student at whiteboard

Executive Function

The Connection Between Executive Function and Social Communication Skills

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Monday, May 11, 2015

By Linda Gross, M.A., CCC-SLP

Much has been written and discussed in recent years about Executive Function (EF) challenges faced by students diagnosed with a language-based learning disability (LBLD). Also in the forefront are conversations amongst educators, speech/language pathologists (SLPs), and neuropsychologists about interventions for students with social communication disorders (SCD). I have been privy to many of these discussions, and have read countless articles on these topics.  But my “real education” comes from my over 25 years of working with children and adolescents with both EF deficits and SCD.  Current research supports the notion that social communication skills can be impacted by EF deficits.

Cognitive flexibility, the ability to shift one’s thinking, is a component of EF. Consider the fast-paced nature of a social interaction that is filled with both verbal and non-verbal information. If a person has difficulty with cognitive flexibility, then social interactions may be compromised.

John (not his real name) is a student who teachers often refer to as “bright and readily shares his insights with his classmates”. However, teachers also describe him as “rigid and inflexible”.  He performs best with structure and predictable routinesJohn has been diagnosed with a LBLD, EF deficits, and a SCD. There are certain topics that John can provide a wealth of information about. He may come across as a “know it all” and does not recognize when others are disinterested. When a teacher or a peer provides an alternate view to his own, John may become argumentative. He often perseverates on his line of thinking and cannot shift gears. A student like John often perceives situations as black and white; he does not see the “gray.” 

This is an overly simplified example of a quite complex dynamic. Ultimately, we need to provide support with both executive function skills and social communication skills.  Rather than reacting in frustration to a “difficult” exchange, I encourage educators and parents to take a proactive approach. STRATEGIES (be sure to use specific language and provide clear expectations):

  • Teach cognitive flexibility and problem solving

“I understand that you didn’t edit your essay because I had asked you to make corrections in red and you didn’t have a red pen. What is one thing you could have done to get your homework done?” Help the student generate some possible solutions (e.g., borrow a red pen, use a different color pen and email the teacher about it, etc.). Use opportunities like these to teach/model problem solving. (Identify Problem->Generate 2-3 Possible Solutions->Consider Consequences->Make a Choice->Create a Plan)

  • Acknowledge, then redirect; avoid getting into a debate

“I know you want to keep talking about _____, but we have to move on.” “I know you are trying to be helpful, but Tim didn’t ask for your help.” “I know it bothers you that Jane is out of dress code, but you don’t need to comment on it. The adults will handle it.”

  • Tell the student how his words or actions make you/classmates feel

“I’m feeling frustrated because you’re not following my instructions?” “Jane felt embarrassed when you said she was out of dress code in front of everyone.”

  • Alert the student when there are going to be changes in the routine

“Tomorrow Mrs. Gross will be teaching this class so that I can attend a conference. She will collect your homework and help you edit your composition drafts.” “Friday’s class is going to be shortened due to an extended recess so we won’t be doing our usual warm-up activity.”

  • Identify and discuss the “gray”; not everything is “black and white” “I know that it’s officially springtime according to the calendar, but it is 30 degrees outside, so we need to wear our winter coats.”

To learn more about Linda Gross's work, check out the following links:

linda gross headshot

Linda Gross, M.A., CCC-SLP – Landmark High School Speech-Language Pathologist/Consultant and Landmark Outreach Program Adjunct Faculty

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Tags:  cognitive flexibility education research Executive Function Executive Functioning Landmark Outreach Program Landmark School language-based learning disabilities learning disabilities social communication disorders speech and language speech and language pathologist speech pathologists

Dyslexia: Learning Disability or Entrepreneurial Advantage?

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Thursday, October 13, 2016 Byline:  By Elliot S. Weissbluth

typewriter

Having dyslexia doesn't mean you can't learn or be successful, but you may have to go about it a little differently.

I was first diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, and then again 20 years later as an adult law school student.

Dyslexia affects each individual a little differently, but generally creates difficulties for processing written language. It is often characterized as a “learning disability.”

Early on, I struggled to keep up in grade school, especially with reading and studying. My parents purchased a Smith Corona typewriter, and every day I typed my notes from class onto onionskin paper. The process of deciphering my own handwriting (not easy even today!) and then typing the words onto a page I could read later was critical to helping me learn. Imagine my delight later in life when computers came along and I was already so comfortable on the keyboard.

Having dyslexia doesn’t mean you can’t learn or be successful, but you may have to go about it a little differently.

