7 Areas of Executive Functioning & How They Help Me Stay Regulated

Guest blog contributed by Julia Mahowald, Founder & CEO of JAM Teaching and Consulting, National Board CertifiedTeacher M. Ed., Learning Behavior Specialist M. Ed., Reading Specialist Orton-Gillingham Trained, IMSE

Executive functioning skills are essential for learning and life success! They are necessary skills that often develop through everyday life experiences; however, some people benefit from explicit instruction to develop these skills. When children struggle to learn or function, we often forget to evaluate these skills to understand potential barriers or ability to function in everyday life. Executive functioning (EF) deficits can impact many parts of a child’s success, including academic achievement, independent functioning, social & emotional health, and mental health.

1. Planning:

Planning is an EF skill that I use daily. I used paper/writing but recently switched to the technological route. It allows me to easily plan- between my phone calendar and various websites to keep my schedules synched.

I always have a running to-do list in my notebook. All the systems I have in place are personalized to my needs and help me feel organized to be productive!

2. Organization:

Organization is the ability to take data, information or objects and create a functional system to store and retrieve them.

Organized systems help me function daily. When planning for my school I always started with color-coding folders, binders, and book covers. Each subject gets a color. The colors helped me organize my materials and easily spot the supplies I needed for each class.

3. Time Management:

Time Management is another aspect of EF. We must use time effectively and allot enough time for our tasks.

A timer is a great tool to keep me on track and focused. A visual timer helps me see the remaining time and often offers me an extra nudge to stay focused and get work done. It was a great tool to help me learn elapsed time when I was younger too!

4. Self-Monitoring:

Part of self-monitoring is checking in with yourself and seeing how your mind, body, and emotions are feeling. It includes having the right strategies and tools to keep yourself regulated.

One of my go-to strategies is doing a cognitive shift and regrouping while reading a favorite book in a cozy corner. And yes, I often read children's books because I love them!

5. Self-Control:

I often channel things I have learned in Yoga and Meditation classes to help me stay in control when I am experiencing big feelings.

When working with children, there is a variety of yoga breaths that you can teach. Including bumblebee breathing: take a deep breath in and slowly let out the air like a bumblebee bzzzz. Taking a deep breath in, holding it for a few seconds, and slowly releasing it always helps my body reset. Bunny breath is another fun one when you sniff through your nose three or four times until your lungs are full. Then let the air out slowly.

6. Adaptable thinking:

Adaptable thinking is one's ability to recognize unexpected situations and be adaptable to work through them.

I often role-play with family, friends, or even myself in the mirror to strengthen my adaptable thinking. I like to do this when it is not a critical decision-making time so that I will be prepared when facing an unexpected situation.

7. Working Memory:

To support my working memory, I write or type notes. I use my planner or personalized notebook to jot down ideas and what people have said so that it is easy for me to go back and reference them in the future.

Post its work as dividers in a notebook so I can quickly recall information and apply it to the task.

About the Author:

Julia Mahowald is the Founder & CEO of JAM Teaching and Consulting, a tutoring and educational consulting company. She is a seasoned teacher with over 15 years in the field. Her background is in special education with specialists in reading, behavior and regulation, and dyslexia. She enjoys supporting families with kids that are complex and hard to figure out. Her ability to assess and analyze all parts of the child to create a cohesive plan and approach to help students make gains is innovative, and she has a proven track record.

As an educational consultant, she supports families navigating the sometimes unfamiliar and intimidating space of understanding best-fit schools for their child,the IEP and 504 processes, and navigating difficulties within the school setting. She and her highly qualified tutoring team provide bespoke tutoring for students preschool-college. You can learn more about JAM Teaching and Consulting on our website, and on our social media pages for Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

C.I.T.Y. of Support is grateful to Julia Mahowald for her participation as one of our organization's sponsors. Please note that the information and opinions presented here are specifically her own.  The purpose of C.I.T.Y. of Support's collaborative blog is to help connect families and professionals to different community resources, and we do not specifically endorse any particular recommendations provided herein.

The information and opinions presented in each blog post belong to each individual author. The purpose of C.I.T.Y. of Support's collaborative blog is to help connect families and professionals to different community resources, and we do not specifically endorse any particular recommendations provided herein.