Updated: Jul 20
On a recent morning, as the hum of the day began to increase, I jumped on a call with Kinyatta, one of our veteran executive function specialists. As we exchanged pleasantries, our conversation naturally veered towards a question that had been pressing on both our minds - "How can we add even more value to the families we serve?"
Kinyatta broke the silence, her voice filled with an undeniable passion, "We've been going about this all wrong. We're always the emergency contact - the last resort when things are already falling apart. But what if we could help them earlier?"
I found myself captivated by her perspective. Visions of familiar situations - the frantic parent of a high schooler who's lost track of deadlines, the desperate plea of a middle-schooler's mother on the eve of an exam - all flashed in my mind.
"Absolutely," I responded, "We could guide our families to see us not just as the emergency response team, but as the preventive architects. We could build the foundations before a crisis hits."
Our phone call ended with a shared resolution: to transform our role from emergency coaches to proactive strategists, enabling us to do even more for our community's students.
When is the best time to start working with an executive function coach?
Before the academic semester commences is the ideal time to begin working with an executive function coach.
This window allows the student and coach to collaboratively build a resilient foundation that enhances the learning environment, supports growth, and facilitates academic success.
This approach, which incorporates a range of key preparatory actions, can also empower students to navigate future challenges with confidence and poise.
During this proactive preparatory phase, the coach and student should engage in several strategic actions:
1. Review Syllabi
Together, they can go through the syllabi for each upcoming course. Major projects, exam dates, and other essential deadlines can be pinpointed and incorporated into the student's personalized academic calendar.
2. Order Supplies:
A comprehensive list of supplies necessary for each class can be made, and the items ordered or purchased well ahead of the semester.
3. Establish Communication with Teachers
Drafting and sending emails to teachers can help articulate the student's goals for the semester, seek advice, and open lines of communication for future support.
Teach your student how to communicate effectively with their teachers by using our P.I.N.G. methodology and communication templates
4. Set up a Family Team Meeting:
A meeting with all family members can be coordinated to discuss the upcoming semester's game plan, ensuring that everyone understands the student's commitments and goals.
5. Develop Study Routines:
Together, the coach and student can devise a balanced study schedule that takes into account all academic and extracurricular activities, helping to evenly distribute the student's workload throughout the week.
6. Create a System for Tracking Progress:
Establishing a system to keep track of assignments, deadlines, and study hours – whether a traditional planner or digital tool – can help monitor progress. Regular reviews of this system can identify areas for adjustment and improvement.
By accomplishing these tasks before the semester's start, the student and coach create a comprehensive roadmap towards academic success.
This systematic, proactive approach reduces stress associated with the beginning of a new semester, equips the student to hit the ground running, and sets the stage for a smoother and more productive academic journey.
How do I know if my child would benefit from executive function coaching?
Identifying whether your child could benefit from executive function coaching involves monitoring their skills in critical areas.
For instance, if your child's backpack is perpetually disorganized, losing essential school materials, they might be struggling with organization.
Or if they chronically procrastinate, starting projects the night before they're due, it's likely they need support with time management.
Similarly, difficulties breaking down a complex project into manageable tasks or focusing on less critical assignments first might indicate your child could benefit from help with planning and prioritization.
If they frequently forget instructions, lose track of a task midway, struggle with impulsive actions, or face difficulty initiating or completing tasks, these could also be signs that executive function coaching could be beneficial.
If any of these behaviors resonate with your child's situation, it might be worthwhile to explore executive function coaching further.
How do I talk to my child about working with an executive function coach?
Discussing the prospect of working with an executive function coach with your child requires a gentle and supportive approach.
Begin by emphasizing their strengths and accomplishments, then express your belief in their ability to achieve even more.
Explain that a coach is similar to a sports coach - not someone who's there because they're not good enough, but someone who can help them hone their skills, improve their game, and achieve their full potential.
Let them know that the coach is there to provide strategies and tools to make tasks like planning, organizing, and focusing easier and more efficient.
Ensure your child understands that this is a positive step towards becoming more independent and successful in their academic journey and beyond.
Being proactive with executive function coaching can make a world of difference. This approach is about more than dealing with crises.
It's about laying a strong foundation for success, allowing students to build robust skills in planning, organization, and time management.
Recognizing the need for executive function coaching, starting early, and opening a supportive dialogue with your child are key steps towards an enriching academic experience.
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About the author
Sean G. McCormick is the founder of 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 also founded the Executive Function Coaching Academy which trains special education teachers, school psychologists and other professionals to support students with ADHD and executive function challenges.