Executive Function Skill Development

At Currey Ingram, we recognize the crucial role that Executive Function (EF) plays in becoming a successful person at school and in life.
Our faculty and staff share a collaborative goal of helping all students improve in this area. We recognize that when EF skills are strong, students will have greater academic success, better self-regulation skills, and better peer relations, and we accept that both negative and positive experiences can affect EF development.  

What is Executive Function
Currently, EF is not a diagnostic category found in DSM-5; however, deficits in EF are often linked to ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and other conditions. The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University reports that executive function and self-regulation skills depend on three types of brain function. These include working memory, mental flexibility and self-control. For successful application of EF skills, these three functions must work together in goal-directed problem solving.

A person is not born with executive function skills, but we do know that with practice, these skills are malleable and trainable. EF skills develop most rapidly in the early years (ages 3 to 5 years), but continues to grow throughout adolescence and into early adulthood. Thus, our faculty will identify areas in EF skill development for each student in our school and then provide opportunities for practice and implement strategies to support further skill development.

What can parents and teachers do to assist with EF skill development?  Below are a number of activities and strategies that support executive function development:
  • Help a student organize his/her space and reduce the amount of clutter;
  • Teach routines that allow the student to maneuver throughout the day without reminders;
  • Schedule weekly times to clean out the desk, binder and backpack;
  • Role-play and practice rules and routines until they are internalized or become a habit;
  • Play games that require a child to stop and start on command (e.g., FREEZE and Red Light, Green Light);
  • Use color to help with organization (e.g., red for science, yellow for math);
  • Teach the use of self-talk to help analyze, plan, organize and regulate communication (e.g., “What do I want to say? How should I organize it?”);
  • Teach self-regulatory statements for a child to express when something is difficult;
  • Write appointments, assignments, and other activities on Post-it Notes and stick the notes on a large calendar prominently displayed in the home. To help further, the Post-it Notes can be color-coded by activity, such as green for school, blue for sports (Singer, 1999).
  • In Adele Diamond’s research (2012), she found that exercise alone may be less effective in improving children’s executive functions than activities that involve both exercise and character development (e.g., traditional martial arts) or activities that involve both exercise and mindfulness (e.g., yoga).
  • For younger children, provide opportunities for more creative play and for older students more improv or creative outlets;
  • Play games that allow for stretching mental flexibility, such as Uno and Crazy Eights;
  • Encourage games that promote self-control and decision-making, such as four-square, soccer, basketball and dodgeball;
  • Encourage learning a musical instrument;
  • Go to the website at Harvard for the Center for the Developing Child to find activities from age six months through adolescence.


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Currey Ingram Academy is an exemplary K-12 day and boarding school that empowers students with learning differences to reach their fullest potential. Since 2002, the school has been located on an 83-acre campus in Brentwood, Tenn., just miles from Nashville and Franklin. Families from 33 states and eight countries cite the school as their primary reason for moving to Middle Tennessee.

Currey Ingram Academy is accredited by the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS) and AdvancEd/Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI).