San Antonio Pediatric & Adolescent Neuropsychology Specialists

Can Executive Functioning Coaching Help My Child?

Executive functioning is often referred to as the “internal system” that manages our brain activities because it is needed to set goals, pay attention, organize things, make plans, and accomplish things. Ultimately, executive functioning involves cognitive skills that help us change our thought processes, remember things, keep track of things, demonstrate self-control, and stay calm when stressed, overwhelmed, upset, or angry.  

These skills are important because we need them to learn new things, complete tasks, and engage in daily routines. An executive functioning problem arises when we are able to focus or concentrate on the task at hand, follow directions, regulate our emotions, etc.

Most people develop executive functioning skills during their childhood and adolescence. A problem arises when a young child fails to develop executive functioning skills or develops these skills at a slower pace than peers in their age group. 

Children and adolescents who struggle with executive functioning tend to experience issues at home, school, work, and in life. The good news is that children and adolescents who are having a hard time with executive functioning can make great strides, academically, socially, and personally - with the right help.

What is Executive Dysfunction?

Executive dysfunction occurs when a child or adolescent regularly struggles with executive function skills like paying attention, being organized, controlling their emotions, etc.  This irregularity in executive functioning usually involves cognitive, emotional, mental, and behavioral challenges that are preventing them from accomplishing their personal, academic, social, or professional goals. 

If left untreated, executive dysfunction can lead to poor grades, low self-esteem, and self-confidence, chronic stress, unhealthy or strained relationships, mental or emotional distress, etc. The good news is executive dysfunction can improve with executive functioning coaching or tutoring.

What is An Executive Functioning Coach?

An executive functioning coach can be a psychologist, a special education teacher, occupational therapist, or other professional trained in executive functioning skills and working with children to learn new skills. The goal of this coach is to help your child or adolescent improve their executive functioning skills - i.e., improving their memory, regulating their emotions, organizing their belonging, desk, or workspace, solving problems, prioritizing tasks, setting goals, keeping track of their progress, and accomplishing tasks. 

An executive functioning coach can also teach your child or adolescent how to look at and approach problems from a different angle. Some positive attributes of executive functioning coaches are that they tend to be upbeat, positive people, who have a knack for actively listening to their clients and holding them accountable for their actions (i.e., goals, plans, commitments, etc.) - or lack thereof. 

Our coaches and tutors believe that procrastination or putting off tasks is not a sign of weakness or laziness, rather it can be a form of avoidance caused by a fear of making a mistake, failing, or a lack of skill to start the task. Thus, we use reflective conversations to connect with our young clients.  

We then develop strategies and coping mechanisms to help them get started on their tasks (i.e., homework, work tasks, household, etc.). Lastly, we check in with our young clients during our weekly meetings to see if the strategies and coping mechanisms helped. If they do not, we try a new approach. 

Our coaches and tutors view impulsivity as a possible sign that our young clients may need to improve their self-regulation skills. We develop an intervention that is tailored to the individual and that focuses on helping them identify what is prompting the impulsive behaviors. We develop strategies that can help your child or adolescent think before reacting or making a decision, and work with them to develop a plan that offers rewards for delayed gratification.

Our executive functioning coaches and tutors also teach our young clients how to reduce or eliminate distractions and multitasking while working, studying, cleaning, etc. We also teach them how to break down large tasks into smaller chunks or more manageable pieces, and how to take frequent breaks to avoid “burnout.” 

One great thing about our coaches and tutors is that they have a large toolbox filled with all of the tools and resources your child or adolescent will need to succeed in life. We make an effort to get to know our young clients' habits and organizational patterns, so we uncover the root cause of their disorganization. Our goal is to help them develop healthier and more productive organizational skills that will help them complete tasks and accomplish their goals. 

Lastly, our executive functioning coaches and tutors help your child or adolescent address “time blindness” or non-productive lapses in time, so they can complete their tasks by the deadline. We first ask our young clients to guess how long it would take them to complete a certain time, such as completing their homework. Then, we ask them to make a plan to complete it within a certain timeframe - let’s say 1 hour. 

If you have a child or adolescent who could greatly benefit from executive functioning coaching or tutoring, we offer these services either in person or in a video format. The services are primarily conducted by our special education tutors.

What To Expect

 This involves an initial 60-minute consult with a tutor followed 60 minute tutoring sessions. During the 1st session the tutor will ask you about your child’s or adolescent’s academic history and review their IEP or other school records you bring in.  These services are offered after school and on the weekends during the school year with more hours during the weekday available during the summer and school breaks. More intensive executive functioning services (2 or more times a week) may be offered during your child’s or adolescent’s summer break. NOTE: Executive functioning services are NOT paid by health insurances. These services are offered both in English and Spanish. Services may be provided in-office or via telehealth, if appropriate for age/presenting concerns.