Executive Function

Managing ADHD in School: The Best Evidence-Based Methods for Teachers

By Russell Barkley

Summary: For kids with ASD, challenges with motivation and executive function—the cognitive processes involved in initiating, sustaining, and completing tasks—become increasingly apparent as academic demands increase in school. Many people with autism struggle with ADHD or executive function challenges, and this resource for parents and teachers addresses these challenges. Dr. Barkley, a leading authority on ADHD, suggests that inattention can be related to problems with executive function, perception of time, and motivation. The author highlights a single cognitive deficit that underlies these challenges: a weakness in forming mental representations and holding them in mind. The author provides strategies for attention, time awareness, and motivation that address this deficit in the ability to form mental representations, typically by creating external representations for the child to reference. Barkley offers concrete strategies that parents and teachers can use to support their children in these three areas.

Why we recommend this book: This book provides easy-to use strategies in key areas of difficulty for autistic students. What is unique about this resource is that it not only provides helpful strategies, it explains why these strategies are essential in supporting students’ success. This book is helpful for parents as well as teachers and tutors.

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Solving Executive Function Challenges: Simple Ways to Get Kids with Autism Unstuck & On Target

By Lauren Kenworthy and Laura Anthony

Summary: Children with ASD often struggle with executive function challenges. Cognitive rigidity, in particular, can impact their social interactions and emotional self-regulation. Solving Executive Function Challenges is a curriculum for parents, teachers, and professionals to help autistic children learn practical strategies to become more flexible, independent, and successful problem solvers and develop tools to self-regulate and handle difficult, unanticipated situations. Three specific executive function skills are targeted: flexibility, goal setting, and planning with self-monitoring. Flexibility is taught by preparing kids to plan for unexpected outcomes (by preparing a “Plan B”), teaching kids to adjust their strategies if a goal is not being met, and teaching kids to evaluate whether a problem is “a big deal or a little deal.” The curriculum provides parents and teachers with a variety of scripts that can be used with positive reinforcement when the child demonstrates flexibility in the face of the unexpected—so they don’t get “stuck.”

Why we recommend this book: The “Unstuck and On Target” curriculum presented in this book is an easy-to-understand and easy-to-implement guide to helping children improve their cognitive flexibility and self-regulation. The book shows parents and teachers how executive function challenges impact autistic children and how to use evidence-based strategies to explicitly teach strategies for using cognitive flexibility. This approach is now gaining traction in schools where teachers can implement the lessons and support their students’ use of the Unstuck strategies.

Read our detailed review here
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