In fact, people with dyslexia are often highly creative thinkers, likely because in compensating for or overcoming the challenges of dyslexia we develop a strategic intelligence, as well as a stubborn persistence. It is no surprise to me that entrepreneurs exhibit higher rates of dyslexia than the general population. We’re wired to approach challenges in new ways, to work around obstacles, and to solve problems.

And we’re in pretty good company: Woodrow Wilson, Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Steven Spielberg, Agatha Christie, and Cher, are just a few examples of dyslexics who have achieved amazing things.

Effective coping strategies vary from person to person, but here are a few I’ve learned:

  • Take your time. In school, dyslexic students are often allotted extra time to complete assignments. In the real world, the best way to avoid the sensation of not having enough time is to start things early. I’ve always been an early riser, so I usually get up at 4:30 in the morning so I can have an hour or so to myself before the kids wake up and the day begins in earnest. This allows me to look at my calendar, slowly read important e-mails, and think through everything ahead of me that day. My habit of extensive and early preparation developed out of my need to not feel rushed to “keep up” with my non-dyslexic peers.
  • Be purposefully attentive. Attention requires effort. Try “active listening,” a technique used in conflict resolution, in which the listener paraphrases and repeats back the speaker’s message to ensure mutual understanding (you can keep this feedback silent and write down what you think they mean). Look for clues about what the speaker FEELS rather than just hearing what they SAY. I’ve found that journaling helps me stay in the present.
  • Reject the myth of multitasking.If you are trying to listen to someone speak or you are reading something important, you can’t text, talk, tweet, check your email, or perform some other function without degrading your attention.
  • Recognize your strengths and develop them rather than improve a weakness. Turn your compensatory tactics, whatever works for you, into assets. I could type 30 words per minute in seventh grade, and by the time the Internet caught on, I was naturally composing on the keyboard, able to transcribe spoken words and typing nearly as fast as a professional typist.

About the Author:

Elliot Weissbluth

Elliot Weissbluth is the Founder and CEO of HighTower Advisors, a financial services company that serves high-net-worth clients. He's also a LinkedIn Influencer. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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Tags:  Agatha Christie Albert Einstein Cher confidence dyslexia dyslexia awareness Elliot Weissbluth entrepreneurs with dyslexia Executive Function executive function strategies language-based learning disabilities learning disabilities learning style multitasking Richard Branson Steven Spielberg Woodrow Wilson

Tips for Parents: Working with Your LBLD Student, Part 3

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Sunday, May 15, 2016

mother and daughter at computer

By Gail Kent

Homework: Importance and Procedures for Success

Ever have difficulty figuring out how to help your child with homework? Why is homework so important anyway?

Homework is used to reinforce skills and information learned during class time. It is important for students because it allows them to further interact with material and repeat learned skills. In addition, it readies them to perform independent work after high school. Below are some best practices for homework completion:

Establish a consistent time and place for homework completion. Use a desk, the dining room/kitchen table, or someplace with a hard writing surface.

Set up the homework completion area for success:

  • Be consistent
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Maintain homework tools:
    • pencils, pens, colored pencils, highlighters
    • paper
    • tape, glue stick
    • hole punch, scissors
    • ruler, calculator
    • miscellaneous items that your student may need

Monitor but don't get involved in the routine completion of homework. The goal is for your student to become independent. While students may need more direct help to set up a routine at the beginning of the school year, slowly decrease your support.

Learn the work cycle of your student and when students need a break. Breaks can happen at certain time intervals or after certain goals are accomplished. Just make sure breaks are taken before students reach points of frustration.

Give positive feedback. Make a point to talk about the things your student is doing well and praise their effort not just their accomplishments.

Expectations. Talk to your student about getting to know their teachers' expectations. Each teacher may have a slight variation of their expectations. Make sure your student knows what these are. If a teacher does not provide a hand-out at the beginning of the year (or for each assignment) listing basic expectations, encourage your student to ask for one.

Use the notes. If your student doesn't understand something, encourage them to look in their notes. Notes are the best way to get information from what happened in class. Asking your student to reference their notes encourages them to take better notes, see potential places they could improve their note-taking, and become more independent learners.

It's still not working. If students still have questions, encourage them to email their teacher.

Don't do it for them! 

gail kent headshot

Gail Kent, an academic advisor, has been a teacher and tutor at Landmark for 20 years.

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Tags:  dyslexia education Executive Function homework homework help Landmark School language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning differences learning disabilities learning style tips for parents

Becoming Your Child’s Learning Coach

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Thursday, August 13, 2020

father and son doing homework

“Homework sucks!”

