How to Teach Executive Functions

Every year, my month of August is all about coaching my clients through the Seeing My Time program – intensely. I usually teach the curriculum to each individual or family once a week for nine weeks. But in August, I offer “intensive” sessions, where the client comes every day for a week, then once a week after the school year begins.

As August has now drawn to a close, I am sending all of those students off into the school year with new skills, and hopefully more developed executive functions. They will continue to see me once a week as the school year begins.

With the dream of showing others how to teach Seeing my time, I created the Teaching Seeing My Time Program. It is designed for coaches, teachers and therapists to help students and parents to understand the brain and their own executive functions. Then it works to prepare families for a less stressful and more successful school year, particularly for students with ADHD and executive functioning issues. So these intensive sessions are focused on jump-starting students for the school year ahead.

While it is hard work facing some very defensive teens and their anxious (and frustrated) parents, I love this work. I get to watch everyone switch from being totally powerless to being armed with new self-awareness and tools to set up a new school year filled with learning.

Seeing My Time gives them hope, based on knowledge and growing skills.

It was particularly gratifying to see that change in Paul, an 18-year-old who had slipped into a depressed mode that had paralyzed him to the point where, in his final semester, he didn’t manage to graduate with his class.

One day, just after his school year had started, Paul arrived for a session with a new air of confidence and energy that he had lacked when I first met him. He confidently reported two things that were working well for him.

Firstly, the paper management binder system enabled him to know where to find all of his assignments and school papers, which lowered his stress. He also said that doing his “A-Day” homework on “A-Day” was really helping.

Let me explain A-Day homework for you. I’ve come to realize that a school schedule which alternates classes between different days is truly perilous for the student with executive function challenges. Typically, schedules are split between “A-Days” and “B-Days.” This creates the perfect setup to procrastinate, starting with that day’s homework. After all, it isn’t due for two days. What’s wrong with this approach?

First, students with executive functioning challenges are faced with their lack of future thinking. They don’t anticipate the possibility that tomorrow may not have adequate time to complete the assignment without staying up late and robbing them of critical sleep.

What’s the solution?

I really get students’ attention when I explain that if you do homework on the day it’s assigned, the homework will be easier and faster to do. Why? It has to do with the brain and how it stores memories.

The sad truth is that when you leave a classroom, you will very quickly “forget” about 70% of what the teacher said. Over the next few hours you will only have 30% of your classroom memories available when you sit down to do your homework.

Starting homework on the day it is assigned reactivates neuron connections so that you will begin to remember more of what the teacher said. If you wait until tomorrow, you may have NO memories to activate when faced with your homework assignment. Because you didn’t reactivate those remaining 30% of yesterday’s neuron connections, your brain decided that information wasn’t important and essentially forgot it all. You will likely stare at the assignment in complete confusion, unable to start. Thus begins the downward spiral of missed assignments with executive function challenged brains.


How the Seeing My Time Program can Help

The Seeing My Time course is packed with resources and information like this to help support your time-challenged clients and students. The program also works with individual adults. The Seeing My Time Workbook is designed to be a personalized support for your client as you teach them the course. As Paul learned, there are MANY external time tools and strategies that can be applied for the executive function challenged brain – if you know how to find them.

If you’d like to learn to teach the Seeing My Time course directly from me, my 8-week live webinar, Teaching Seeing My Time is a great and cost-effective way to learn. Receive a certification to teach the course directly to your own students and clients, and receive CEU or graduate level credits (both optional) while doing it.

My goal is to reach every executive function challenged brain out there and give them access to the resources and strategies that have helped me in my own life. Please join me, and help spread this important work!

About the Author Marydee Sklar

Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program® and the Set Up Success and Seeing My Time® planners. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.

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