The term executive skills refers to "brain-based skills that are required for humans to execute, or perform, tasks" (p. 13). I like to think of them as the things your executive assistant might to help a CEO be successful. The authors include the following skills in their list, but other authors categorize the skills differently: response inhibition, working memory, emotional control, sustained attention, task initiation, planning/prioritization, organization, time management, goal driven persistence, flexibility, and metacognition. They are required for independence of adults. Most people have a range of strengths in executive skills. Before designing interventions, you need to identify the areas of greatest needs.
The authors begin with a quick overview of the ABCs of behavior.
- Antecedents- things that occur before the behavior, the environment, people and expectations that confront the individual before a problem occurs. Cleaning the room always results in an argument. Getting ready for school is never completed on time with little drama. Long term projects never get turned in. In the beginning we modify the environment for children so that they can be safe and successful. We use outlet covers to keep toddlers safe. We hold hands in parking lots. We work with children to get homework complete. As they age we try and reduce that support. Children with EF concerns cannot handle this independence the same way their peers can.
- Behavior- problem behaviors or skills. Children need to be taught how to not stick assorted things in outlets, look both ways before crossing the street/parking lot and determine when it is safe to go and how to go about completing long term assignments.
- Consequences- things that reinforce the behavior. We might think that time out is a punishment, but if you get out of something you don't want to do it is not. We might think that getting a good grade is a powerful motivator in getting homework in on time, but for someone who lacks the skills required, it is not.
They have a process for summarizing the program:
step 1- establish behavioral goal- use a specific objective ex. complete morning routine tasks within 20 minutes.
step 2 -design an intervention:
identify environmental supports to help reach the target goal: ex. timer, written schedule, cues from parents
specific skills to teach- ex. parents will create a schedule arranging activities in a preferred order, parents set timer, parents check and cue 2x during time, check items off list as completed, choose from prize box if goal met, if he is late to school he will be required to complete missed work during free time.
A great reference book for parents.