Helping the Little Conductor in Your Child’s Mind

My family has been going through it the past couple weeks. It’s just more of the same 2020 nonsense that everyone is experiencing, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I’ve been thinking about a post on executive functioning, as I can imagine we’re all working a little harder on this skill of late, but also because I recently ran across something that might help our kids be a little more effectual with a lot less work and frustration.

Executive function is the term for the overall management of the brain. It is what allows us to prioritize tasks and get things done and it involves three overarching areas: working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control (including self-control). The eight executive functions are self-control, self-monitoring, emotional control, flexibility, task initiation, organization, working memory, and planning & time management.

There are many brain differences that impact executive functioning including things like autism, ADHD, depression, and trauma to the brain. And, if you’ve spent time around kids, you’ll recognize that their executive functioning is still under construction. In fact, executive function develops all the way into adulthood. Kids who are struggling with it might not be able to pay attention, hold onto a series of instructions, transition from one task to the next, or plan out action steps. As a child, I had many, many hours of therapy to help me improve my executive functioning skills, so I was intrigued when I recently ran across a strategy that promises improvements in executive function.

Kristen Jacobsen (MS CCC-SLP) and Sarah Ward (MS CCC-SLP) are two speech language pathologists who have been studying executive function for the past 20+ years and now co-direct Cognitive Connections, a specialty practice in Massachusetts. Together, they created the 360 Thinking™ Executive Function Program that includes a strategy developed by Sarah Ward called Get Ready, Do, Done. This strategy coaches children to identify what needs to be done at a future time, imagine what “done” looks like, work backward to plan out the steps to get there, and then collect needed materials to accomplish the task. It is a way to lay out each step for those whose brains don’t automatically do the planning for them. The model plans backward before taking steps forward.

  1. What will it look like when I am done?
  2. What steps do I need to take to be done? How long will each step take?
  3. What do I need to get ready?
  4. What materials do I need to do the steps?
  5. Time to do the task. Create a timeline and time markers.
  6. Know when to stop and close out the task.

When I was little, I used to get frustrated to the point of shutting down when I was told to clean my room. In childist terms, I might have been called lazy or stubborn, but the problem I had was that I simply didn’t know what to do! I needed someone to show me my room clean and straight several times, so I’d have the picture in my mind. I needed to be walked around the room and shown where each item was supposed to go. I needed a step-by-step plan, like:

  1. Get cleaning supplies.
  2. Clear off and make the bed to use as a staging area if needed.
  3. Pick up and put away items from the floor as follows: trash, dishes, clothes, toys, books, and everything else.
  4. Organize wardrobe and trunk.
  5. Wipe dust and grime from surfaces.
  6. Clean glass.
  7. Sweep floor.

That never happened for me. I stumbled through housework until well into adulthood when I came across the organizing and cleaning industries and learned how to properly do housework. Even with small children now, I’m able to keep my house nice and clean. I even put laundry away after it’s dried, which is something I never did as a young adult. Check out this quick video that uses cleaning a room to explain executive functioning:

If you’d like to give Get Ready, Do, Done a try, check out these free resources:

How to Use Get Ready, Do, Done at Home


Real Life Example


Free Get Ready, Do, Done Mat

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/FREEBIE-Get-Ready-Do-Done-Mat-5524408?st=30bebda533a4fb4ce6fc74f1a39cef21

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