In this episode, I talk about executive function basics for SLPs. I mostly focus on covering what executive function skills actually are and what we use them for. I also spend some time discussing how they connect to language skills and how SLPs can support executive function skills with their students and clients.
It is important we, as SLPs, understand executive function skills and how they underpin self-regulation. Executive function skills are described as the brain’s “air traffic control center.” I will briefly describe the nine key skills and how each function is interconnected and collectively enable individuals to successfully navigate life’s complexities.
Executive dysfunction often accompanies primary diagnoses like autism, ADHD, brain injuries, dyslexia, mental health disorders, and sensory disorders. These skills and language development mutually influence each other. For example, internal language aids self-regulation, thus, students with language-based disabilities face a dual challenge – underlying executive dysfunction and the inability to use internal language to bolster executive function skills.
SLPs can help these students by making their thought process visible, promoting metacognition, and fostering a learning environment where failures are treated as opportunities for growth. SLPs also play crucial roles in advocacy and education about executive dysfunction, teaching self-advocacy to students, and supporting them in learning to use tools and accommodations. This holistic approach enables SLPs to effectively support students with executive dysfunction and help them in developing their executive function skills.
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References and Resources:
- Executive Function & Self-Regulation – Harvard University Center on the Developing Child
- Fahy, J.K. (2014). Assessment of executive functions in school-aged children: Challenges and solutions for the SLP. Perspectives in School-Based Issues, (15)4, 151-163. https://doi.org/10.1044/sbi15.4.151
- Fahy, J.K. (2014). Language and executive functions: Self-talk for self-regulation. Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, (21)2, 61-71. https://doi.org/10.1044/lle21.2.61
- Helping Students With Executive Functions—What Is Our Role as SLPs?