The Westview School Blog
Meet Ryan, an outgoing and friendly 10-year-old in Upper Elementary at The Westview School. Ryan is in his fourth year as a student at Westview and is just one of many success stories of children on the autism spectrum who have thrived in Westview's nurturing and supportive environment. At the Westview Fundraising Luncheon held in February 2023, Mrs. Jackie, Ryan's grandmother, gave an emotional and heartfelt speech celebrating Ryan's success at Westview and what being a part of our school and community has meant to Ryan and their family. Read on for Ryan's inspiring story, as told by his grandmother, Jackie.
Ryan was born healthy at 8lb and 8oz. in the Summer of 2012. Due to his mother's medical condition, I received Ryan at two weeks of age, and sadly both his mother and father in the same year. My husband and I adopted Ryan and are blessed to be his primary guardians. My family pulled together to care for this precious bundle of joy with feeding schedules as if we were first-time parents again.
My story is very different from a first-time mother because I had already raised three sons before my grandson, and I knew what meeting milestones looked like. As a child, Ryan was active and progressed by meeting his developmental milestones. At about 18 months, I noticed a regression in his behavior and mannerisms, which I attributed to his lack of interaction with other children.
I enrolled him in a Mother's Day Out Program at age two. He was unsuccessful in interacting with children; his appetite decreased, and his sense of smell and noise intensified. He would place toys in a straight line, indicating that something was afoot developmentally. The change in his behavior and habits became alarming, so I contacted his doctor and was referred to ECI – Early Childhood Intervention. Upon completion of tests at ECI, he received occupational and speech therapy. He was referred to Texas Children's Hospital and diagnosed at age 3 with autism spectrum disorder, speech, and developmental delay.
He began his educational journey in the public school programs through Fort Bend ISD. Finding quality educational facilities for an autistic child has had many challenges. After leaving Fort Bend ISD, Ryan enrolled in ABA Therapy. After talking with my friends and having them reach out to other friends, I was given a list of schools to research, and Westview was at the top of the list. When I entered the Westview building, I had the epiphany that this was the place where Ryan would receive exceptional educational services.
THRIVING AT WESTVIEW AND BEYOND
Westview provides a safe and supportive environment compared to the low-performing school Ryan is zoned to. The smaller classroom sizes and student-to-teacher ratio help create the nurturing environment we value so much from Westview. In first and second grade, Ryan loved to give hugs, and this was a problem for some of his classmates who did not like to be touched. With the care and patience of his teachers, they could re-direct his behavior and provide him with an understanding of his actions.
The Westview School has provided Ryan with the necessary services required to aid him in developing his social and behavioral skills and has helped him succeed both in and out of school. Ryan is a model student and has received numerous Wonder Wall awards at Westview. Ryan says his favorite subject in school is Math, but like Houston's weather, it changes often. Outside of the halls of Westview, Ryan has made us proud by becoming one of four honorary ambassadors for Easter Seals Greater Houston 2022-2023 year.
THE WESTVIEW DIFFERENCE
The Westview staff and Ryan's classmates have become our extended family. One summer, during Ryan's 7th birthday, one of his classmates mailed him the most thoughtful gift. A box full of Hot Wheels, his absolute favorite, and to this day, he always mentions it. On another occasion in Ryan's 2nd-grade year, one of the staff members brought him to carpool and informed me that I would have many people over to my home tonight. To my surprise, I gave a puzzled look and asked, Oh really now? She then said that Ryan had invited all the staff over for fried fish because that is what his dad makes every Friday. And that is Ryan, a true lover of family and friends.
Each child is uniquely different, and the staff here at Westview have been exceptional in meeting the needs of each student. When my sister passed two years ago, the news of her unexpected death confused Ryan. They were very close, and I was at a loss for words on exactly how to have that discussion with him. This was his first time attending a funeral, and I needed help explaining what to expect. I reached out to the behavior specialists at Westview for assistance. And within a few days, I was given a social story for Ryan outlining what would occur on the day of the funeral. At the service with Ryan sitting next to me, I started to cry, and Ryan put his arm around me and said, "Mom, it's going to be okay." And at that moment, I thanked God for putting Westview in our lives.
