Students with executive function challenges often have trouble planning, managing time, and organizing. can help them work around these challenges and thrive in the classroom.
Here are some common accommodations teachers can use to help students who struggle with executive skills.
Classroom planning, schedules, and routines
- Post schedules, directions, class rules, and expectations; make sure the student sees them.
- Have a daily routine that changes as little as possible.
- Provide folders and a basket of supplies to keep the student’s desk organized.
Giving instructions and assignments
- Give step-by-step instructions and have the student repeat them.
- Use attention-getting phrases like, “This is important to know because….”
- Say directions, assignments, and schedules out loud.
- Check in frequently to make sure the student understands the work.
- Give simple and concrete written and spoken directions.
- Grade based on work completed, not points off for work not completed.
- Let the student use speech-to-text (dictation) technology for writing.
Introducing new concepts/lessons
- Highlight key words and ideas on worksheets.
- Give a short review or connection to a previous lesson before teaching.
- Allow different ways to answer questions, like circling or saying them.
- Provide a rubric that describes the elements of a successful assignment.
- Share the test format ahead of time so the student can focus on content.
- Give the student an outline of the lesson.
- Give notice (when possible) about schedule changes.
Building organization and time management habits
- Use organizers and mind-mapping software.
- Help the student create a daily to-do list to track assignments.
- Use an assignment notebook.
- Provide an extra set of books for the student to keep at home.
- Break down big projects into smaller pieces with more deadlines.
- Provide colored strips to place under sentences or equations when reading.
Do you have a student who you think may have trouble with executive function? Take a closer look at the different areas of executive function and the skills they affect.
Do you think your child needs accommodations? Explore tips for talking to the teacher about your child’s executive function challenges.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.