Special Needs

IEP Goals - Executive Functioning

Hello and happy turkey week!

I am hoping some of you more experienced parents could help me out with some questions I have about writing executive functioning goals into an IEP.  Now that B is in 1st grade, we are seeing that his organizational skills are lacking.  His school does BEE (Bring Everything Everyday) folders for the 1st grade students that have specific pouches for things that need to be completed and returned to school, money, etc. Even with that system in place, he will often times go several days with completed homework or lunch money in his back pack before turning it in.  Also, his teacher sends home a vocabulary word each week that he is supposed to return on Monday.  This week, his word didn't make it home until Monday and his class had already had the discussion on the word.

I am seeing that we need to address this in B's IEP sooner than later as I know that challenges associated with executive function are only going to become more taxing as he ages.

For those of you who have helped write goals like this, what do they look like? What strategies have you found most helpful in school? At home? How do you practice and build these skills in your home?

Thanks in advance for any help and advice you are willing to give. :)
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Re: IEP Goals - Executive Functioning

  • The bar for executive function is pretty low for all kids in the primary grades- hence the BEE folder for all in first.

    Before you can write a goal for this skill, you have to understand what is driving the inability to capture/track/manage his materials as well as how realistic the expectations in place are at this point.

    I'll assume ADHD (or something similar) since that's the tribe with the EF glitches. ADHD comes in different flavors; each flavor can inhibit independent EF in a different way.

    B has an AS diagnosis. He struggles with attention and is wildly impulsive. I have been talking to his teacher, case manager and pedi about these things. Right now we are watching to see if we need to parse out the behaviors more and look to an ADHD diagnosis on top of the AS diagnosis. 

    A child who is inattentive might not hear the teachers' verbal prompt to collect or hand in some piece out of the folder.

    A child with ADHD and an ASD might not assume that the prompt applies to them.

    A child who is distractible might know the drill for turning in and capturing pieces but gets sidetracked between packing the backpack and the procedure for dropping materials off.

    The child who is impulsive might stop to do something else on the way to packing his folder and lose the materials.

    The child who is struggling with some part of the curriculum or who is bored by it, may not value the process and opt out by not keeping track of his materials.

    You have to understand why this isn't happening before you can write a meaningful and measurable goal to fix it.

    I think we are in trouble.... I could say yes and give an example for every single one of the 'why's' you mentioned above.

    How exactly are things collected? Is the teacher giving a verbal prompt for kids to hand in specific items or is there a classroom expectation that backpacks will be emptied into baskets on arrival? Or is it a mix? What about at the end of the day? Is the BEE folder out to be filled as the day goes on or is there a 10 minute backback-packing session at the end of the day? I find DS had a lot less EF issues with really well organized teachers and more with the ones who were also scattered.

    I have an email in to his teacher about these exact questions. Things seemed to get turned in, in a timely fashion at the beginning of the year and now he is struggling. I have a feeling that they are cutting back the support they give to the kids in this area as the school year goes on. I do know they have a wrap up time at the end of the day. I can only assume it gets slightly more chaotic during that time and I know B flounders when things get noisy, there is lots of movement or energy, etc. His teacher seems to be very organized and runs a tight ship. 

    In the primary grades, often support is given rather than rote instruction. At this age it would be completely appropriate for a teacher or aide to help him unload and reload at the start and end of each day. If the person works with DS in a rote manner to supervise this, he may master the skill just by repetition. By 3rd or 4th, you will want him to be more autonomous in doing the actual work. He could be supported by a discrete packing list. You and he should go through his backpack at least weekly if this isn't a school item. DS had a teach-led locker/backpack cleanout weekly as part of his IEP in middle school.

    That is kind of what I was picturing. He has para minutes assigned to the beginning and end of the day, I think we just need to get more specific about the need to guide him through the packing and unpacking of his backpack. I, however, am always cautious about leaning on a para. I worry that in this case they might just do it for him because it is easier and he will never learn.

    At home, we go through his backpack every evening together to check for homework and then again in the morning to fill out his daily log and a reminder of what he is supposed to turn in that day. B despises social stories, picture schedules and anything that makes him look different, but perhaps a text only packing list hanging in his locker would help.

    You may have a hard time making an educational need out of this deficit since the skill is entirely emergent among his age group.

    Our team is pretty amicable. If I come to the table with solid ideas, they are very willing to help us make them work.

    Most of DS's middle school IEP was about executive function. Even there we had support rather than actusal measurable goals.

    The most important strategy is to get hands on support in the classroom and at home. Keep an organized house and talk to him about strategies you use to stay organized. I shared my lists and calendar with DS and added his stuff to mine. later we had him set up his own.

    By the intermediate grades, you'll want to start pulling supports slowly and allowing him to feel and deal with the consequences. All kids learn from experience, some just need more experience than others. Be prepared to let him fail, or miss lunch because he will learn from it.

    Work with him and model to come up with strategies that give him options. DS had a teacher who made kids exchange phone numbers so they could call and ask a classmate about homework. Many times we drove to Kyle's house for a copy of a worksheet, many times Kyle came her looking for one. This is the obvious strategy for the word that went missing over the weekend.

    Another important way to teach these sorts of skills is to find an arena where your son has a real interest and allow him to practice tracking that schedule and the gear needed for the activity. DS might have misplaced homework, but he never showed up for a marching band concert without his instrument, socks, Dinkles and the proper uniform (full dress or summer). Ditto his days volunteering at his beloved railroad- he always has a lantern, flashlight and FRA bulletins in his grip. The more he did of this, the better he got.

    As he gets older, some teachers will be more organized  and he should seek those. DS had teachers who had class notes, worksheets, assignment rubrics and ppts on their websites- these organized teachers are the ones to pick. One of the best teachers DS had had worse ADHD than DS and served as a real model/mentor for him. Even now, in college, we check websites of potential instructors for organizational skills.

    Thanks, auntie. These are all very helpful suggestions.
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