This post is an excerpt from a speech given by Jackie Neely at the Westview Fundraising Luncheon held at River Oaks Country Club on Wednesday, February 15, 2023. Jackie is a current parent of The Westview School. Her grandson Ryan has been a student since
Help us continue to make an impact on the lives of families and children across Houston with your tax-deductible donation to The Westview School. Please click here to support our school and mission.
Many of us learned growing up that there are only five senses. In reality, our senses are any sort of signal or feeling that the body receives and sends to the brain to create an active response. This can be pain, sight, hearing, balance, knowing where your body is in space, smell, and taste, to name a few. Most of these stated senses provide input from outside of our body, but we can sense the inside of our body too. For example, we sense our hunger, when our heartbeat fluctuates, and when we have to use the restroom. This internal sense is known as interoception, and because it is internal, it is easily dismissed-especially with our neurodivergent populations.
Interoception was discovered in the early 1900s and was first coined as the receptor for smooth muscle movements in the autonomic system. We now know that the interoceptive nerves and neurons directly communicate these movements and processes in our insular cortex- or insula. The insula is a limbic structure, also known as our emotional brain, which focuses solely on understanding our internal state. Since it is within our emotional brain, it also plays a huge role in understanding our emotions. For example, when we feel on edge, excited, anxious, relaxed, or angry, our interoceptive neurons are processing the senses in our insula, making our brains aware of our internal body feelings. When we are aware of the internal feelings of our body, we can learn to process these feelings, label them as emotions, and then learn tools to understand and regulate these emotions in a way that can support our holistic health.
Humans are relational beings. The primary way we learn, process our emotions, and grow is through social interaction. As adults, we have close friends, family, and sometimes even professional help to support this emotional regulation. If we have a maladaptive foundation of emotional regulation, it takes a LOT of practice and effort to rewire those neurons. Just as adults need to constantly learn about themselves and how to process emotions, we need to think about the support and foundation a child needs too. Children need trusted adults to build a foundation because they are in the process of learning about their bodies. Remember, all behavior is communication founded on one’s ability to process and respond to external and internal sensations/perceptions. This is especially true in the neurodivergent population with people who can’t communicate the way neurotypical people do. If we view a child as a behavior to manage, a child will never fully develop their interoceptive sense, directly impacting their understanding of themselves, their ability to regulate their emotions, and their ability to communicate their needs and advocate for themselves. Therefore, it is our responsibilty as adults who interact with children to help develop the interoceptive sense and validate feelings and emotions.
So how can we support a child’s interoceptive sense and development? The first thing is to be aware of our emotions and interoceptive sense. We are the foundation for a child’s success. We can model healthy and supportive emotional regulation for a child, helping them become aware of their internal body feelings through practical application and conversation when regulated. We can get close and co-regulate with a child and model these strategies when they are dysregulated, and we can validate every emotion they feel.
Secondly, listen to the autistic community. Many autistic individuals are coming forward and teaching neurotypical people how to best support and interact with them, and how to best support the future generations development. Lastly, if a child is still having a difficult time with these developing skills, you can seek out occupational therapy, speech therapy, and play therapy to more intensive supports.
It is a wonderful pleasure and adventure working with the children at Westview! I am thankful for the families and staff. If you have any further questions about current research or application on interoception, emotional regulation, and sensory health, please contact me at The Stewart Center.
Transitioning your child to a new school or program can be daunting. Michael McKee, Support Specialist, is here to answer the most common questions about transitioning to a new school.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT SCHOOL IS RIGHT FOR YOUR KIDS?
Consider your priorities. You may be most concerned about your child’s academics or social skills. Maybe you want to ensure your child is in a loving and safe environment. Once you decide on your priorities, this can help you focus on what you need. It is also essential that the parent is honest about what their child can and cannot do and what their child needs.
