Executive Functioning Tricks for High School Students

High school students are often faced with ever-increasing demands for organizational skills, planning longer-term school projects andhighschool boy managing busy daily schedules. When there are challenges in meeting these demands, the student’s performance and confidence may be negatively affected. Because this developmental stage is focused on increasing autonomy, the goal is to equip your teenager with strategies that they can carry out independently and internalize as they continue to mature. The best way to do this is to have them practice in their everyday life as well as receive consistent feedback from the adults around them. In addition, giving the teen opportunities to say what is working for them and what is not provides them with a sense of control and teaches essential self-monitoring skills. Below are strategies for some of the biggest challenges that your teen may be facing.

Tips for getting teens started on tasks:

  • Develop a schedule with start times
  • Use prompts that will remind the teen (e.g., written plan/schedule and/or use of timers, alarms)
  • Adults can reinforce the use of these strategies by offering positive feedback

Tips for planning and organizing:

  • Develop time lines for long-term projects
  • Explicitly teach the problem-solving process (i.e., identify goal, identify possible strategies, select the best one, develop sequential steps and gather what is needed, begin, monitor, and modify as necessary). Model this process a few times and have the teen carry out the process while verbalizing the steps
  • Create a specific and protected “study time” every day that focuses on planning and prioritizing assignments
  • Have the teen make use of a planner to track assignments, due dates and study time
  • Parents and teachers can monitor the effectiveness of these strategies and modify them as necessary

Tips for decreasing impulsiveness:

  • Teach the teen self-monitoring strategies to check work for careless mistakes
  • Have the teen develop internal self-talk that reminds them to stop and think prior to responding
  • Reinforce the teen when careful and conscientious behavior is observed

Tips for working memory:

  • Teach the teen how to preview new material for greater comprehension
  • Daily practice and review of information
  • Encourage active listening skills (e.g., asking questions) and playing with the material in meaningful ways