Neurodiversity-Affirming Practices: How to Support Executive Functioning

This is a guest blog post by Monica, a school-based SLP, all about how to support Executive Functioning. 

I always tell my interns that the SLP is sometimes going to function as a student’s executive functioning outside of their body until they can do it themselves. Realizing that many of our students struggle with executive functioning is a great way of problem-solving and collaborating with teachers.

Carie Ebert is a great overall resource for early intervention therapy and working with autistic students.

Tera Sumpter has great posts on executive functioning as well. Lots of students struggle with executive functioning, not just students with ADHD or that are autistic.

Here’s a great example of the executive functioning skills involved in a neurotypical conversation. This would be a great resource for talking about how neurotypical and neurodivergent communication styles are different.

 

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A post shared by Tera Sumpter, SLP (@terasumpter_slp)

Let’s dive into a few examples!

1. The student doesn’t “listen” to directions.

This student may be overwhelmed by multi-step directions and has difficulty with working memory.

Recommended Support

Give one step at a time and show the student visually how it is done. Having an example of what the finished task looks like and having clear steps about the task helps. Having the student imagine what each step looks like will help them towards independence with future tasks.

2. The student is impulsive in class.

This student may struggle with executive functioning and may not prioritize or start more challenging tasks. They may only want to do tasks that feel easy to them, but to others, it looks like they are off task and impulsively doing only preferred tasks.

Recommended Support

Helping the student estimate how much time the task will take and how to start it often helps with how overwhelming it can feel to start and finish tasks.

This post in the ASHA Leader, by Scott Prath, summarizes the SLPs role with executive functioning.

References

Prath, S. (2019). Helping Students With Executive Functions—What Is Our Role as SLPs? The ASHA Leader; American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

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Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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