Sometimes, there is a disconnect between parent expectations and child abilities. This is especially important when discussing your child with a new school. Be upfront about your child’s strengths and weaknesses. The last thing you want is to paint a false picture of your child. This will likely lead to confusion, frustration, and more meetings. In some cases, your child may be asked to leave a school, which puts you back at square one for finding a new school.
When looking for schools, it is also important to do your research. Take a tour and ask questions. Get information from current and former families. Get information online. Facebook groups are one way to get information about a school; however, you should take all information you get online with a grain of salt. Understand that most “reviews” that get posted online are only from folks who are either really happy or angry and that the real story often falls in between. Typically, most schools and programs are not always as good as their best reviews and are not always as bad as their worst reviews.
Finally, I always tell parents to go with their gut. If their gut is telling them that something feels “off,” then there probably is something not right. If it feels right, that is generally a good sign.
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN MY CHILD IS READY TO TRANSITION?
When considering if your child is ready for a jump to a more mainstream program, certain skills can help a child be more likely to be successful in that transition (in my opinion). Independence is a skill that helps with both academic and non-academic tasks. In the school environment, it is important to understand that you do not have to know how to do everything. Part of independence is having the problem-solving skills to know how to solve a problem (i.e., where do I go to get help, who can I ask for help, etc.) In that same vein, compliance is another important skill that will be expected in schools. Many schools and teachers expect students to follow directions and do as they are told. Willful disobedience is generally frowned upon in most school settings. Unfortunately, difficulties understanding language and social expectations can sometimes be misinterpreted as disobedience. This goes back to why it is essential to be honest about what your child can and cannot do.
Additionally, it is helpful for a child to have a level of social awareness. In this sense, what I mean by “social awareness” is a level of understanding to help navigate tricky social environments—for example, knowing when someone is angry and needs space or when someone is being sarcastic. Most importantly, it is knowing when and knowing how to avoid bad situations. It is knowing that you should not hold a bag for someone you do not know. It is knowing when you should not trust someone to do something they are promising they will or will not do (i.e., I will pay you back, I won’t tell anyone, etc.). It is also knowing which adults you can trust and which you should not. These skills can be challenging for most kids, but they are especially tough for our friends on the spectrum.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MY CHILD WHEN IT IS TIME TO MAKE THAT TRANSITION?
Prepare your child and the school. For your child, it is helpful to have them visit the school beforehand (if they have not already) and do a quick run-through of drop off and of their first day. If possible, have them walk their schedule with an adult to help them know where their classes are before the halls get hectic with other students. Hopefully, your child can also meet the teachers and other important adults (i.e., counselors, nurses, assistants, etc.) that they will interact on a regular basis. If possible, allow your kids to help make decisions relating to the transition. Allowing your child to have some “buy-in” on the transition (Such as having them decide what to wear for the first day or allowing them to pick out some clothes or items with the new school’s logo) can help them feel as though they have some say in the matter. Social stories can also be helpful for helping children understand both leaving one school and starting another. For the school, you can create a quick one-page document about your child to share with staff who will interact with your kid. Include their picture, their likes and dislikes, and other important information for them to know.
Transitioning to a new school can present challenges, but knowing the right time, choosing the right school, and offering help to your child during the process can make this change go smoothly.
Michael McKee is available to our Westview families who need assistance or support with a school transition.
Michael McKee, EdS, LSSP, NCSP received his Master of Arts Degree and Educational Specialist Degree in School Psychology from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). After an internship, he spent seven years as a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (LSSP) working for Texas public school districts in Burleson, Frisco, and Katy, where he conducted evaluations and worked with students with emotional, behavioral, and/or developmental disabilities, including those with autism spectrum disorder. He has also previously worked in the Dyslexia Center at MTSU and as a Crisis Counselor at the Family and Children’s Services’ Crisis Hotline in Nashville, Tennessee. Michael's main areas of interest include autism, assessment, positive behavior supports, and parent advocacy.
