I am delighted to share some thoughts as the newest member of the Portsmouth Neuropsychology team. Having been in the field of educational assessment, academic support and counseling for many years, I have had the opportunity to work with students, their parents and teachers in the interest of providing the types of support which have fostered academic and social success, and the confidence to persist resiliently in the formation and achievement of goals.
The beginning of the school year is a pivotal time for our students as they transition from one grade to the next, with new demands and challenges to face. As their caregivers, we strive to get them off to the best start possible, and yet that process can be overwhelming for us as we consider the physical, emotional and cognitive needs which must be met. I am in awe of the challenges which parents and caregivers face and accomplish every day, but especially at this time of the year!
The term “Executive Functioning” becomes meaningful as we help our kids to become efficient in the areas of task initiation, time management, completing homework and remembering to hand it in, retaining information to solve problems, enhance reading and comprehension, and even to solve problems in the face of stress. Emotion management and listening before speaking are also components of executive function and are strongly associated with relationship skills. Having initiated a social emotional curriculum at a local private school, I have seen the impact of executive functioning skills on the initiation and maintenance of friendships.
So how do we help our children to develop these skills? The answer to that question is beyond the scope of this letter, but the idea of having organizational strategies in place is essential. These involve the understanding of the specific needs of our children so that we can provide concrete, visual organizational strategies that can be utilized consistently until they become habitual. The ability to set goals, sustain attention, inhibit responses, self-monitor, and transition from one activity to another with flexibility are important skills to be developed as our children move from elementary school through the upper grades and beyond.
In my many years of experience in this area, I have seen how executive functioning development has had a positive impact not only academically, but in the development of the “soft skills” of critical thinking, social relationships and empathy development. These skills are becoming increasingly recognized as essential for success as our children navigate our increasingly global world. I look forward to consulting with parents, teachers and children as put these strategies to work. I hope you have a wonderful and organized year!