Children aren’t born with executive functioning or self-regulation skills, rather their brain has the capacity to develop them. As a result, these skills that support a child’s capacity to learn, grow and develop can be inhibited by a number of factors including stress, environment, relationships, or delays. They can blossom and develop more fully with support from adults and the environment around them. Some children require more focused support to better develop executive functioning and self-regulation skills. Support can be through Early Education Opportunities and/or more formal intervention and support like Occupational Therapy, Behavior Therapy or Mental Health Services.
How to Identify on Track Development for Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation Skills
Positive Engagement in School
- Your child has a positive experience at school, cooperates with expectations and meets expectations most days.
- Your child completes their work in a timely manner and typically understands the material.
- Your child’s school work is typically organized and can be located easily.
- For younger children, they attend school most days without difficulty. They can share what happens at school each day and can tolerate when things change.
- Your child can get along with others, can initiate interaction and negotiate play appropriately.
- Your child typically understands and follows routine expectations and rules.
- Your child typically responds to redirection without difficulty.
- Your child can communicate his needs, wants, or wishes appropriately and effectively.
- Your child can take responsibility for their actions and can understand the consequences.
- For younger children, they engage in turn-taking, sharing, and show emerging empathy for others if they get hurt or sick.
Healthy and Safe Choices
- Your child makes safe choices when interacting with others across settings (home, school, and in the community).
- Your child can recognize and understand the importance of rules and safety.
- Your child can make healthy choices for themselves (balanced eating, exercising or participating in activities that make them feel good).
- Your child can access and utilize help when needed.
- For younger children, they can talk about the rules at home and school. They can cooperate with important routines like sleeping, eating and toileting.
Communication and Coping Skills
- Your child can express their needs, wants, and feelings verbally and effectively.
- Your child can typically communicate or express their frustration or anger in a safe, appropriate manner.
- Your child can accept support or help from others.
- Your child can advocate for themselves appropriately.
- For younger children they can ask for help, ask for their needs with words or gestures, and can calm down with adult support.
How to Promote Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation skills
- Provide a visual guide for routine and rules at home.
- Make expectations clear and concise; talk about what happened if expectations are not being met.
- Provide 1 or 2 step directions when giving instructions.
- Spend time together for multi-step activities like art, a puzzle or baking activity; talk about the steps needed.
- Encourage and praise hard work and persistence especially when trying something new or challenging.
- Use first/then statements i.e. “First we put the toys away, then we can have snack.”
- Take time for calm and quiet activities together i.e. reading, taking a walk and coloring.
- Model how to calm down or take deep breaths when upset.
- Model healthy living and safe choices.
- Develop Family Rituals that provide time to reflect and share about thoughts, feelings, and experiences (i.e. Highs and lows from the day over dinner, 3 best parts of the day on the drive home, marking off days on a calendar to look forward to a family outing).
- Talk and share about feelings. Be willing to share your own.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!