Encouragement:
How can teachers communicate student errors without sending a punitive message? Always point out what is right before using positive terms to guide any mishaps to the correct answer.  Here is a list of browbeating, contentious words that can be replaced with suggested words of encouragement.


Evaluating Errors:
Getting students comfortable evaluating their mishaps can be useful for the teacher as well as the student.  I tell my students that there are two types of errors.
  1. An oops or oopsy doodle: This is when a student knew the content but overlooked a detail.  If my students get discouraged with these types of mistakes, I always give them a high five and remind them that we are human.  I then say, "If people didn't make mishaps, there would be nothing to learn." 
  2. What?:  I always say this as if I am asking a question.  A "What?" is when a student never learned the concept.  This lets me know that I have to reteach the concept in a different way. 
Many of us grew up with negative labels, and I know, first hand, how difficult it can be to temper discouraging comments.  However, with practice, you will find that embracing words of encouragement will change the atmosphere of the learning environment and your students will embrace the learning process with confidence and enthusiasm.  In addition, providing a safe place where students feel comfortable evaluating their mishaps with cutesy terms such as oopsy doodle and What? will guide classroom strategies that nurture individual success. 
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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