World of Executive Functioning

Executive Functioning

Executive Functioning affects a child’s life in and out of school. A complex mix of intelligence, attention and memory, Executive Functioning issues can affect a student’s self-esteem and performance. Using Evaluations & Testing results, our expert staff creates individualized programs proven to help your student succeed both in and out of the classroom.

So what exactly is Executive Functioning?

Executive functioning is a set of processes involving mental control and self-regulation.  It can affect many regulating skills including, but not limited to:

  • Time Management & Prioritizing
  • Organization
  • Multi-tasking
  • Metacognition
  • Inhibition & Emotional Control

It is often seen with:

  • Deficits in working and long-term memory
  • Processing speed deficits
  • Processing Issues
  • Focus
  • Impulsivity

Read more about Executive Functioning.

Using research-based exercises and multi-sensory teaching methods to systematically approach each Executive Functioning skill, our teachers ensure students mastery before continuing on to harder, more complicated tasks. Program recommendations frequently include at least one, or a combination, of our premier programs.

A program unique to TLC, Cognitive Educational Therapy focuses on strengthening the four areas of the brain’s “executive functioning” necessary for learning: focus, working memory, auditory processing, and processing speed. Current brain research related to brain plasticity shows that nearly everyone at any age has the potential to develop stronger and faster brain connections.  The result of improving those neural connections is more efficient processing, which in turn allows for dramatically increased learning potential.

Using the results of each student’s evaluations and testing, the program works through individualized exercises based on each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Each part of the program is based on research, which has indicated that working on focus, memory, phonological processing, and processing speed does indeed improve those skills and therefore learning.  Over the year’s we’ve continued to discover statistically what we are told by students and parents, that CET leads to substantial improvement in learning.

Using carefully planned exercises, students learn what it feels like to focus on one item while ignoring all the other classroom background noises and then progress to multiple items.  After training, students are able to more easily pay attention to the teacher even within a typically busy classroom environment.  With practice, their sustained attention, divided attention, and other aspects of focus increase.

Working memory is considered by many educational and psychological professionals to be the most critical key to school success. We all understand that the better a student’s memory, the easier it is to learn.

Using well-researched memory strategies such as chunking, telling a story related to the material being learned, and learning how to visualize help students remember and learn bits of information and lists in school, at home, and within the community. Memory tips and tricks are important tools, but nothing beats actually strengthening memory itself. So, students also systematically practice, and thus improve, the skill of remembering.

On the surface working memory appears to be a very specific isolated ability.  So, why put so much emphasis on improving it? It turn out that children with weak working memory often have many other issues related to learning.  Ina study published in Child Development in 2009, researchers screened 3,189 five- to eleven-year-olds and found 308 to have very low working memory scores.  Most struggled with learning, had atypically short attention spans, high levels of distractibility, difficulties monitoring the quality of their work and in generating new solutions to problems.  This helps explain why we see so many students improve in multiple areas of learning after improving working memory.

Phonological processing is an auditory skill.  It relates to words, but occurs in the process of hearing, with or without an accompanying printed word.  It involves detecting and discriminating differences in phonemes, or speech sounds, under conditions of little or no distraction or distortion.  Research indicates that students with phonological deficits will typically have more trouble learning to read and especially mastering the phonics required for fluid reading.

In a review of phonemic awareness research, Stanovich (1986) concluded that phonemic awareness is a better predictor of reading achievement than nonverbal intelligence, vocabulary, and listening comprehension, and that it often correlates more hightly with learning to read than general intelligence or even reading readiness.  It is fortunate therefore that research is clear that phonemic awareness training is possible and can result in significant gains in reading and spelling achievement (Ball & Blachman, 1991; Bradley & Bryant, 1983; Cunningham, 1990; Lundberg et al.,1988).  In fact, research co-authored by Michael Merzenich showed not only did training in phonological processing improve reading but also functional MRIs showed actual changes in the brain as a result.

Processing speed is how quickly a student can respond to information, react to questions, understand what is asked and give appropriate responses. Processing speed may affect conversations, reading speed, the ability to keep up with taking notes, and even how quickly someone might complete their math “mad minute” assignment.

Speed of information processing is not the same as intelligence. It is possible to be very bright, yet process information slowly.

Neurologically, speed is affected by:

  • neurotransmitters in the brain and their balance
  • the fatty covering of neurons (myelin) that speeds transmission
  • the size of synaptic spaces (unusually large synaptic gaps slowing information processing)
  • the organization of neural networks that support a concept or procedure
  • the efficiency of the frontal lobes in organizing and directing information flow

Processing speed is also affected by knowledge, experience, and practice. The more a person knows about a topic, the easier it is to process new information about that topic quickly. That is processing speed at work. Therefore, increasing familiarity with routines in and out of school and increasing content knowledge is very important for individuals who process information slowly.

Processing speed is often difficult to improve, because there are so many factors that affect speed of response.  So, the World of Executive Functioning takes students one small successful step at a time by having them complete specially designed tasks at ever increasing speed.


Used alone or in conjunction with CET, Play Attention and Cogmed use computer based games to train each student’s executive functioning skills.

Play Attention uses NASA inspired technology to monitor a student’s attention through a series of cognitive exercises.  Using an armband monitor, students play computer games using their attention alone.

Exercises strengthen all levels of Executive Functioning including:

  • Auditory Processing
  • Hand-Eye Coordination
  • Spatial Memory
  • Social Skills
  • Working Memory
  • Motor Skills
  • Attention Stamina
  • Visual Tracking
  • Time-on-Task
  • Discriminatory Processing
  • Short-Term Memory

Read more about Play Attention and the science behind it.

A nationally-recognized program, Cogmed Working Memory Training improves working memory and attention. By training working memory, students are better able to stay focused, ignore distractions, plan next steps, remember instructions and start and finish tasks.

Recent research has even shown that working memory training helps reduce ADHD symptoms, with the American Academy of Pediatrics listing working memory training as a Level 2 scientifically-based intervention for people with ADHD.

During the 5-week at-home program each student works with a TLC Cogmed coach through weekly phone consults to guide and motivate them through the exercises in order to maintain steady growth.

After completion of the program, at this time students receive two 15-minutes sessions per week free for a year.

Read more about Cogmed Working Memory Training or test your working memory today with Space Mines.

Our FACT program is designed to build intrinsic focus skills and remediate attention challenges.

FACT’s Pay Attention! Systematically trains students to control external distractions while strengthening skills needed for sustaining attention, increasing processing speed, shifting attention between multiple tasks, and paying attention to multiple sources of information at a time. Through a series of challenging tasks, Pay Attention! works on each individual skill to build a strong executive functioning foundation.

FACT’s Mindfulness curriculum also helps participants re-focus their attention when distracted by their internal, often intelligent and creative (as well as overly worried and sensitive) thoughts.

Working through one of our FACT curriculums, our experts guide and teach students to control both internal and external distractions by using three basic steps:

  • Bringing nonjudgmental attention to an “anchor” such as each breath or the teacher
  • Noticing when the distraction occurs
  • Gently refocusing on the “anchor”

Want to know more about World of Executive Functioning? Contact us!

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