Executive Functioning skills happens to be a beast that most of us contend with especially in the adult world. Sometimes we may wish we could go back to when we were young children. It was a time when our actions were regimented and controlled by the adults in our lives who insisted we do things like go to bed at 8:00 PM even when we really wanted to watch cartoons until our eyes glazed over. Such schedules and limits were for our own good back in those days. Now we have to be our own caregivers and do things like set alarm clocks while being disciplined to get a decent night’s sleep.
The definition of Executive Functioning is essentially that little voice that tells us, “Alright. It is time to turn off my morning TV show to start loading the dishwasher. Now it is about time for me to shower. Now I have to get dressed and make sure I have everything before leaving for work.” Executive Functioning skills are essentially the willpower that propels us to go about the responsibilities of being an adult one step at a time. It is the internal control that makes us do one thing and maybe not do something else!
Our students are now adults in the world of college. While they have near-constant access to a team of staff, the students are also given the freedom to budget their time and face natural consequences that result from failing to properly schedule time for priorities. (This is a reality for anybody who wishes to be a part of the adult world!) But our students do not have to go about these challenges all by themselves. In addition to their Residential Staff, the students have access to training in their Executive Functioning class led by Hayley Humiston and her assistant instructor, David Lieberman.
In order to demonstrate the importance of delegating specific amounts of time toward tasks and prioritizing responsibilities, Hayley started off class by writing an agenda on the board with bright-red, dry erase markers. It essentially served as a To-Do List for everything that was scheduled to take place in class that morning. The class got through all of the agenda items except for one because it was beyond our control. It is a reminder that even some of the best-laid plans do not always come to fruition in the perfect way we imagined. Flexibility is always important while making an agenda.
The slide about Flexibility defined it as the following:
- The ability to think about something in more than one way.
- The ability to change plans when there are obstacles, setbacks, new information or mistakes.
- It relates to adaptability to changing conditions.
- A student can adjust to a change in plans without major distress.
- A student can accept a different job when the first choice is not available.
Example: A student might use this skill to answer a teacher’s question in two ways or to find relationships between different concepts.
This particular class brought in a guest speaker named, Jesse Saperstein who is the Media and Activities Liaison for the College Experience. Jesse delivered his personal experiences over nearly 40 years living with Asperger’s syndrome that causes challenges in Executive Functioning for many individuals who are affected by this mild form of autism. Jesse taught the class about his tactic of Prodonsense that is basically a hybrid of Productivity and Nonsense. He explained that an example of Prodonsense is folding laundry at a reasonable pace while a SpongeBob episode is playing in the background within ear and eyeshot. If there is a way to make a task a little more synonymous with carefree fun, it is important to go for it as much as possible. Jesse also showed off one of his nearly-completed, To-Do Lists that was tackled by only putting one task on the list at a time and not moving on until the task is vanquished and crossed off with a thick, blue marker line. (Jesse posed with this same list in one of the photographs.) Hayley also spoke about her agenda and explained that it is scientifically proven that when tasks receive a checkmark of completion or are crossed-off (everyone has a different style of exiling finished tasks from a To-Do List!), the brain releases actual endorphins! Who knew?!
We are always proud of our students as they continuously reach toward their potential while demonstrating consistent improvements with staff helping as needed!