I am sure you have heard this before. So have I. I have heard it from students who would like to be doing anything other than more schoolwork. And I have heard it from parents who feel that homework is driving a wedge between them and their children. I hope to help you develop some strategies to structure at-home-learning time to keep emotions in check and to promote better learning. While parents can implement these strategies at any time, they are particularly useful when students are learning remotely with less structured learning time and without the close support of a teacher.

Provide Structure for Optimal Learning 

optimal learning graphic

Some learning tasks can be completed with relative ease because they are clear and engaging. Students say “Homework sucks!” when they are thrown out of the optimal learning zone and into the zones of boredom or frustration. 

Students become bored if tasks do not interest them or seem below their level. Even if too easy or uninteresting, the practice of learning is worthwhile. (Tip: If your student is bored, have them stand up to get a physiological boost to compensate for low demand on mental energy.)

Frustration Creates Avoidance Behavior

Frustration happens because, well, learning is hard work! It is hard mentally and emotionally. Students often become frustrated with tasks and develop the negative behavior of task avoidance. This is a regularly observed phenomenon and is studied by motivation theorists around the world. Being motivated to avoid difficult tasks is often thought of as procrastination or laziness, but it is actually a result of students not having a strong growth mindset to help them persist through difficulties or not having strong help-seeking abilities. In this post I want to focus on coaching students through their academic tasks so they achieve success through the use of strong learning habits that will provide greater confidence and fewer avoidance behaviors.

Planning Your Learning Time

Intentionally structured learning time is intended to keep the student in the optimal learning zone as much as possible. Establish set times for learning each day and make sure that you are available for some of the learning time to support your student with more difficult tasks. 

At the beginning of the learning time, take 15–25 minutes to make a plan for the learning session. 

Establish set times for learning each day and make sure that you are available for some of the learning time to support your student with more difficult tasks.

Students should work on the tasks that they are most interested in and are most competent with when you are the least available. More challenging tasks that cause the student frustration should be planned for a time when you are free to provide the patient guidance and support of a learning coach. In time, you can encourage your student to work on these more difficult tasks independently if you feel that they will be able to use metacognitive strategies to identify where they are having difficulties and then share those difficulties with you to debrief and receive guidance.

Creating the Learning Task List

  • List all learning tasks that must be completed during the learning session.
  • Put the tasks that the student feels most comfortable with at the top of the list. These are tasks that the student can do on their own without support. Acknowledge this independence to help boost their confidence and let them know you would be interested in seeing their completed work to celebrate their independent learning abilities.
  • List the tasks that are challenging for the student. These are tasks that the student needs support to accomplish. They need a task attack plan! Sometimes adequate support can be delivered in helping the student structure the task. Ask the student:
    • Do any of these tasks need to be broken down into smaller component parts? Writing down this plan of attack will help the student maintain effort and focus without escalating into frustration. For example, if a student is assigned an essay, have the student plan to spend 25 minutes on pre-writing with a graphic organizer, 40 minutes on writing the essay, and 10 minutes proofreading. For an elementary student, directions for completing an assignment can be confusing. Rewriting multi-step instructions as numbered bullet points can help students tackle each discrete task in the assignment.
    • Are there instructional resources from the teacher that might support you with this task? Teachers have often created or curated resources and shared them through the learning management system (like Google Classroom, Blackboard, Schoology, or Canvas) or as physical resources. Students may also have other resources that they are familiar with like Khan Academy, Study.com, and ReadWriteThink.
  • If the student is not aware of any resources or is still uncomfortable completing the task without support, let them know when you will be available for a set period of time to assist them. Write down the time that you will work on the activity together on the learning task list so no further mental or emotional energy is spent considering how and when that work will get done.

Task Management During Learning Sessions

To stay on task, we must help our students avoid distractions, keep their emotions in check, and not overburden them! Creating a learning environment free from distractions is hard, but by using a task management strategy you can use behavioral practice to keep distractions at bay while you are on task and then reward your student with a break to check social media, play a quick game with a younger sibling, or practice a new dance step. 

One way to track time-on-task and provide regular breaks is through the Pomodoro Method. This time- and attention-management strategy has the learner set a timer to self-monitor 25-minute work sessions followed by a 5-minute break. After completing four sessions successfully, the reward is a longer break. This provides a physical and mental break at regular intervals as well as a rewards structure—strategies supported by research for all students and particularly those who experience challenges in executive function, attention, and self-regulation.

