Author: studentivity

What is our Approach to Thriving with EF Deficits?


Our approach to Executive Function Support uses technology to enhance  motivation and collaboration in supporting students to develop the executive function skills and coping mechanisms that will help them achieve independence and succeed in school and in life. 

Solution Based Approach

It is well known that students with EF challenges benefit from structure, rewards, and collaborative support.  But there has never been a  solution that students, parents, schools and coaches could use off the shelf to make it easy to implement a collaborative EF remediation program for a student, let alone one that offers  students a tool that they can continue to use as a support as they move into independence.  That is what we are building at Studentivity.

Collaborative Approach

Our app is designed to be used by students and their support teams to help transition students to independence.  It takes a village to support a student with EF deficits.  And our tool is designed to help make it easier to work with your student to scaffold them to independence.    Students  learn to use the app with more active support in Middle School and early High School and then transition to using the app with less active support in their later High School  years, and independently to support their transition to  College or the Work Force.

Enhancing Motivation

We leverage  gamification and incentives to help students with EF deficits to find the motivation to develop EF skills and get their work done.

Our tool gives students gamified in app rewards to enhance their personal awareness and motivation.  In addition it offers, parents, teachers and caregivers the information they need to be effective in rewarding students for structured behavior change around EF skills development.

Best Practices Based Structured Skills Development

We help students and their support teams to use best practices to develop the skills and coping mechanisms that will help them to achieve independence.  We emphasize time management, planning, materials management and organization and customization for each students’ needs.  .

Additional Lifestyle Supports  

Our app encourages students to make the lifestyle changes that can support their EF skills development.

Get aerobic exercise regularly

Regular exercise at least 3 times a week should be a lifestyle for anyone with Executive Function deficits.

Exercise  has been found to be as effective as medication for alleviating ADD symptoms in some studies.  It also increases endorphins which boost your mood.   And it can raise Ferritin Levels, the Iron binding protein in blood, that some studies have found to be low in patients with ADD and can exacerbate restless leg syndrome which interrupts sleep.

Sports or exercises where you need to think while your heart rate is elevated (like racquetball, basketball, soccer….) are shown to have even greater cognitive benefits.   Exercise is also helpful for managing anxiety, a common co-occuring condition with ADD and other EF disorders.

It may sound retro, but walking or biking to and from school is a great way for students to rev up in the morning and unwind on the way home.

Get enough sleep

A lack of sleep makes it even harder for you to focus, concentrate and regulate emotions the next day, exacerbating  EF deficits.  Practicing good sleep habits and making sure you are getting adequate rest are helpful.   Screens should be shut off one hour prior to bedtime.  A body scan or breathing meditation in bed can help you quiet your mind and relax into sleep if shutting off your mind is difficult for you.   And your doctor may recommend a small dose of Melatonin or drinking sour cherry juice (which is a natural source of melatonin) prior to bedtime (and tooth brushing) to help you fall asleep more easily.

Practice mindfulness (Yoga, Meditation or Martial Arts)

Yoga, meditation and other mindfulness practices can be very helpful for patients with ADD.  They can help you learn to slow down overactive thoughts and calm anxiety, and even learn to pause and think before you act (better impulse control!).  They can also help you learn to settle down to sleep.

Use routines, lists and/or reminders to be on time and prepared

Working memory, executive function challenges and plain old distractibility can make it hard for folks with ADD to get out the door on time with everything they need, and get in the way of taking care of everyday tasks.  Routines, lists and reminders should be a regular part of your support infrastructure.  The will make everything work more smoothly.

Plan your week and chunk larger tasks to help to help get your work done

Many people with ADD find it hard to keep track of everything they need to do.  Left to their natural devices, they tend to leave what they do remember to the last minute, often with less than desirable outcomes.

Calendars and lists are critical ADD supports to keep from forgetting what needs to be done.   But a calendar won’t save you from last minute-itis.  For that, you must learn Chunking and Planning.   Chunking is the process of breaking larger projects into manageable steps, and planning is the process of scheduling those steps to pace yourself, rather than doing everything at the last minute.  You’ll be amazed what a little planning can do for the quality of your work.