This blog post was adapted from the presentation given during WestviewEDU on Thursday, December 1, 2022. WestviewEDU is an education series presented by The Westview School for parents and caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder. For a full list of WestviewEDU sessions for 2022/2023 academic calendar year, visit The Westview School online.
"Fish swim. Birds Fly. Children Play." In its profound simplicity, this quote by Gary Landreth (widely accepted as the father of play therapy) says it all. Most growth and learning that a child experiences happens, one way or another, through play. Kids typically have neither the vocabulary nor maturity required to process feelings and experiences through talking, as most adults do. Their natural language is play; when adults join them and speak that language, we will see the most significant levels of engagement, connection, and growth.
WHAT IS CHILD-LED PLAY?
The benefits of play are nearly endless. This post will focus primarily on the power it can have in the learning process with regard to both academic and social-emotional learning. More specifically, it will focus on child-led play, arguably the most challenging kind of play for an adult to engage in. Child-led play requires following the child's lead completely, only stepping in when there is a risk of harm. This is the absolute best way for an adult to enter the child's world, and it can require significant self-control on the part of the adult. True child-led play means the adult is not directing, correcting, or asking questions. They are simply observing the child, reflecting on what the child is doing, and joining them in whatever that may be.
CHARACTERISTICS OF CHILD-LED PLAY
When choosing to engage in this kind of play with the goal of helping our children to learn, there are five characteristics we should look for:
First, the play should be joyful. This can look different for different children, but we all know it when we see it.
The play should also be meaningful, which will come naturally if it is child-led. A child with the freedom to play how they choose will only play in a manner that is meaningful to them. This includes sorting, stacking, and other types of play often considered repetitive or "restrictive." If a child is doing it, there is a reason, and we can do wonders by respecting that.
The third characteristic, which will also occur naturally in child-led play, is actively engaging. This can be difficult to balance when using traditional ways of incorporating learning into play, and techniques for supporting this balance will be discussed later.
Next, play for learning should be somewhat iterative. Again, if play is meaningful to a child and brings them joy (which it always will be if it's child-led), they will repeat it in some way, so this one doesn't require much work on the part of the adult.
The last characteristic, which can look slightly different for our autistic children, is socially interactive. This is not to say that all play should be socially interactive- children need time alone just like adults do. This means that for optimal learning to occur, there will typically be another person playing with and supporting the child. This can sometimes require extra work for the adult, especially when the child seems completely content playing independently, but child-led play makes it quite a bit easier. If you are trying to play with your child, and they seem to be wholly absorbed in their own world, join that world! Let's say a child has been sorting blocks for fifteen minutes with no end in sight. Instead of taking the blocks away and prompting them to make a different choice, join them in the sorting! Sort in the same way they are, sort in your own way, and maybe even combine some of their sorting with yours. When you join their world, there will be some social interaction, and the more instances a child has of positive social interaction, the more likely they are to be open to it and seek it out in the future.
Above all, the goal is for the child to be fully engaged, which happens much more easily if we are engaged with them.
MISTAKES AND MESSES
To introduce concrete ideas to enhance your play with your child and support their learning, it is important to mention two things: mistakes and messes. Simply put, they are both important aspects of learning and development, and how adults react to them can significantly impact a child's ability to handle them in the future. When we make a mistake and are able to remain calm, talk it through, and problem-solve, our children will be more likely to do the same. One of the best things we can teach children is the importance of mistakes and the role they play in our growth, and we can do that through modeling. Similarly, with messes, it benefits our kids to involve them in the clean up after a spill, modeling both regulation and the technical skills required for cleaning. That said, we all have different tolerance levels for both mistakes and messes, and those levels are likely affected (negatively or positively) when children are involved. Your ability to tolerate messes says nothing about you as a caregiver or teacher, and it is very beneficial to understand yourself in this area. If you are dysregulated due to a mess, your child will pick up on that, and the play will be affected, so only apply this principle when you feel you're in a good place to do so- no one is able to model these skills every time they make a mistake or a mess.