Be More Than Their Learning Coach

I hope that these tips are helpful for you as you work to help your child with their learning, but remember that you are more than a learning coach. If you are working from home, try to make time to have lunch with your kids during a longer break. And if you do need to ask a question about learning, don’t ask them about their schoolwork…ask them how their learning methods are working. Revise until you have a plan that keeps them in the optimal learning zone.

About the Author

Michael Hildebrandt, Ph.D., is the founder of RenewED Learning–educational consultations and coaching. He teaches courses in special education and educational psychology at Gordon College and the University of New Hampshire and has over 15 years of experience providing educational support to students and families.

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Being an Efficient Homework Helper—Part II: Strategies, Organization, and Dealing with Fatigue

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Wednesday, September 25, 2019

mother and son working on homework at table

By: Regina G. Richards
This is the second installment of a multi-part series about helping children manage homework. The first post is about establishing good habits creating an optimal learning environment and the third motivation and tools.
This article originally appeared in LDOnline.

Basic Strategies

One of the best gifts that we can give to our students is an appreciation of and ability to use strategies. Strategies enable us to pre-plan and organize activities and tasks. We use strategies to pull in our processing strengths while compensating for processing weaknesses. This ability is very beneficial in a wide range of situations throughout our lives.

Some strategies are obvious, such as mnemonic phrases. Students learning music use the mnemonic "Every Good Boy Does Fine." The first letter of each word in this phrase stands for the notes on a music staff: E, G, B, D, F. The mnemonic "Never Eat Shredded Wheat" can help students remember directions in sequence: N for North; E for East; S the South; and W for West.

"One of the best gifts that we can give to our students is an appreciation of and ability to use strategies. Strategies enable us to pre-plan and organize activities and tasks. "

Other strategies are less obvious. For example, if you have dinner plans for 6 p.m., you need to determine how long it will take to get to the restaurant so you know when to begin your travel. You also need to determine how long it will take you to get ready so you know when to start preparing. This time-orientation strategy helps us pre-plan an activity backward from the goal and is valuable for determining how much time is needed. It can be used in planning any project. It is wise to encourage your child to use a time planning strategy such as this.

As we help our students use strategies, we initially need to model how to use the strategy and then provide practice. The end goal is for students to develop independence in automatically using strategies. No two people have the same learning style and every individual is a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, a strategy that is extremely beneficial for one student may not be useful for another. In developing a toolbox of strategies, parents can help their students learn when and how to select the appropriate tool. Some valuable resources for tools can be found in the books noted in the References section at the end of this article.

Organization

Some ideas for helping your student organize their book bag or backpack follow. To help increase your child's follow through, initially you may want to check the bag every few days, providing comments and suggestions to help maintain the organization.

  • Use different colored folders for different subjects.
  • Have a special place for papers that need to come home.
  • Have a special place for papers that will be returned to the teacher.
  • Develop a consistent routine for your child to replace homework in the appropriate spot in the book bag immediately upon completing it.
  • Have a specific place for your child to place the book bag when it is ready to return to school and encourage your child to use this location consistently. It is valuable to have them place the book bag in this location the night before.
  • Praise your child for following through with the routine.

Understanding the task

Review the basic assignment with your child to ensure that they understand what is required. Many children miss the overall message or global concept. Visual organizers, also called mind maps, are very efficient in presenting the global view in a concrete visual manner. Below is an example of a visual organizer comparing frogs and toads. It identifies some characteristics of each, as well as characteristics similar to both.

homework blog

Figure 1: A comparison mind map provides a global view in a visual format.

In previewing the assignment with your child, be alert to their understanding of vocabulary used. Misinterpreting vocabulary words is a frequent source of frustration for students. Many books describe various forms and use of graphic organizers, including those listed in the References section below.

Fatigue Issues

Students may often interpret feelings of fatigue as boredom or a desire to escape the situation. There are many different types of fatigue and, consequently, many reasons for it. Exploring the reasons is beyond the scope of this article. However, it is helpful to have some basic strategies in your "Parent Tool Kit." Then you may select a tool to help your student manage their feelings of fatigue during homework time.

If your child continues to ask you for help even though you are confident that the task is within their skill level, you can play a game with them. Begin by placing 10 pieces of candy in a bowl. Tell them that every time they ask you for help, they will give you one piece of candy. When the candy is gone, you will not help any more. Assure them that they will keep whatever pieces of candy remain in the bowl at the end of the homework time. When playing this game with your child, be sure that the task is within their ability to work independently. You may vary the number of pieces of candy, depending on the task.

Another important component of encouragement is to provide statements of demystification (as discussed in Part One of the series). These help remove the mystery of why one task is difficult while another is easier while increasing your child's understanding of her processing strengths and weaknesses.

