Updated: Apr 19
Incorporating executive function (EF) coaching as a related service in a child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) can significantly benefit them by providing individualized support tailored to their unique needs, leading to improved academic performance, enhanced social-emotional skills, and increased self-confidence.
As the child develops better EF skills, they can more effectively navigate various aspects of their life, including transitioning to higher education and professional settings.
By addressing specific challenges and fostering essential skills early on, EF coaching can ultimately contribute to better long-term outcomes for the child's personal growth, academic success, and overall well-being.
Read below to learn how you can add executive function coaching to your child's IEP.
How can I prove a student has executive function challenges?
One of my clients, Edgar, was repeatedly denied an IEP or 504, even though he had extensive executive functioning issues including:
Struggles with reading comprehension
Difficulties with expressive communication
Issues with work completion and properly completing assignments according to teacher directions across subject areas
Problems with preparing for tests in an organized and timely manner
Challenges in communicating effectively with teachers without extensive prompting and support
Difficulties managing school assignments, even with the additional support of an Academic Workshop period
Additionally, because of inconsistent feedback or grade reporting from his English and Math teachers, progress tracking was difficult. To demonstrate Edgar's executive function challenges, I used work samples and teacher directions to show where Edgar was struggling and what an executive function specialist could help with.
Next, I went through Edgar's response to the writing prompt and explained the issues with his response and how the teacher's grade of 100% "does not accurately reflect his writing abilities and may give him a false sense of competence."
I went through Edgar's response and detailed exactly what Common Core Standards Edgar was not meeting, as well as what an executive function specialist would do to remediate the issue:
For example, the first question asks, “Describe 3 elements of culture that play the greatest role in describing your family’s culture and identity. List then explain each one with a story.”
Edgar’s response to this question is:
“Arts and literature-we play music, paint art, and watch movies. A few weeks ago we watched avatar and made popcorn.”
The given response is inadequate according to the Common Core Standards in California for several reasons, and the score of 100% does not accurately reflect Edgar's writing abilities:
Lack of focus and organization (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.2.A): The response does not clearly identify three distinct elements of culture that play the greatest role in describing the family's culture and identity. To meet the standard, Edgar should provide a focused and organized response, listing and explaining each element separately.
Insufficient development of ideas (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.2.B): The response does not provide sufficient explanations or stories to support each cultural element mentioned. To meet the standard, Edgar should explain the significance of each element and provide a relevant story that demonstrates its influence on the family's culture and identity.
Then, I described how we would address the issue in order to teach the missing skills (see below):
Scaffold the learning process: Break the task down into smaller, more manageable steps. For example, start by helping Edgar identify the three cultural elements, then guide him through elaborating on each element, and finally, assist him in connecting each element with a relevant story.
Visual aids: Create graphic organizers, mind maps, or outlines to help Edgar organize his thoughts and ideas in a structured manner. This can make the writing process less overwhelming and help him see the connections between different parts of the prompt.
Provide positive reinforcement: Encourage Edgar by praising his efforts and progress, even if it's incremental. Highlight his strengths and areas where he has shown improvement. This can help build his confidence and reduce his discomfort with seeking support.
How would it look to executive function coaching services written into the IEP?
Here is how executive function coaching services were written into one student's IEP. You can share this example with your school administrator to show them how it can be done.
What can I write to the school district to add executive function coaching to my child's education plan?
Follow these steps by using the template below to work toward having executive function coaching added to your child's IEP:
Personalize the template: Replace placeholders with relevant details (your information, recipient's details, and student's name).
Provide the rationale: List specific reasons why the student requires EF coaching services, focusing on their unique challenges and needs.
Research available services: Familiarize yourself with EF Specialists' NPA in your area to support your request and demonstrate your knowledge of potential service providers.
Attend IEP meetings: Discuss the need for EF coaching services as a related service and provide examples of the student's challenges and potential benefits.
Build a support network: Connect with other parents, educators, and school administrators who share your advocacy goals to strengthen your case and access additional resources.
Here is a template you can copy:
[City, State, Zip Code]
[Recipient's Job Title]
[School District Name]
[School District Address]
[City, State, Zip Code]
Dear [Recipient's Name],
Subject: Request for Implementation of Executive Function (EF) Coaching Services for [Student's Name]
I hope this letter finds you in good health and high spirits. As an advocate for [Student's Name], a student in the [School District Name], I am writing to request the implementation of executive function coaching services as a related service in [Student's Name]'s Individualized Education Program. I would like to highlight the rationale behind this request and provide information on how EF coaching services, offered by the Non-Public Agency EF Specialists, can significantly benefit [Student's Name] in their academic and personal growth.
Rationale for executive function coaching services:
1. [Reason 1: e.g., Difficulty with time management, which has resulted in missed deadlines and negatively impacted academic performance.]