LANGUAGE SHIFTS FOR BIG RESULTS
Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, and pioneer in the work of child development, once asked, "What is the goal of education? Are we forming children that are only capable of learning what is already known? Or should we try developing creative and innovative minds, capable of discovery from the preschool age on, throughout life?" While "what is already known" has great importance, I think most caregivers would agree that what we ultimately hope for in our children is the latter- creativity, innovation, and a thirst for discovery. The following phrases are small language shifts that can be made while playing with children to enhance their learning and encourage their development of things beyond what is already known.
The first is not an exact phrase but a general shift that can be made. When engaging in child-led play (again- not all play will be child-led, nor should it be. These tips are specifically for when you decide to set aside some time to follow your child's lead), try switching some of your questions into "I wonder" statements. For example, instead of asking, "What does a cow say?" when playing with farm animals, try "Hmm. I wonder what this cow sounds like." This approach is because asking questions puts you in charge, even if only slightly. As soon as we ask a question during child-led play, we place a demand on the child, exit their world, and drag them back into ours. Switching to "I wonder" will still cause the child to think about what the cow sounds like, allowing them to respond to you as they please. Remember- our goal is to keep the child engaged. One "I wonder" phrase that can help a child learn to make predictions and understand cause and effect is "I wonder what will happen next" or "I wonder what will happen if you put that block there." These phrases are great because they invite the child to consider what consequences their actions will have and allow them to decide what to do from there. "If you put that block there, I think the tower will fall over," while likely well-intended, ultimately takes away an opportunity for the child to learn from a mistake, and they are likely to make that mistake again in the future.
"WHAT'S YOUR PLAN?"
"What are you doing?" Depending on how it is asked, this question can have many different meanings, only one of which is actually wondering what the other person is doing. The truth is if we ask someone what they're doing while in their presence, we can typically see exactly what they are doing, and we are actually either wondering why they're doing it or wanting them to stop doing it. Because of this, it often has a negative connotation. A switch to make when playing is "What's your plan?" This removes the blaming tone and makes the question a little more collaborative. Additionally, it might help the child stop and think about their plan.
"BECAUSE I SAID SO."
The final switch to be discussed is the classic line, "Because I said so." There are variations of this line, such as "Because I'm an adult," "Just do it because I asked you," and so on. While many of us likely only use this when we feel frustrated, it is important to consider the message this sends, especially for our autistic children. Because they are often taught using compliance-based practices, it is crucial that we help them understand why they are being asked to do certain things. The goal should be to help these kids learn to advocate for themselves and speak up when something doesn't feel good or right to them. The more we can explain to them why they are being asked to do things, the stronger their sense of self will be, and they become less likely to follow along with things simply because an adult "said so."
DIFFERENT TYPES OF PLAY
Finally, let's explore different types of play and the learning opportunities that come with them. First, and understanding your personal tolerance for messes can be important here, is sensory play. Think sand, water tables, shaving cream, etc. Depending on the child's age, the benefits of sensory play vary greatly. For young children, it can help them discover their own sensory preferences and supports early exploration of the world around them by helping them become familiar with different materials. You can help them explore science concepts such as gravity and volume as they get older. It can also assist in developing motor skills such as digging and pouring.
Dress-up and role play provide opportunities for children to be silly and creative, but they also support children in making sense of the world around them. A common example is children who are nervous about going to the doctor or the dentist wanting to play doctor and act out what is going to happen to them. A more concrete skill that is developed through this kind of play is the technical skill of getting dressed.
Building things with blocks, LEGOs, Magnatiles, etc., helps to encourage problem-solving, spatial thinking, and logical reasoning. When we allow our children to make mistakes and struggle to figure out how to make the tower taller, we help them develop the abovementioned skills.
Outside play has many benefits. It gives children the space to explore, take risks, and increase their resilience. Gross motor skills such as running, jumping, skipping, and climbing can also be practiced during outdoor play. There are also many opportunities to explore earth science and biology concepts using natural surroundings and to teach respect for the environment.