Use concrete statements to emphasize strengths, such as:

  • "I saw that drawing you did; you are really great at that kind of artwork."
  • "Very few kids your age can draw like this; you have wonderful talent."

Use concrete statements relevant to your child's struggles, such as:

  • "Many kids struggle because they do things too quickly without thinking enough. This may get them into trouble or cause them to do schoolwork too fast and carelessly. Sometimes you are like these kids because you do things too quickly. Let’s try and slow down.”

Use concrete statements relevant to your child's efforts to overcome their specific difficulties, such as:

  • "I like the way you have continued to work at this when the other kids have already learned it. It's particularly hard to do something when you're the last to get it done, but you have persisted — and you are almost there."
  • "I can see it’s hard to keep working on that letter, and you are continuing to persist. Thank you."

In the book, Eli, The Boy Who Hated to Write, Eli describes multiple benefits he experienced due to the impact he felt from encouragement. As parents and teachers, we need to listen to our children about this very critical point.

 

About the Author

Regina G. Richards, MA, is a board certified educational therapist and former director of Big Springs School, specializing in multidisciplinary programs for language learning disabilities. She teaches regularly at University of California Riverside Extension.  She’s written several books, among them The Source for Dyslexia & Dysgraphia; The Source for Learning & Memory; Eli, The Boy Who Hated To Write; LEARN – Learning Efficiently and Remembering mNemonics, Visual Skills Appraisal2; and Classroom Visual Activities2. She is active in her local IDA branch, is a past president, and is the parent of an adult son who experiences dyslexia and dysgraphia and is currently successful in business, working with computers.

References

Brooks, R. and Goldstein, S. (2002).  Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Strength, Hope , and Optimism in Your Child.  Amazon.  

Levine, M. D. (1990).  Keeping A Head In School: A Student’s Book about Learning Abilities and Learning Disabilities.  Educators Publishing Service (eps.schoolspecialty.com).

Richards, R.G. (January, 2008). Being an Efficient Homework Helper: Turning a Chore into a Challenge. Written for LD OnLine (www.ldonline.org ).

Richards, R.G. (2001).  L*E*A*R*N – Playful Strategies for All Students.  RET Center Press (http://www.retctrpress.com/).

Richards, R.G. (2003).  The Source for Learning and Memory Strategies.  Pro-Ed Publishing (https://www.proedinc.com).

Richards, R.G. and Richards, E. I. (2008).  Eli – The Boy Who Hated to Write.  RET Center Press (http://www.retctrpress.com/).

 

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Tags:  homework homework strategies Executive Function organization

Being an Efficient Homework Helper—Part III: Motivation and Tools

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Tuesday, October 1, 2019

father and son working on homework

By: Regina G. Richards
This is the third installment of a multi-part series about helping children manage homework. The first post is about establishing good habits creating an optimal learning environment. The second post covers homework strategies and dealing with fatigue. This article originally appeared in LDOnline.

Some children need external motivators to help maintain focus on the task. Some useful suggestions include homework contracts, devices to help monitor time on task, or rewards. It is important that you are setting realistic goals for your child and that they are not overly stressed in their area of a learning disability. Some children, for example, take longer to write by hand or to calculate sums so you need to be realistic about time allowed.

Contracts

Homework contracts may take many forms. Write the contract with your child, making sure it is within your child's ability level. Focus on one goal at a time. Examples follow.

  • "I, Johnny, will complete my homework without argument for five nights in a row. When I accomplish this, I can watch 30 extra minutes of TV."
  • "I, Susie, will mark off a square on my chart each night that I complete all my homework assignments. When I have marked off five squares, I will select a reward from my list."

The criteria in your contract should change as the child's skills change. Furthermore, it is important to be specific regarding your expectations regarding homework completion. Indicate definite starting and stopping points as well as minimum requirements.

Monitoring Time on Task

A timer is a useful device for monitoring time on task. It makes the passage of time more concrete for your child. Identify a reasonable time for your child to complete an assignment (or a given part) and set the timer to ring after that time. It is useful for your child to be able to observe the passage of time, on either the timer or hourglass. Example statements follow:

  • "You have agreed to practice typing for five minutes every night. This means five minutes with good focus. I will set the timer and if you focus and practice appropriately the whole time, you will be done. Remember, I will have to restart the timer if you fool around in the middle."
  • "You have a half-hour to complete this part of the assignment. I'm setting this timer for 30 minutes. If you finish your homework correctly by the time the bell goes off, then you will get X reward (or sticker)."

