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Will online executive function coaching work for my child?

Imagine you're sitting at your kitchen table, a cup of coffee in hand, gazing at your child who is diligently working on their laptop, headphones on, seemingly focused.


You've noticed their struggles with organization and time management, and you're considering online executive function coaching as a solution. It's a big decision. You want to support your child's growth and development, but you're also aware that what works for one child may not work for another.


This article is designed to guide you through this important decision-making process.


As you read, think about your child's unique personality and learning style.


  • Are they comfortable in a digital environment?

  • Do they need more hands-on guidance?

  • How do they react to structured learning?


This exploration isn't just about finding a service; it's about understanding your child's needs and whether online EF coaching aligns with them. We'll discuss when online EF coaching is a good fit and, importantly, when it might not be the right choice.


This will help you make an informed decision that feels right for your family.


When is online EF coaching a good match for your child?


They are comfortable with technology

If your child is adept at using devices like tablets or computers and navigates online platforms like Google Classroom with ease, they're likely to be comfortable with online EF coaching. For instance, if they regularly engage in online activities or homework without issues, this is a good indicator of their readiness for virtual coaching.


There is a Good Fit with the Coach

The effectiveness of coaching often depends on the relationship between the coach and the child. If your child looks forward to sessions with a tutor or mentor and actively engages in discussions with them, this indicates a potential for a successful relationship with an EF coach.


There is a Conducive Home Environment

A child who has a designated study area at home, like a desk in a quiet corner where they do their homework undisturbed, is likely to thrive in online coaching. This environment should mimic the structure and focus of a physical classroom.


There is a Scheduling Compatibility

If your child manages their after-school activities well, fitting in things like soccer practice or piano lessons without becoming overwhelmed, they're likely to handle the addition of online coaching sessions. This shows they can manage their time effectively, an important aspect of fitting coaching into their routine.


When is online EF coaching NOT a good fit?

Online Executive Function (EF) coaching may NOT be a good fit in the following scenarios:

Difficulty Staying Seated and Focused

If a child finds it hard to sit still for extended periods without supervision and often moves away from their learning space (a behavior known as eloping), they might struggle with the structured format of online EF coaching. Children who require constant physical redirection or supervision might not benefit as much from a virtual setup.


Resistance to Engagement

When a child expresses a clear unwillingness to engage in the coaching process, especially if they feel like they are being pushed into it by their parents, the effectiveness of online EF coaching can be significantly diminished. This resistance can manifest in a lack of participation or disinterest in the activities and sessions.


Difficulty Following Directions

Children who have a hard time following directions and require more behavioral intervention might be better suited to working with a behavior therapist rather than an EF coach. If the primary challenge lies in behavioral regulation rather than executive function skills, a different approach or support system might be needed.


Feeling Forced into Support

If a child feels they are being forced into receiving support and shows no interest in the coaching process, this can create a negative experience for them. Coercion can lead to a lack of engagement and resistance, making online EF coaching less effective and potentially counterproductive.


In these scenarios, alternative approaches or additional support mechanisms may be more appropriate to address the child's specific needs and challenges.


Questions to ask if you are not sure that online EF coaching will work


Does your child struggle to engage with screens? 

Online executive function coaching might be less effective if your child finds it difficult to engage or communicate effectively through a screen.


Children less comfortable with digital communication may find it hard to connect with the coach and absorb the material in a virtual setting. This can lead to a less productive and engaging coaching experience.


Is in-person interaction more beneficial for your child? 

Some children thrive better with hands-on or personalized attention that is more readily available in in-person settings. These children benefit from the immediate and direct feedback that a coach can provide face-to-face.


If your child gains more from physical presence and direct interaction, online coaching might not meet their specific learning and developmental needs.


Can your home environment support effective online coaching? 

The success of online coaching can also depend on the ability of your home environment to replicate the structured setting of a physical coaching session.