Cooking is another wonderful learning opportunity. Many math and science concepts can be incorporated, including measurement, addition, and reactions. It fosters independence when a child can help out in the kitchen and is an opportunity to practice important safety skills (think knives and hot stoves). We can develop in children a deeper appreciation for food and how it's made so they better understand the work that goes into every meal and snack they eat. Research also shows that involving children in meal preparation can significantly reduce picky eating.
There are infinite ways to enjoy playing with your child, and only a handful are listed above. It is important to remember that children will learn facts and academic skills in their classrooms, among other things. When given the privilege of entering your child's world through play, enjoy being there, and try not to worry about teaching them academics in that setting. You can support them in developing their confidence, resilience, and creativity by using some of the techniques discussed in this post. Above all, know that one of the greatest gifts you can give your child is simply being with them, and that alone will have a significant positive impact.
Elisabeth Dawkins, M.S, LPC-Associate is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Associate training in Clinical Play Therapy at The Stewart Center at The Westview School. She received her B.S. in Psychology from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, and her M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas. She has previously worked as an Upper Elementary teacher at The Westview School from 2016 to 2020. Elisabeth is a certified provider of DIRFloortime®. If you or your family are interested in learning more about the services The Stewart Center provides, visit us online at The Stewart Center.
This blog post was adapted from the presentation given during WestviewEDU on Thursday, October 6, 2022. WestviewEDU is an education series presented by The Westview School for parents and caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder. For a full list of WestviewEDU sessions for 2022/2023 academic calendar year, visit The Westview School online.
Do you know people in your home or classroom who always lose their belongings, forget important items, get lost from the kitchen to the bedroom, run chronically late, or just generally seem like a "mess?" Weak executive functioning could be to blame!
Executive functioning is a general term that refers to our mind’s mental manager or the cognitive processes that regulate our thinking and behavior. While there are many models of executive functioning, most include the individual’s ability to generate ideas, initiate or begin a task, stick to and finish a task, flexibly problem-solve, shift from one idea or topic to another, inhibit our impulses, ignore distractions, regulate attention, regulate our behavioral and emotional responses, use feedback to guide future behavior, select relevant goals, organize materials, hold information in mind until needed, and more. I like to think of our executive functions as air-traffic control for our brain or as the conductor of the mind’s orchestra.
When all is well, cognitive processes flow smoothly, and behavior fits the situation as expected. When there are problems… well, just imagine the airport with poor air-traffic control! Executive functioning is needed for all aspects of life. Socially, we need executive functioning to help us regulate our behavior and emotions when we are upset. After all, throwing the board game when we are losing is frowned upon…, particularly in adolescence or adulthood! We spend a great portion of time controlling our impulses to speak out in school or a meeting, to refrain from spending too much money, or even overeating. Executive functions help us to arrive on time, prepared, and with a plan for how to behave. They are also critically important for academic success. Not only are executive functions needed for decoding written text, reading comprehension, solving math word problems, and long division, but they are also needed to be an organized, efficient student who remembers homework and can plan for projects and tests. These days, if you are not in the right place, with the right things, at the right time, it is difficult to be a good student, no matter how bright you are! In fact, being in the right place, with the right things, at the right time is the very basis of holding a job.
When there is executive disfunctioning, life may feel chaotic or unproductive. The child or adult may experience social, academic, or employment difficulties and/or problems in the home. The good news is that executive functions are thought to be able to be developed or strengthened. These skills begin developing in infancy as babies learn to wait to have their needs met. They really come ‘on board’ in the brain around age two as children learn they are active agents in their own world. Beyond that age, executive functions are thought to keep developing into young adulthood. Just as they can be strengthened, executive functions can be weakened or damaged. Neurological insults from accidents, injuries, or other sources can impact executive functioning temporarily or long-term.
