How Does My Executive Function Function … in Different Situations?

This post originally ran on the Institute for Learning and Development (our sister organization) blog.

Last year, we were lucky enough to have Dr. Tom Brown, Ph.D., join us at ResearchILD’s Learning Differences Conference. Dr. Brown is a clinical psychologist, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine and associate director of the Yale Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders. His words have stuck in my head since then. I related to Dr. Brown’s points in his talk on the role of Motivation and Emotions in Executive Function. He reminded me that EF difficulties are “situationally specific.” Individuals can have great executive functioning in some settings but perhaps not in others. This shows how important it is to look at the conditions under which one is working. Our students at ILD are courageous in the way they confront their learning differences and develop strategies so they can reach their potential. But, the relationships they cultivate are also a crucial part of the process; we are here to help them build self-esteem and realize their goals. Often, they succeed within the therapeutic environment of our office. Dr. Brown’s talk reminded me that we must continue to ensure that the strategies they learn here are flexible, so that their successes can extend beyond the walls of ILD

One piece of that extension, about which I’m quite proud and upon which we’ve worked very hard for the last few years, is the creation of our SMARTS curriculum. SMARTS allows students everywhere access to many of the strategies we teach right here at ILD. It is the natural extension of our many years of clinical work and expertise. We hope that with its launch last year, and our continued workshops with teachers and educators throughout the country, we will be encouraging the creation of strategic classrooms that allow for and encourage those flexible approaches to learning. This is one small way for us to cultivate safe, therapeutic environments that extend beyond our walls.

  • Donna Kincaid, M.Ed., Educational Specialist, Coordinator of Professional Development