“That was fantastic!”
“I learned so much.”
Those were two of many positive comments I heard at the end of Dr. McCloskey’s presentation last night. Hillside teachers also had the benefit of meeting with Dr. McCloskey earlier in the day and received some valuable guidance as we discussed the specific challenges that children with learning differences have that are tied to executive functions and skills.
Our students need to be aware of their learning differences so that they can understand how their learning is affected. They need to be more conscious of the learning process than a typical student so that they can manage their frustration by understanding that it will take longer for them to learn a specific skill, but that they CAN learn. They may need to have specific strategies to stay positive, or as Dr. McCloskey says, “ridiculously optimistic”. Parents need to communicate that attitude as well.
The good news is that executive function strategies and skills can be taught once an awareness of the problem is brought to the attention of the student. Asking a student (age 10 and up) if they are aware of the problem and if they know what to do can help guide a discussion to find a solution. Once the student is aware of the problem, then parents and teachers can introduce a solution, explain the steps, model the process, allow the child to practice, at first with lots of feedback, then, as time goes on, more independently, until the child is able to independently perform the new strategy or skill. Expect ups and downs – charting can help everyone see that progress is being made, even when children revert to previous, less-functional behaviors. Dr. McCloskey emphasized that everyone doesn’t arrive at the goal at the same time, but “it’s not forever, just longer than you like”.
For students younger than 10, games are especially effective in teaching executive functions and skills. The Tools of the Mind website is one resource that was recommended, especially for games that promote self-regulation in young children.
For your reference, Dr. McCloskey’s presentation full sized slides are available below. If you prefer to print out the slides in a 6-to-a-page format, please click HERE.View Fullscreen