Executive dysfunction is often part of the presentation of neurodevelopmental disorders such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Specific Learning Disabilities. Although executive functioning is thought to be the most impaired in the aforementioned conditions, it is also implicated in conditions such as anxiety, depression, and even medical conditions such as low blood sugar. Problems with executive functioning are often what bring families to seek help from psychologists, psychiatrists, or doctors.
Understanding the importance of executive functioning is the first step to facilitating its development. The ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ principle applies here. If a child has no experience planning for their day or organizing their materials, it is unlikely that he or she will simply arrive at this skill in high school.
From the time they are small, children should be encouraged to help with planning and organizing. A toddler may not be able to make a sandwich, but they can help pack a lunch. Likewise, a young child who cannot do their own laundry can sort laundry or help pick out clean clothes for tomorrow.
Children can also help with the planning and preparation for parties, events, and projects. Learning how to react when what we want is not available, what to do when we forget something important, and how to persist with the temptation of distractions are all valuable skills that adults need to afford children. Children can have fun while they help adults with household tasks and learn these skills. They can also work on these skills in their play.
Childhood games have been shown to improve the executive skills of preschool children. Games such as Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, and Mother May I all help children to practice attending, inhibiting impulses, problem-solving, regulating behavior, and regulating emotions. For older children, yard games such as Freeze Tag and Capture the Flag can be helpful. Board games are also great ways to develop flexibility, inhibition, problem-solving, and shifting. Some favorites for young children are Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. These games are great for teaching flexible thinking by changing the rules. Some fun examples are to play the board backward or try to be the last one to cross the finish line! For older children, strategy games such as chess, Chinese checkers, or Risk may be helpful. Children and adults also tend to enjoy German-style or Euro board games. These games tend to minimize conflict and luck and emphasize problem-solving strategies. Some popular examples are Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Small World, and Dominion. These games require planning, problem-solving, shifting strategies, and many other executive functions to master despite relatively easy gameplay and moderate playing times.
In addition to practicing executive functioning skills throughout life, accommodations and supports for weak executive functioning are often helpful. For example, making lists, using sticky-note reminders, using alarms, and having organizational systems in place can help support executive functioning skills. There are several books available with excellent strategies for support. Some of my favorites are: Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare; The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross Greene, PhD; and The Asperkid’s Launch Pad: Home Design to Empower Everyday Superheroes by Jennifer Cook O'Toole.
Executive functioning skills take effort and experience to develop over time. Many services and providers exist for families requiring guidance to facilitate growth in their loved one’s executive functioning. The Stewart Center at The Westview School offers individual therapy to facilitate executive functioning in adolescents and adults, group therapy for fun skill-building in children, as well as parent coaching and case management to assist families in promoting these skills in their daily lives at home. For more information, contact 713-973-1842 or email@example.com.
Dr. Natalie Montfort is a licensed clinical psychologist with Montfort Psychology Associates. Dr. Montfort has over 20 years of experience working with children and adults with ASD and has training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (with children, adolescents, and adults), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Relationship Development Intervention, Social Thinking, behavior modification (including Applied Behavior Analysis), and education/educational assessment. Dr. Montfort graduated summa cum laude and as valedictorian of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology. She earned a Master of Arts Degree and a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Clinical Psychology from Fielding Graduate University. Dr. Montfort completed her doctoral internship with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and her post-doctoral fellowship at The Stewart Center at The Westview School. She obtained licensure as a Clinical Psychologist in 2016, and she and Dr. Ken Montfort launched Montfort Psychology Associates in 2020. Her areas of interest include assessment of children, adolescents, and adults; cognitive and behavioral differences in children with neurodevelopmental disorders; treatment of adoption-related issues; treatment of childhood trauma; and animal-assisted therapy. She also enjoys providing professional development, trainings, and lectures on these and other topics to a wide variety of audiences.
This blog post was adapted from the presentation given during WestviewEDU on Thursday, September 1, 2022. WestviewEDU is an education series presented by The Westview School for parents and caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder. For a full list of WestviewEDU sessions for 2022/2023 academic calendar year, visit The Westview School online.