2. [Reason 2: e.g., Struggles with organization and task prioritization, leading to increased stress and anxiety.]
3. [Reason 3: e.g., Limited ability to self-regulate emotions, impacting social relationships and overall well-being.]
4. [Reason 4: e.g., Inconsistent attention and focus during class, hindering effective learning and comprehension of the material.]
Executive function skills encompass a wide range of cognitive abilities that enable students to plan, organize, initiate, and complete tasks effectively. These skills include working memory, attention, flexibility, and self-regulation. Research has demonstrated that students with well-developed EF skills are more likely to perform better academically, have stronger social-emotional skills, and successfully navigate the challenges of school and life.
By incorporating EF coaching services as a related service in [Student's Name]'s IEP, we can provide targeted support to address the specific challenges [he/she/they] is facing. The NPA, EF Specialists, are trained professionals who can develop individualized strategies and interventions to help [Student's Name] improve their EF skills, ultimately leading to better academic performance, social-emotional growth, and overall well-being.
I kindly request that you consider this proposal and take the necessary steps to include EF coaching services in [Student's Name]'s IEP. Your prompt attention to this matter will be greatly appreciated. Please feel free to contact me if you require any additional information or have any questions.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
What IEP goals can be written if executive function is identified as an area of need?
For our full article, "Special education: IEP goals for executive functioning skills (2023)," click here.
If executive function is identified as an area of need for a student, their Individualized Education Program (IEP) should include specific, measurable, and achievable goals that target the development of executive function skills. Here are some examples of IEP goals addressing different aspects of executive function:
The student will independently initiate a task within 2 minutes of receiving an assignment in 4 out of 5 opportunities, as measured by teacher observations and data tracking.
Planning and Organizing:
The student will create a plan and organize materials for a project or assignment in 4 out of 5 opportunities, as measured by a teacher-created checklist and project rubrics.
The student will accurately estimate and manage time required for completing tasks, finishing at least 80% of assignments on time, as measured by teacher records and assignment due dates.
The student will improve working memory skills by successfully following 3-step directions in 4 out of 5 opportunities, as measured by teacher observations and data tracking.
The student will demonstrate cognitive flexibility by adjusting their approach to a task when given feedback or encountering obstacles in 4 out of 5 opportunities, as measured by teacher observations and documentation.
The student will demonstrate improved impulse control by raising their hand and waiting to be called on before speaking in class at least 80% of the time, as measured by teacher observations and data tracking.
The student will use appropriate coping strategies (e.g., deep breathing, counting, or self-talk) to manage emotions and remain on task during challenging situations in 4 out of 5 opportunities, as measured by teacher observations and self-reporting.
The student will self-monitor progress on tasks and assignments by using a daily planner or checklist to track completion and accuracy in 4 out of 5 opportunities, as measured by teacher review and student self-assessment.
These goals should be tailored to the individual needs and abilities of the student. Collaboration between teachers, parents, and other professionals is crucial for creating and implementing an effective IEP. Regular progress monitoring and adjusting the goals as needed will ensure that the student receives the appropriate support to improve their executive function skills.
For sample goals in all areas of executive function skills, check out our article, Special education: IEP goals for executive functioning skills (2023).
What are my next steps?
Incorporating Executive Function (EF) coaching as a related service in a child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) can significantly benefit them by providing individualized support tailored to their unique needs, leading to improved academic performance, enhanced social-emotional skills, and increased self-confidence.
As the child develops better EF skills, they can more effectively navigate various aspects of their life, including transitioning to higher education and professional settings. By addressing specific challenges and fostering essential skills early on, EF coaching can ultimately contribute to better long-term outcomes for the child's personal growth, academic success, and overall well-being.
If you are interested in learning more about how EF coaching services can help your child or would like assistance with advocating for these services in your child's IEP, we encourage you to reach out to EF Specialists. We can provide valuable insights, guidance, and support to help you navigate the process and ensure your child receives the targeted assistance they need to thrive. Don't hesitate to take the first step towards empowering your child to reach their full potential. Contact EF Specialists today!
NPAs are licensed by the California Department of Education and must meet certain requirements to provide special education services to students with disabilities.
Guidance on how to arrange for an independent study program while remaining enrolled in your school district
This article contains a template you can send to the school to initiate the discussion around reimbursement.
This can be shared with the IEP team to initiate the discussion around services.
About the author
Sean G. McCormick founded Executive Function Specialists, an online coaching business that guides middle, high school, and college students in overcoming procrastination, disorganization, and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization, and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered. He trains educators, parents, and other professionals to support students with ADHD and executive function challenges through his courses in the Executive Function Coaching Academy.
Executive Functions, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Some of the links in this post may be Amazon.com affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase, Executive Functions, Inc. will earn a commission.