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Executive Function Skill Development by Grade Level

Updated: Jan 18



Executive Function Skill Development in Preschool

  • Develops working memory to keep sets of rules and simple routines in mind

  • Begins to develop flexible thinking to apply different rules for different situations (i.e. wearing shoes at school but taking off at home)

  • Builds inhibitory control to delay gratification (i.e. waiting for peers before eating snack)

How to support skill development:

  • Use visuals for important routines to provide a reference, which promotes independence and the need for fewer external cues.

  • Use clear, concise language and allow time for processing when teaching a new task or working in a new setting.

  • Build resilience by teaching concrete regulation strategies such as taking deep breaths or counting down on fingers when presented with frustrating or difficult tasks

Executive Function Skill Development in Elementary School

  • Builds independence with keeping track of materials and belongings

  • Develops the ability to problem solve by adapting and changing methods when completing a new task

  • Develops self-regulation skills to ignore irrelevant stimuli in their environment and focus on activities for longer periods of time

How to support skill development:

  • Provide sensory tools that can help with self-regulation and attention (i.e. adaptive seating, movement break, fidgets, oral motor tools)

  • Create habits and routines regarding organization of materials (i.e. using a folder with designated sides for assignments and completed work).

  • Utilize color-coded materials for organizing subjects and papers

  • Use checklists for routines, assignments, and checking work to promote independence with self-monitoring

Executive Function Skill Development in Middle School

  • Begins to make concrete plans with peers and weigh options when committing to plans and activities

  • Builds initiation skills for starting multi-step tasks or long-term projects

  • Develops time management skills when completing assignments and doing preferred or leisure activities

How to support skill development:

  • Utilize a simple daily or weekly planner

  • Support child in implementing small reward for completing tasks throughout the day or week

  • Assist child in breaking down big projects into small steps using a graphic organizer or other visual

  • Utilize timers when completing structured tasks

  • Practice new and complex activities (i.e. using a combination lock ahead of time to build skills and promote confidence)

  • Use binders and/ or color-code materials to organize school work




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