Use goals and incentives to keep motivation up

It is a common misunderstanding that people with ADD struggle only with attention or hyperactivity.  Many people with ADD also have a hard time finding the motivation to focus on mentally challenging or boring tasks (ie anything but the thing they are most interested in now).  Incentives can be critical in helping you find the motivation to maintain focus and accomplish non stimulating tasks.   You don’t need to look to someone else to create incentives for you (although those are great too!).  Get to know your motivators, and train yourself “no videogames” or music (or whatever your thing is) until my homework is done.   Or set a timer and focus for 15 minutes on your work, then let your attention wander for 5 minutes before you focus for 15 minutes again.

Play to your strengths

Being an EF challenged student in a traditional school is a lot like being a fish in a bicycle school.  It’s not easy.   The environment is certainly not designed for you.  Traditional schools are built for generalists who can function fairly independently.   And students with EF challenges  tend to like to specialize in areas that interest them and play to their strengths.  The good news is, professional life after school favors specialists.  If you are great at math, or programming or design, you can build a career around that, (as long as it’s a marketable skill).  That doesn’t mean you can stop trying in the areas that are harder for you.  Keep working.  But definitely focus on developing your gifts, gain confidence from your successes, and don’t sweat that it may always be harder for you to concentrate on certain things.  That’s true for all of us.  I can’t fix a car to save my life.

Set up rewards when you do your best and accountability for your negative behaviors 

Parents of students with EF deficits easily fall into the nagging and correcting traps.   But students with EF deficits require consistent praise for their good behavior to reinforce their effort.    Our solutions helps to take the parent out of the role of air traffic controller and into the role of coach.    Students use the APP to become independent and accountable for time management. .  Parents use the app to reward positive behavior and progress.

Build your Team

It truly takes a village to support a student with EF deficits.  Our app encourages and helps you to effectively collaborate with your team of supporters as you all work toward common goals.

Evaluate Biological Causes and Medication as another Support

A doctor can help you explore whether a medical condition may be an underlying cause of your Executive Function issues.  A Psychiatrist or Physician can help you to explore whether Thyroid, ADD our Autism may be involved and whether medication may help, if and when you are ready to try.  The effects of identifying biological causes for EF issues and treating them can be profound.   Many people with ADD say that their improved focus on the medication helped them to finally accept that their ADD is truly a medical condition, and not a character flaw.  And their improved ability to focus helped them to be that much more effective in developing EF skills.   Some also experience a decrease in anxiety on the medications, as they are finally able to keep up with their work, conversations and other expectations.  But even with treatment, many patients with ADD, high functioning autism, traumatic brain injury and other conditions, still find that Executive Function supports and coping mechanisms are invaluable to help them function successfully.    Our app is designed to offer them that support, with or without medication.

Time management shouldn’t be another job!

Task management tools seem to be multiplying like rabbits.   There are so many tools out there to manage your tasks, but very few time management solutions.   Many of us have read David Allen’s Getting Things Done book.  But how many of us reading this post use a task management tool regularly?   Why not?   Likely because it’s too much work and its not well integrated with your calendar.  The last thing a busy (or overwhelmed) student needs is a blank task tool waiting for them to invest hours in learning the system and entering everything they need to get done.  That’s just another distraction for them.   And it assumes they know the best practices for breaking down bigger projects into tasks, when they may still be learning this skill.  They have enough on their plates getting their real work done.   Students (particularly students with EF Deficits, and all of us really) need a time management system that works for us, offering intelligent reminders, suggestions and scheduling to help us make a game of getting it all done, and saving some time to play.

In a world where most students follow similar routines, a good portion of students tasks are repetitive, and most of their unique deliverables are available in learning management systems, why would we ask students, particularly students that are already overwhelmed, to type their tasks into a task list from scratch each week?    At Studentivity we wouldn’t.   We are creating intelligent time management solutions that work for you, helping you to manage your time with minimal effort rather than making time management another job on your already busy list.


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