Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Executive Skills and Routines

Ever heard of executive skills?  You know- task initiation, emotional control, working memory, organization, flexibility, etc.  Of course I had heard of these things, but not all lumped together in a neat little package.  But, once this concept was brought to my attention, it has made a huge difference in our everyday life.  True.

Here's the story and a little insight into our family.....

We (my husband and I), had been struggling for some time with trying to figure out our oldest child.  Not that she is a bad child - we just realized there were some 'issues' that needed to be handled.  Homeschooling didn't work for us.  It just caused friction and turmoil.  Public school was better, but didn't solve everything for us.  Getting her ready and out the door every morning was a chore.  We still had the same struggles doing homework as we had with homeschooling.  She was also bringing home large packets of papers that were suppose to be done in school incomplete.  (Meaning more work for us to get done at home.)

We muddled through the rest of 1st grade and really enjoyed our summer break from all school work.  

It wasn't long after school started this year that our old problems came back to haunt us once again.  If I didn't follow her around the house and remind her what she needed to do next to get ready of a morning, it wouldn't happen.  Some mornings it would take every minute of of our 80 minutes to get ready with all her distractions.  Homework was horrible.  We would literally spend 2 hours on homework every night. (Still do.)  

I could only take about a month of this before something had to be done.  We started having testing/screening done to see what was going on.  Long story short, we discovered a learning disability (which hinders her processing and therefore reading) and possibly ADD (having that re-screened soon).  We also learned that she is a very visual learner and has trouble retaining verbal directions longer than two tasks.

At some point in the middle of all of this, Kevin ran across a book on one of his trips.  

This book, I think, has helped us the most out of all the information we've gained.  It has some practical help and not just theoretical nonsense.  It helped us to really understand that our child had some major hurdles to overcome and not that she was just being disobedient.  And, it gave some humor to what we were going through, which can be in short supply at times.  

If you look at the book on Amazon.com, it has an excerpt to read that will let you see some of what we go through.  If you want to look at the whole book without purchasing, check your local library.

Are things 100% better?  Not even close!  As I sit here and type, we have been on the same question for the past 20 minutes with the complete answer in front of her to copy on her homework.  We have a total of 6 to get through.  *sigh*  Baby steps, people, baby steps.

One thing that has gotten better, is our routine times during the day.  Why?  Because I now know how to teach her in a way that she can learn.  Getting as much of her life into a visual form to help her see what she needs to do has been one of our biggest helps.  It also allows her to become more and more independent.  Going from 80 minutes to get ready for the day down to 25 or 30 is HUGE!

So.  All of this, to share these with you.

Morning Routine 

 Bedtime Routine

 After School Routine

Cover Cards

Good Job Backing
All of these are free for anyone who would like them.  Just please do not try to sell these or mass produce them.  I compiled these and spent an unreal amount of time getting them in a printable form in between everyday life, illnesses and interruptions.  (Oh, the interruptions....)  Please feel free to share these with anyone who might need them or link back to this post.  

The main reason I made these is for us.  I couldn't find anything like them anywhere on the internet.  I'm even using these with the little(r) kids, just to get a head start and make my life easier in the long run.  It's working, too!

Okay.  So, to print these off, just click on the image you want and it will open up in a new window, then click on 'File' and then 'Print'.

The smiley backing is to print on the back of all the routine cards before cutting.  (Yep - positive reinforcement!)  If you would like to do the same, just remember to turn your routine paper upside down and then backward.

All of the routines are color coded to help keep the set together.  Probably unnecessary, but it has helped us.  

I also added a cover card for each of the routines incase anyone would like them.

When putting ours together, I used an 18x18 inch piece of poster paper and then divided it as needed.  I also printed the routine cards on card stock and covered them in clear contact paper to help them hold up to the everyday wear and tear.  To attach them to the poster, I used Command Hangers to allow them to be turned over when that part of the routine is completed.

Here's what it looks like.

I put another Command Hook on the wall beside the the poster to hang the other Routines when not in use.

I really do hope this helps someone out there.  I know it would have been nice for us to have found something like this months ago.  We could have just gotten started on putting our daily routines into longterm memory so much earlier.

More Routine Cards may be coming as time goes by.  If they do, I'll be sure and share them.  If anyone has any questions or further ideas, please feel free to share them with me.


  1. Jessica I love this idea!! My Mom had something similar to this when we were kids but she had drawn everything out. I am going to keep this in my folder of cool ideas for when Violet is a little older. You did a great job!

  2. I've actually been looking into doing something like for us as well. Colby is such a smart kids, but it seems like sometimes he can only stay focused for about 3 seconds. Especially if other family members are involved in a different task. I look forward to hearing how things progress for you guys!

  3. Hi Jess! You've just been awarded the stylish blogger award. Please visit http://untiltomorrowval.blogspot.com/2011/02/stylish-blogger-award.html for more details :D!


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