Executive Functioning and Neurodiversity
By Dr Freya Spicer-White, Head of Neurodiversity Practice and Standards
Top Tips for Teachers, Parents, and Carers:
Be Patient and Give Time: Understand that neurodivergent individuals may need extra time to process information and complete tasks. When you have stopped talking, allow a long pause to give them time to process. Do not repeat yourself immediately as this can actually extend processing time for some people. Sit in the silence whilst they process.
Use Visual Supports: Visuals like timetables, now and next boards and symbols can be invaluable for planning and organisation. Visuals provide a reference point that can reduce anxiety and clarify expectations. You can also always return to a visual because it remains the same so increases consistency across teams.
Break Down Tasks: Convert large, overwhelming tasks into smaller, more achievable parts. This method makes the task seem less daunting and provides a roadmap for success. It also makes sure the individual has regular successes when they complete a part of task.
Consistency is Key: Consistent routines offer a sense of stability. This predictability can help alleviate stress and anxiety because they know what is expected from them and what is likely to happen next.
Encourage Short Breaks: Short, frequent breaks can help to maintain focus and prevent mental tiredness. These breaks can be physical, for example a movement break where the person can get up and move about; or can be stationary, they stop their work focus and maybe do some breathing techniques or play with a fiddle toy.
Create a Safe Space: A designated quiet area can be immensely helpful for periods of sensory overload or emotional overwhelm. You can encourage the person to go to their safe space when they need some time away to recharge their batteries.
Utilize Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement like verbal praise and meaningful spontaneous rewards can significantly boost confidence and motivation.