If your home environment is distracting or doesn’t lend itself to creating a focused, dedicated space for coaching, this could hinder the effectiveness of online coaching. It’s crucial to assess whether your home can provide the conducive environment necessary for online learning.


What does my home need to support online EF coaching?

Dedicated Quiet Space

A dedicated, quiet space is essential for online EF coaching. This area should be comfortable and away from distractions and high-traffic household areas. This space must be consistently available for coaching sessions to help your child stay focused and engaged.


I recommend using the guideline, "one space, one use" so that your child develops behaviors linked to successful studying in this area, rather than also using the space for gaming or non-school related activities.


One space, one use

Reliable Internet Connection

A strong and stable internet connection is key. Interruptions in connectivity can disrupt the flow of coaching sessions, making it difficult for your child to stay engaged and for the coach to deliver effective guidance.


Appropriate Technology

Your child will need a computer or tablet equipped with a good-quality camera and microphone. This ensures that the coach and your child can communicate clearly, both visually and audibly.


Digital Proficiency for Organizational Tools

Ensure your child is proficient in logging into and navigating their school portals, such as Google Classroom, Canva, and Schoology. Familiarity with these platforms is crucial for managing schoolwork and assignments.


Additionally, basic knowledge of using Google Calendar for scheduling and the ability to log into and manage their email are important. These digital competencies are not only essential for online executive function coaching but are also invaluable skills for their overall academic journey.


Being adept at using these tools will enable your child to effectively follow along with the coaching sessions and independently practice the skills they learn.


Learn how to use these tools and more in our course, Semester Success Blueprint.


Fostering an Independent Learning Environment

Family members need to respect the privacy and independence of their children during their online EF coaching sessions.


This means avoiding interruptions and not hovering over them, as it can make them uncomfortable and hinder their ability to focus. Establish clear boundaries to ensure that your child feels secure and undisturbed during their learning time.


Additionally, the space allocated for coaching should be one where your child can work uninterrupted, not just during sessions but also when they're practicing the skills they learn. A respectful and understanding approach from the family helps in creating an environment conducive to effective learning and personal growth.


Other considerations

When considering executive function coaching for your child, an important aspect to weigh is your geographical location and the availability of in-person services. In many cases, where you live can significantly influence the decision between online and in-person coaching.


If you reside in a remote or rural area, or in a region where specialized EF coaching services are scarce, online coaching might be the most feasible and effective option. It provides access to a wider range of coaches regardless of your physical location, ensuring that your child can receive high-quality support that might not be locally available.


Conversely, if you live in an urban area with a plethora of in-person services, you might have the luxury of choosing between online and face-to-face coaching based on your child's specific needs and learning preferences, rather than availability alone.


Ultimately, considering the balance between the convenience and accessibility of online coaching against the potential benefits of in-person interaction, based on your living situation, is a key step in making the best choice for your child's EF coaching needs.


Conclusion

Deciding on online executive function coaching is a nuanced process that hinges on understanding your child's unique characteristics and circumstances. It's about more than just identifying challenges; it's about matching solutions to your child's specific learning style and environment.


Check out the resources provided below to clarify what will be best for your child. They offer valuable insights and further information to help you ascertain whether online EF coaching is the right choice for your child's development and success.


Other resources

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About the author

Sean G. McCormick is a former public school special education teacher who founded Executive Function Specialists to ensure all students with ADHD and Autism have access to high-quality online executive function coaching services. With this mission in mind, he then founded the Executive Function Coaching Academy which trains schools, educators, and individuals to learn the key approaches to improve executive function skills for students. He is also the co-founder of UpSkill Specialists, a business with a mission to provide adults with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder, access to high-quality executive function coaching services that can be accessed through Self-Determination funding.

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EFS started with one teacher deciding that kids with ADHD needed better access to quality executive function coaching services. Since then, we have grown to a team of specialists working both private students and public schools to enhance executive function skills for all students. 

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