If your child is earning points or stickers for appropriate follow through, you may want to allow them to earn rewards for a given number of stickers. To phase out their dependence on the stickers, require a larger number of stickers for a reward as they becomes more responsible.

Spinner

Young children respond well to games as motivational aids. You can develop a customized game spinner by using cardboard and brads, or you may purchase blank spinners from an educational supply store. Fill in each section of the spinner with a reward. Use tape so that you can occasionally change the awards. Be sure to vary the prizes on the spinner so that some are more desirable. You may want to have a space marked "no-win."

Establish criteria with your child, such as completing a homework assignment appropriately or finishing all of the homework tasks for the evening. When your child meets the criteria (i.e. completes the task), allow them to spin the spinner and earn the reward indicated. Be sure to use an appropriate positive statement such as, "Great job tonight! You've earned a spin on the spinner."

To phase out dependence on the spinner, change the rewards to points. These points will then accumulate towards a specific prize. Increase the number of points needed to earn the prize as your child becomes more responsible. An example of a spinner follows.

homework task spinner

Mistakes Can Be Valuable

Learning from mistakes

Another critical tool for parents to have is to help their children learn from their mistakes. This is important because too many students are afraid to be wrong. We give our children a valuable gift by helping them understand that mistakes are valuable because they help us learn how to adjust and improve our approach as we move through a task.

Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein in their book, Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Strength Hope and Optimism in Your Child, devote a whole chapter to learning from mistakes. They discuss various obstacles that interfere as well as some valuable guiding principles for parents to keep in mind. Following is a summary of Brooks's and Goldstein's Obstacles and Guiding Principles:

Obstacles to a Positive Outlook About Mistakes

  • Temperament and biological factors
  • Negative comments of parents
  • Parents setting the bar too high
  • Dealing with the fear of mistakes in ways that worsened the situation

Guiding Principles to Help Children Deal With Mistakes

  • Serve as a model for dealing with mistakes and setbacks
  • Set and evaluate realistic expectations
  • In different ways, emphasize that mistakes are not only accepted but also expected
  • Loving our children should not be contingent on whether or not they make mistakes

Use Growth Mindset statements (instead of Fixed Mindset statements) as in the following graphic.

growth mindset chart

 

About the Author

Regina G. Richards, MA, is a board certified educational therapist and former director of Big Springs School, specializing in multidisciplinary programs for language learning disabilities. She teaches regularly at University of California Riverside Extension.  She’s written several books, among them The Source for Dyslexia & Dysgraphia; The Source for Learning & Memory; Eli, The Boy Who Hated To Write; LEARN – Learning Efficiently and Remembering mNemonics, Visual Skills Appraisal2; and Classroom Visual Activities2. She is active in her local IDA branch, is a past president, and is the parent of an adult son who experiences dyslexia and dysgraphia and is currently successful in business, working with computers.

References

Brooks, R. and Goldstein, S. (2002).  Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Strength, Hope , and Optimism in Your Child.  Amazon.  

Levine, M. D. (1990).  Keeping A Head In School: A Student’s Book about Learning Abilities and Learning Disabilities.  Educators Publishing Service (eps.schoolspecialty.com).

Richards, R.G. (January, 2008). Being an Efficient Homework Helper: Turning a Chore into a Challenge. Written for LD OnLine (www.ldonline.org ).

Richards, R.G. (2001).  L*E*A*R*N – Playful Strategies for All Students.  RET Center Press (http://www.retctrpress.com/).

Richards, R.G. (2003).  The Source for Learning and Memory Strategies.  Pro-Ed Publishing (https://www.proedinc.com).

Richards, R.G. and Richards, E. I. (2008).  Eli – The Boy Who Hated to Write.  RET Center Press (http://www.retctrpress.com/).

 

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Tags:  homework organization homework strategies Executive Function

Being an Efficient Homework Helper—Part I: Turning a Chore into a Challenge

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Thursday, September 19, 2019

parent and child doing homework at table.

By Regina G. Richards
This is the first installment of a multi-part series about helping children manage homework. The second post covers strategies, organization, and dealing with fatigue, and the third motivation and tools. This article originally appeared in LDOnline.

"The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882, U.S. poet, essayist and lecturer)

Homework is a constant for most children — it is always there. And for many children, it is often a chore. Just the concept of "homework" can cause multiple anxieties and negative feelings. To assist parents and students, this series of articles presents some tools to help turn this chore into an enjoyable challenge. It focuses on some general preliminaries, basic strategies, and motivation.

