PPS psychologists inform parents about executive function

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photo by Aaron Wu

On March 8, Meredith Cooke, school psychologist from Littlebrook Elementary School, and Sara Leta, social worker at the Littlebrook and Riverside elementary schools, gave a presentation to district parents on executive functioning—the set of skills that control cognitive function. As a preview to the workshop, Cooke and Leta spoke about the topic at the February 28 Board of Education meeting.

At the workshop, Cooke and Leta outlined methods for helping children deal with challenges in multiple areas of mental capability before discussing strategies parents could utilize to further develop executive functioning as students’ brains mature.

“Parents and children need to establish and name the steps [that are going to be taken] to achieve a reasonable goal,” said Cooke. “The two big strategies are making [the steps toward the goal] visual … and using language that prompts thinking rather than telling [children what to do next].”

During the workshop, parents were provided with educational resources, including recommended readings and strategies to foster executive functioning within their children.

“[We wanted parents to understand] that having one set of executive functioning skills that’s a little bit weaker than another [set of skills] has nothing to do with a true deficit, but that [the weaker skills are in] developmental stages,” Cooke said.

Cooke and Leta have previously attended professional development on executive function. This summer, they plan to offer a workshop to district staff who have not yet learned about the subject.

Cooke and Leta hope to combat confusion regarding  executive function in order to allow new opportunities to further these mental skills.

“Part of [informing the community about executive function] is demystifying some of the struggles that … students and adults might have,” Cooke said. “We’re trying to broaden the understanding of natural [executive functioning strengths and weaknesses] and [show] that there is support out there to help those areas of weakness develop.”

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