Executive Function Support

Executive function skills are those brain-based mechanisms that allow each of us to prioritize, manage time, organize space and items, utilize working memory, control impulses, and guide our decision making. These are important life skills for all of us.

Students with learning differences such as dyslexia or ADHD often struggle with these executive functioning skills and this impacts academic, social and emotional growth. They are the very students who are most in need of strategies and guidance.

At Wye River, students learn to recognize their brain-based differences and the impact those differences have on their performance. With our support, they begin to employ techniques and tools to strengthen and better manage executive functioning outcomes.

As research demonstrates, exercise and physical movement are crucial for optimum brain performance, increasing focus and attention. For this reason, we hold athletic and fitness programs first thing in the morning so students can reap the benefits for several hours into the school day. Students arrive dressed for their chosen fitness activity and engage in over 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity.

The greatest academic challenge for students who struggle with executive functioning is often the process of writing. At Wye River, every teacher uses a research-based instructional writing approach called EmPOWER. EmPOWER is a systematic method for teaching academic writing. With EmPOWER, students talk themselves through six steps of the writing process and, within each step, use proven strategies to problem-solve (http://www.architectsforlearning.com). Because we use the same method throughout all classes, students internalize the steps and writing becomes more fluid.

Overall we use many academic tools and strategies that help all our students with planning, self-management and organization:

  • Students use a paper and digital planners to daily record homework, reminders and notes.

  • Being prepared for class is valued and assessed.

  • Average class size is 7 students which minimizes distractions and allows for more teacher support.

  • Desks come in two heights - sitting and standing.

  • Teachers provide fidgets for busy hands and allow students to move as needed.

  • A daily advisory period is closely monitored by faculty.

  • Students use digital calendars and alarms as it helps them stay organized.

  • Most assignments are rubric-based, a process which clearly breaks down the expectations for students.

  • All teacher lesson plans are posted digitally to enable students and parents to check content and homework.