Why schools are not teaching executive functioning support strategies


Why Schools Are Not Teaching Executive Functioning
by Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSW – Ride the Wave Counseling/Summer Trip Camp Director

When I explain executive functioning to parents in the context of transitioning from being “prompt-dependent to independent” I explain that 504 plans and IEPs provide support rather than teach skills to cultivate independence.  Parents often ask why schools do not teach these skills if so many kids struggle with executive functioning.  There is not a simple answer, rather this is a multi-systemic problem. 

The reasons for this include:
1. Most teachers and school support staff receive no education or training in helping students with executive functioning delays.  Executive functioning is still a widely misunderstood topic, despite the prevalence of ADHD and related challenges.   Many parents are under the assumption that their child’s support class in school is teaching executive functioning, this is typically not the case.  While I fully support students receiving help in school I want parents to be cognizant of the fact that this is not teaching independence, rather it’s helping students manage their academic demands or what I refer to as “propping them up”.   
2. After students graduate high school they are not tracked by school districts.  The only data schools collect is college acceptance rates.  There is no data that examines the outcome of students diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger’s, etc.  The research that has been done that shows the outcomes for these students does not come from school districts.  I have found that many private schools (across the country) designed for students with learning differences use the number of students who were accepted into college as a marketing strategy. What these schools should really be looking at is how many of their graduates were able to remain in college during their first year. 
3. I have found that students who attend both public and private schools where teachers have received training in executive functioning are typically not required to integrate executive functioning strategies into the curriculum, rather it happens by choice.  While some teachers do use strategies, it is often inconsistent across the school which makes skill generalization difficult. Schools do not require teachers to integrate these strategies into their teaching.
4. Our educational system focuses on grades, and standardized test scores as these factors effect real estate values. There is little forethought as to how students who require support will manage their academic careers after high school.

Given that complexity of this issue I am not optimistic that most schools will begin to adequately address executive functioning delays in the near future.  I believe it will happen eventually but only after there is shift in the mindset as to how we need to support students with executive functioning delays.

Learn more about the work I do to address executive functioning at: Ride the Wave Counseling.  Offices in Bryn Mawr, PA and Linwood, NJ. 

Get Ready, Do, Done boards are from Cognitive Connections, the practice of Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen.  

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