Executive Communication Skills

› Executive Function

A deficit in executive communication skills impact more students than you may realize. The executive function of the brain is critical for classroom performance.

The executive function of the brain is a compilation of behaviors that help students take a task from the beginning to completion.

Students use their working memory to store information and retrieve it as necessary to work through a task. This is part of the ability to multi-task.

executive communication skills

Deficits can appear in planning, organizing, problem solving and/or attending to a task.

Students with an executive function disorder will have great difficulty self-regulating on-task behaviors. This applies to all academic areas.

Executive Communication Skills are part of a successful classroom performance system. The components are:

  • Task Development
  • Organizing Tasks
  • Starting a Task
  • Changing Tasks
  • Self-Monitoring or Regulation
  • Using Memory

In the classroom, the focus is on these areas: Task Behaviors, Self-Regulation, and Using Memory.

Executive Communication Skills: Task Behaviors

Task behaviors are skills we use to take a job from start to finish.

For the purpose of this page, it is inclusive of task development, organization, starting and changing.

Task Development is the planning phase. Students should be able to plan and organize the steps of a task before beginning it. Their steps should lead to the desired outcome.

Strong executive functions in this area show an ability to break steps down into a logical manner.

Task Organization refers to the implementation of a job or schoolwork. This is the ability of a student to actually get together what is needed to carry out the plan that was developed. 

Starting, changing and completing a task is just that: actually doing what was planned and making it work.

In school we see a deficit in the executive function of the brain when students cannot:

  1. Follow logical steps
  2. Fail to implement what was planned
  3. Cannot change tasks or return to incomplete ones
  4. Cannot modify strategies being used to reach a desired outcome.

Assessing Task Behaviors

The student should:

  • Identify the nature of the work to be done
  • Identify the desired end product
  • Plan steps to take from beginning to end
  • Identify deadlines for each step
  • Determine immediate and long-term tasks
  • Make schedules
  • Ask for assistance for organizing and completion, if necessary
  • Make appropriate estimates for amount of time each step will need
  • Complete task in specified amount of time
  • Follow schedules easily and accurately
  • Set priorities and be able to adjust them based on need

Executive Communication Skills: Self Regulation

Self-regulation is a person's ability to monitor his or her activities to help reach completion of the goal. This includes self-regulation for comprehension of materials.

We have all observed the student who simply cannot seem to process given information, and sometimes not even be aware of it. Students must have skills to draw on in order to improve their comprehension.

Another part of self-regulation is how well a person or student monitors their emotional responses. Emotional control is quite necessary as situational aspects change within a task.

A break-down of self-regulation is a clear signal that there is an executive function deficit occurring.

Assessing Self-Regulation

The student should:

  • Pay attention to the speaker or task at hand
  • Ignore distractions
  • Follow through on instructions
  • Be able to refocus with minimal effort
  • if these issues are present, a teacher may wish to look at a possibility of ADHD
  • Control emotions and reactions
  • Be able to respond to emotional needs of others
  • Control frustration and anxiety
  • Understands own limitations and seeks others for assistance
  • Identifies needed support for success
  • Knows and can access resources needed for task completion

Executive Communication Skills: Using Memory

There is a difference between short term memory and long term memory in the executive function of the brain.

Long term memory is meant to help us store information for long periods of time.

Students have to be able to transfer their long-term memory into their working memory, which is what they are using while working on a task.

Students take facts and skills, put it all together, store it, then either delete it or retrieve it. Long term memories are deleted when not used. This impairs retrieval of information.

  • Short term memory is kind of like a post-it note: temporarily stuck in the brain. It goes away rapidly and the human brain can only hold so much.
  • Interference will cause a disturbance in short-term memory, so this is why many students will desire to complete a task as soon as possible before forgetting it.

Both of these types of memory have to do with a person's ability to remember necessary information to carry a task to completion. If a student struggles with using memory, than he or she will not be able to carry out the process of an assignment.

Students have to be able to retrieve previous knowledge and use it with new information to understand and build.

Assessing How Students Use Their Memory

The student should:

  • Retrieve stored information quickly and easily
  • Use short term memory for quick completion of tasks
  • Use graphic and visual organizers to assist in memory (chunking information leads to an increase in short term memory)
  • Integrates previous and background knowledge into new information
  • Remembers directions for tasks
  • Uses tools and strategies to aid with information retrieval (see tools for struggling students for ideas to help children with an executive function deficit in this area)
  • Remembers basic facts automatically (stored in long-term memory)
  • Creates and uses new information

When a student is is struggling with executive communication skills in the classroom, it is time to work with your intervention specialists or speech therapist to ensure further success.

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