Executive Function Strategies Blog

Why Smart Kids Can Struggle in School

The first part of the school year is almost in the record books, and already you see the writing on the wall. Your bright, funny, curious child brought home a backpack crammed with crumpled worksheets, last week’s hummus snack, and teacher comments that were less than stellar. You know she can do better. Her teachers know she can do better. Your child wants to do well - but is at a loss as to how. She thinks, “I guess I’m not so smart, after all.” But succeeding at school is not all about pure intellect, or IQ. Rather, skills of self-management, or Executive Function skills, are the key to consistent academic achievement. Smart kids can struggle in school when they don’t have tools and strategies to manage their academic demands. 



The Anxious Elementary Student: An Executive Function Connection

Students in elementary school often have good reason to feel anxious. Whether it’s taking tests in class, handling unexpected changes in a schedule, or remembering to take their materials home or to school, young students have a number of daily demands that require using their Executive Function skills. And because those very skills are still developing in their brains, elementary-aged kids won’t always be able to cope with their daily challenges without a little guidance from the adults in their lives. Here are a couple of scenarios that illustrate the connection between a student’s anxiety and gaps in their Executive Function development - and ways that parents can help bridge those gaps to build skills in their children.



How to Feel Less Overwhelmed During Final Exams

Recently, a college freshman (who happens to be our founder’s daughter, Jenna) shared with us her detailed plan to get through the first finals period of her college career. What do you notice as you look at this plan?

To start, if you’re a parent, maybe you’re whispering a fervent “Thank goodness I’m done with school!” as you look at the work ahead of this student. Maybe as you look closer, you notice how each class’s major assignments are listed and color-coded. Then you’ll see how each day has benchmarks to hit and specific subtasks to be done for larger projects.



A Day in the Life of a 10th Grader with Executive Function Challenges

Morning Mad Dash: 6:57 AM - Scrambling Out the Door

Olivia has to catch the bus at 7:30, and she likes to sleep in until 6:45 … and maybe hit the snooze button one or two times after that. That leaves her about half an hour to madly dash about the house eating breakfast, choosing an outfit, brushing her teeth, packing her lunch, changing after reconsidering her outfit, texting her friends, returning to the original outfit, and - if time allows - packing her homework from the night before. With this routine, Olivia has felt frustrated a few times when - despite assuring her teachers that she really, totally did the homework the night before - she hasn’t been able to actually turn it in and get credit.