To begin, we must keep in mind the characteristics of our own children, because each child has his or her unique strengths, weaknesses, and needs.

When embarking on any project, there are first some questions we need to ask ourselves. These apply whether the project is a page of math facts or a full report.

  • We need to make sure we understand the project: what is the child trying to do?
  • We need to assemble our tools: what materials will be needed for this project?

Working successfully with our children on schoolwork requires respect, and respect begins with understanding. If a child struggles with and/or resists homework, ask yourself, "Why?" As you discover the reasons, share them with your child so he or she better understands the issues. Doing so takes the mystery out of struggles or frustrations. Pediatrician Mel Levine calls this "demystification," which he describes as eliminating mystery by explaining the child's strengths and weaknesses and guiding them to develop more accurate personal insight.

"Working successfully with our children on schoolwork requires respect, and respect begins with understanding."

Students may struggle with and/or resist homework for a variety of reasons. These may include any of the following:

  • Your child is experiencing some aspect of a learning disability or learning difference.
  • Your child is inefficient in a skill needed to establish a solid foundation related to the concept and/or task.
  • Your child struggles to process one or more components of the task.
  • Your child lacks or is not using the appropriate strategies or tools.
  • Your child is experiencing fatigue, either processing fatigue or general fatigue.

As parents, we should attend to how our student approaches the task. Help them identify and sort through the different components and determine the needed sub-steps. You can delineate these using a concrete chart or graphic organizer.

Many students express the idea that homework is "stupid" or a "waste of time." Even if you do wonder about the value of the given task, it is critical to communicate an optimistic belief that homework positively affects achievement in school and teaches many valuable skills critical for success throughout life. For example:

  • Following directions
  • Independent work habits
  • Time management
  • Use of strategies
  • Follow-through
  • Responsibility

Keep in mind that you and your child are laying an important foundation that will guide their routines for years to come. Starting in early elementary school years, each child begins to establish habits for time management and task completion.

Preliminaries

Location

Establishing a consistent workspace is a critical beginning. The precise location for doing homework does not matter as long as it is free from distractions. For example, trying to read a chapter in the middle of the kitchen while a parent makes dinner and siblings run in and out creates a recipe for failure. In the early grades, you and your child should select the homework location together, identifying a place where you can be close by and available for help. As the child matures, she can be more independent in selecting his own workspace.

"Establishing a consistent workspace is a critical beginning. The precise location for doing homework does not matter as long as it is free from distractions. "

Supplies

At the beginning of each school year, help your child create his own Homework Survival Kit with the necessary supplies. If the child receives accommodations for learning disabilities at school — such as a particular pencil grip, a type of paper, or an electronic speller — try to allow their use at home too. Children should learn to take care of the supplies in their Homework Survival Kit, therefore sharing is not advisable. Your child, even at age five, should have a large calendar with enough space to note assignments. This is a critical habit that students will need to use through high school and college.

Lighting and posture

Use of an appropriate writing posture should be encouraged. Therefore, a desk and chair of appropriate size are necessary. The desk should have adequate lighting. Some children enjoy reading in a different position, such as in a beanbag chair. Ensure that there is also adequate lighting by that location.

General environment

Keeping in mind that each student may have different needs and preferences, following are some ideas to help students enhance their ability to focus while doing homework:

  • Quiet or soft background music
  • Silence
  • Small crunchy snacks, sour candy, or chewing gum
  • Carbonated beverages (preferably without sugar)

About the Author

Regina G. Richards, MA, is a board certified educational therapist and former director of Big Springs School, specializing in multidisciplinary programs for language learning disabilities. She teaches regularly at University of California Riverside Extension.  She’s written several books, among them The Source for Dyslexia & Dysgraphia; The Source for Learning & Memory; Eli, The Boy Who Hated To Write; LEARN – Learning Efficiently and Remembering mNemonics, Visual Skills Appraisal2; and Classroom Visual Activities2. She is active in her local IDA branch, is a past president, and is the parent of an adult son who experiences dyslexia and dysgraphia and is currently successful in business, working with computers.

 

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Executive Function 101: Balance

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Wednesday, May 2, 2018

This is the fifth post in a five-part series about Executive Function. Each post includes downloadable templates to use at home and in the classroom. The first article is about managing time, the second addresses managing materials, the third discusses managing information, and the fourth achieving independence.

Effectively managing time, materials, and information offers students independence and ultimately provides balance for life inside and outside of school.

Helping students balance academics, sports, after-school activities, employment, and hobbies should be an ongoing priority for parents and teachers. They should encourage students to communicate their needs to parents, teachers, coaches, and employers and to self advocate. Doing so will help them become independent in all areas of their lives.

