Interviewing an EF Expert, Part 4

A parent helping a student with their homework.

Top Tier Admissions↗(link opens in new tab/window), a company devoted to empowering students from around the world in the college and graduate school admissions process, recently interviewed ResearchILD’s very own Shelly Levy*, M.Ed., M.S., who is a leader in the field of learning development. Shelly’s interview is a rich resource on executive function, and we will be diving into pieces of it here on the SMARTS blog over the next few weeks. Check out part 1, part 2, and part 3.

What can a parent do to help a teenager with executive function issues?

Shelly’s response: There are a number of ways you can support your teenager with executive function issues.

Open the lines of communication

Before getting to the learning, students need to feel safe and supported. Ask questions to show them you are on their team. It is important to approach the conversation with curiosity and demonstrate that you want to keep communication lines open, especially when the going gets tough.

Help create a comprehensive list of assignments

Some of the questions you ask your student can reveal how comfortable they are accessing their assignments (it might be different for each class). Once they know how to find and submit assignments, you can offer to help create a comprehensive list of assignments on a Google Document.

Help identify productive workspaces

It’s important to examine what spaces help your teen feel most productive. What seating and lighting do they prefer? What supplies and snacks are most helpful to have nearby? Help your student build their self-understanding by identifying things that help and hurt their ability to focus.

Break assignments into small, manageable parts

All long-term projects and papers are made up of multiple steps that occur in different stages. It can be difficult to know where to start and which steps need to be completed first. Help your student break down assignments into small, manageable parts and create a realistic timeline.

Recognize progress

Celebrate your teen’s efforts and successes along the way, no matter how small!

Seek external support when necessary 

Shelly also recommends that an executive function coach or educational specialist can support students and teach them the executive function strategies they need for success in high school, college, and beyond.

For more information, check out the SMARTS blog posts with resources for parents and homeschooling.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

*Shelly Levy is the Director of SMARTS Training & an Educational Specialist at The Research Institute for Learning and Development in Lexington, MA. She has been in the field of Special Education for over 30 years.


SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:



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