Q: Why don’t you work on attention in spark* and spark*EL?

spark* News

A: We actually do work on attention while we focus on the different executive functions.

First let’s look at a few different kinds of attention:

  1. Selective attention – this is where attention is paid only to the most important information available. We choose what to focus on – sights, sounds, smells, taste or feel – whatever is most important. This means paying less attention to or ignoring other things.
  2. Sustained attention – this is where we sustain or continue paying attention. 
  3. Shifting attention – this is where we move our  attention from one thing to another. It’s really important when we have to keep a few things in mind at the same time. We have to move our focus from one thing to another.

When we work on executive functions, we’re working on all  types of attention.

Take inhibitory control for example, children have to focus on just the most important things. At the same time, they have to ignore things that aren’t important. This takes selective attention, sustained attention, and sometimes, shifting attention. 

When planning and organizing, children have to pay attention to just the most important things, keep their focus while making their plan, and shift their attention from one item to the next.

As you can see, attention is an important focus to our approach. But it’s integrated into the total program rather than being worked on separately.

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

Executive functions in everyday life: Planning & Organization

spark* News

There’s lots of talk about self-regulation and executive functions. But how do you use them in everyday life?

It’s always best to start with body/behavioral self-regulation as a foundation. But there are lots of ways you can work on individual executive functions. 

Remember to use the six ways to activate thinking as you work on Planning & Organization.

Let’s look first at Planning & Organization. This is an area that can benefit all children.

Here are some things you can practice with your child on a daily basis:

– Make grocery lists. Get your child to help you look into cupboards and the fridge to see what you need. Help your child to write down the things you need to buy – use pictures if needed. As you go through the store, have your child check each thing you get off the list.

– Plan morning routines. Talk to your child about the things a person needs to do each morning. Have them write these things down on a list, using pictures if that helps. Work through the list in the same order your child specified.  

– Plan bathroom routine. Increase your child’s independence by helping organize daily routines, like hand-washing. Post the list to help your child be organized and on the right track. 

Try the routine using the new list. Some things (such as putting on socks before shoes) need to be done in a specific order. If your child’s list isn’t in a workable order, let them try it out so the two of you can fix it up.   

– Organize school work. Work with your child to decide what tasks need to be done with their school work. Help them prioritize and decide on the best order. Having a sequence that makes sense to your child can help set them up for success.

You can make visual plans that show just the  necessary details. The example here shows a sequence of activities at the beginning of a school day. There are no times, just a simple sequence.  

You can always increase the complexity of these plans. Add in times, descriptions of what needs to be done at both home and school. But, only add in one detail at a time. Help your child complete their plan in the beginning. See how much they can do by themselves. Our goal is to help children with planning and organization – we don’t want them to be overwhelmed with too much detail.  
You can increase the complexity of these plans. Times can be added, descriptions of what needs to be done at school and at home. – add one detail at a time. Help your child with this in the beginning. See how much they can do on their own. Our goal is to help children plan and organize – not become overwhelmed in detail.

– Cook. Yes, cook or bake with your child. Cooking is an excellent way to work on planning and organization. Get out all the ingredients needed. Follow the recipe to find out what’s mixed with what and in what order. I’ll post some websites where you can find well-organized visual recipes your child will enjoy.  

Yes, working on planning and organization takes time. Look at this as a great investment in your child’s future.

Here’s a handout on Planning & Organization that you can share