5 Items to Help Students with Executive Functioning Skills

March 15, 2023 No Comments

Executive functioning skills are absolutely necessary to work on with your students with autism. These are the skills that are used to help plan and execute a task. Read more to discover 5 items that I used in my special education classroom to help my student increase their executive functioning skills.

Executive functioning skills have been talked about a lot lately. The skills of attention, planning, self-management, flexibility, etc all fall under the umbrella of executive functioning skills. When somebody asked me what executive functioning skills are important for, my elevator pitch usually includes that it’s all the skills needed to plan and execute a task . That is needed to do, like pretty much everything.

This year I transition for my school’s middle school site to our high school site. It’s been over a decade since I have worked in high school. Our school is unique in that, while each teacher has a homeroom and a case load, it is set up so that we have a different group of students each period. There are a lot of things that are so new to me, even in my 14th year of teaching. I am teaching the Activities of Daily Living class, which is a lot of fun. However, I have been working hard to make sure executive functioning skills are incorporated while we learning about cleaning, cooking, and running a snack cart. Here are a few items I have purchased for my classroom to help me do just that.

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Cube Timer

This has become a favorite in my classroom this year. The thing I love about this is the fact that it has options for a couple of different lengths of times. I like to walk my students through thinking about how long it may take to complete a task. I also love the time is displayed on the side. This can help students figure out the elapsed time between when they start and when they will finish.

Memo Snap Bracelet

Yes, I have been using this with my students, but honestly, I have been using it for myself just as much! This is the grownup snap bracelet. Instead of an obnoxious neon color or holograph design like in the 90’s, it has lines with checkmarks next to it. You can write your to do list and have it right on your wrist. I have been writing to-do lists for my students in my life skills class. They think it’s fun that they get to wear a snap bracelet, I love it because it’s a written schedule that can literally be worn on their person.

Dry Erase Sticky Notes

Who doesn’t love a good sticky note??? Well, these are 10x cooler because they are also dry erase. That means less waste. I leave these as visual reminders around the classroom for my students (such as “ask before using the computer”). I also have used these when working on planning. When I teach this skills, what I like to start with is having students practice a familiar sequence (making a sandwich, etc). We write out the steps and then put them in order. We’ll also read the book “I’ll Never Get All of That Done!”, where we learn how to plan, prioritize and post. Using sticky notes helps so much because we can switch the order of the small tasks so easily, rather than having all the step on one piece of paper.

Label Maker

When I was getting my life skills classroom together, I thought this was a great time to help my students learn how to organize. Knowing how to categorize as a prerequisite made this way easier. My students helped me come up with categories. They loved being able to use my phone to type in what they wanted the label to say, and then have it come out of this label maker.

Magnetic Dry Erase Calendar, Weekly Planner, and Shopping List

I have gotten so much use out of this set! The dry erase calendar is perfect for a high school classroom (I started out with a really cute palm leaf calendar set, but honestly, this is way more functional and likely they would use something like this in their own home or workplace). Usually I’ll have one of my students help me set up the calendar, then we will plan for the month by writing down community trips, events, and even out refrigerator cleanouts. The weekly plan gets used for our snack cart and related tasks (such as taking inventory, etc.). That way everyone knows when they are assigned to do a job. The shopping list is also helpful for our snack cart endeavors so that when we get to take our trips to Costco, we already have it written down what we need.

Which one of these items is your favorite?

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