Download the Daily Life Balance worksheet.  Brainstorming a list of priorities and managing a calendar are critical components in achieving balance. Andrea Meade, assistant dean of Students at Landmark High School, points out that “identifying personal traits and habits helps students prioritize work accordingly. For instance, some students are more productive with homework completion immediately after school, while others work more efficiently later in the evening after engaging in physical exercise. I also suggest that students tackle easier tasks when they are tired.” Meade points out that “approaching students with empathy is also a key to helping them manage time, materials, and information. These are new skills for most students and mastering them and seeing the rewards takes self control, mindfulness, and time.” Robin Day-Laporte, Head of Landmark High School's Study Skills department, embeds tips on stress management through exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep, down time, and positive personal relationships throughout her lessons.

daily life balance worksheet tearoff
Download the Daily Life Balance worksheet.

Tips

  • Be realistic.
  • Review priorities.
  • Encourage healthy, fulfilling habits.
  • Foster supportive and positive relationships.
  • Seek guidance from teachers, parents, coaches, employers.

 

"Teaching our students to understand their learning style is very important to gaining independence and developing self-advocacy skills. Students should be active in their learning and use the supports available to them."— Suzanne Crossman, Director of Transition and Guidance at Landmark High School

 

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Executive Function 101: Information

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Wednesday, April 11, 2018

This is the third post in a five-part series about Executive Function. Each post includes downloadable templates to use at home and in the classroom. The first article is about managing time. The second addresses managing materials, the fourth achieving independence, and the fifth finding balance between school and extra-curricular activities.

Teaching students how to organize class content and assignments will help them manage their workload, reduce stress, and achieve academic success.

executive function information download tearoffs
Download these templates.

Managing the flow of incoming and outgoing information is at the root of why study skills are so valuable and effective. Students benefit immensely when teachers show students how to:

  • Pre-read using headings and subheadings in textbooks, write two-column notes to identify the main idea or topic, and take time to include supporting details.
  • Actively read by highlighting, using sticky notes, and jotting notes in the margins.
  • Learn to write a summary and follow a structured template for the five-step writing process. (Download the template.)
  • Predict test questions and employ a variety of test-taking strategies to teach students how to manage the large volume of information related to their academics.

Two-Column Note-taking

Two-column notes are a way for students to extract the main ideas from the supporting details of a selection or lesson. Students are often asked to fold their piece of paper in half down the length of the sheet to create a useable format for note-taking. When done correctly, these notes are helpful in studying for tests and writing papers.

 

 

“In all of our classes we teach content but never without first teaching the skills necessary to access this content.” — Robin Day-Laporte, Director of the Landmark High School Study Skills Department

Tips

  • Use two-column notetaking.
  • Utilize templates.
  • Pre-read text to become familiar with the content.
  • Set up well-marked electronic and paper filing systems.
  • Clean and sort files and folders regularly.

 

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Executive Function 101: Materials

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Materials for school

This is the second post in a five-part series about Executive Function. Each post includes downloadable templates to use at home and in the classroom. The first article is about managing time, the third addresses managing information, the fourth achieving independence, and the fifth finding balance between school and extra-curricular activities.

Managing the countless print and digital materials for school and work can be overwhelming, but a simple process and plan will help.

Setting up systems to manage paper materials (binders, dividers, reserve folders, portfolios, etc.) and electronic materials (naming and storing files and folders, submitting work through course management platforms such as Google Classroom and CANVAS) are skills that should be taught in ALL subject areas to help students tackle academic and extracurricular responsibilities and to learn productively. Not all students can figure this out on their own, so it's important to takePrepared for class the time to teach these habits and reinforce them in all courses.

"We use cueing and guiding to get students to use the tools at their disposal. For example, I might say, ‘Based on our agenda, what materials will we need for class today?’ Relying on Landmark’s Teaching Principles™, we model effective strategies across all academic subjects and provide opportunities for our students to practice skills until they become automatic—second nature."    —Deirdre Mulligan, Elementary Science/Social Studies Department Head/Elementary•Middle School Training Coordinator

Tips

  • Set up binders, tabs, and pockets for each class.
  • Write down key words in an assignment notebook, and mark off tasks. Use a clip to identify current day/week.
  • Build time into the day to “clean and sort” these materials.
  • Use color coding.
  • Make daily and weekly checklists and review them throughout the day/week/month.
Ready for school checklist
Download the Ready-for-School Checklist and Reminder List.

 

 

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