Executive Function Strategies Blog

Why Our Words Matter to Struggling Students

When I was little, I can remember being told the old adage, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” While I understand that it was meant to encourage me and to make me feel better when someone had said mean words to me, as an adult and as an educator, I now find that phrase a little dishonest. Words have meaning and they can - and do -hurt. But words can also encourage and support, and so I advocate being mindful of the kind of language that we use around our students.



Did You Ask the Teacher? Supporting Students When They Won't Seek Help

Opportunities for learning are everywhere — both inside and outside of the classroom. As parents, coaches, and teachers, we want our students to be able to take advantage of these opportunities. Part of that objective is to support them to be effective advocates for their own learning. My three-year old son is pretty good at this. If he needs help, he will take my hand and lead me somewhere (to the cookie jar), ask for “assistance” (yes, he really uses this word, especially when trying to jump out of his car seat to the ground), or sometimes say, “Momma do it!” (turn on the television). Whatever his method, I understand that he wants help with something.

Interestingly, the easy clarity of asking for help becomes muddy as little ones grow up and enter structured school settings. This is especially true for those I see who struggle with Executive Function skills. Children, teens, and college students who are introverted or have difficulty organizing, planning, and using self-advocacy skills often have so much to gain from 1:1 time with instructors but could benefit from a little exploration of the why and how behind it all. 



Talking to Teachers: Building Self-Advocacy in College Students

Visiting a professor during office hours in college can be a daunting task, especially for freshmen. Students wonder if they should just stop by to introduce themselves or if they must prepare specific questions. Anxiety might take over, with students fearing they won’t sound smart enough or seem like “college material.” Students often think: “What if I make things worse by meeting with my professor?” and “What if I totally blank out and embarrass myself?” All of these concerns are valid, but avoidance tends just to perpetuate the vicious cycle of fear, and students lose the valuable opportunity of one-on-one time with their professors.



How to Help Students with Learning Challenges Build Healthy Self-Esteem

Editor's note: This week, we feature guest blogger Samantha Kolkey, a licensed social worker and Director of Programs at Options for College Success. Please see her full bio below.

I'd like to reveal to you a few examples of conversations I have had or overheard during my six years as a social worker serving individuals with learning disabilities. 

Tutor: Why didn’t you complete the assigned reading last night?

Student: It takes me so long to read a small number of pages. It’s embarrassing, so I just don’t do it.