Monthly Tips

Each month, a Thinking Organized tip is emailed to our growing list of educators, parents and students who want to improve their executive functioning skills.

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Get Out & About the “Thinking Organized” Way

The Washington D.C. metro area is home to countless incredible attractions that your family can enjoy this summer. You can learn about fascinating history and culture, attend a variety of fun festivals, hit the trails, and much more. Usually, parents do all of the planning when it comes to family outings. However, giving your children the opportunity to take over is a great learning experience in how executive functioning skills are essential for everyday life. Planning a trip reinforces and strengthens several key functions located in the prefrontal lobe of the brain, such as time management and cognitive flexibility. We’ve generated our own example for what this process might look like for a family activity that is fun for all ages.
So let’s begin planning our trip to Luray Caverns in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley!

 

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Erica MechlinskiGet Out & About the “Thinking Organized” Way
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Get Ready to be “Thinking Organized” this Summer!

Summer fun is just around the corner as many students gear up for exam week and eagerly look ahead toward the final bell of the school year. At this point, most of them are not thinking about completing summer reading assignments, sharpening their writing skills, or preparing for the year ahead. Parents, however, may have a different mindset.

Months away from school can lead to a slip in children’s academic skills, procrastination until the week before the new school year to begin reading assignments, and chaos the night before the first day as everyone scrambles to get back into a daily routine. With the help of Thinking Organized this summer, reading assignments can be completed well-before the end of August, writing skills can be honed and sharpened, and organizing for the first day of school can be a breeze! Plus, it takes place around your schedule!

Take a look at our summer programs listed below for more information.

Erica MechlinskiGet Ready to be “Thinking Organized” this Summer!
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Strike a Power Pose

For the past couple of months, we have been writing about the importance of self-advocacy skills and how to help your children of all ages speak up for their needs. This month, we wanted to write about a very important component of self-advocacy: confidence. If people feel confident, they are more likely to raise their hand in class to ask a question, approach the teacher, or seek help from peers and other adults.
Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, researches how body language affects perception and her report (“Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance”) written in conjunction with Dana Carney and Andy Yap, gives parents and teachers some practical implications for boosting students’ feelings of confidence both in the classroom and in life outside of school.

 

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Erica MechlinskiStrike a Power Pose
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Encourage & Practice Self-Advocacy [High School & College Edition]

Last month, we focused on giving you some ready-to-use tips and ideas for helping your elementary and middle school children develop self-advocacy skills. We all know that the need for cultivating and using these skills does not go away by the time students enter high school, and in fact, it becomes even more important as they move on through college and beyond. That is why this month we wanted to share some of our advice on encouraging self-advocacy skills with older students in high school and college. Strategies differ from those that younger children might learn to implement and students are often more capable when it comes to recognizing their needs and communicating them to others by the time they reach ninth grade. Young adults are also given more opportunity to take responsibility for their success and have a wider range of possibilities when it comes to self-advocating. The more students can practice standing up for themselves, the more comfortable it will become, and the better off they will be!

So, what are some ways that you can get involved in talking with your older children about self-advocacy? We’ve made it easy by breaking it down into the lists below to help your children be their own best advocates.
Erica MechlinskiEncourage & Practice Self-Advocacy [High School & College Edition]
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Encourage & Practice Self-Advocacy

Some adults are very comfortable advocating for themselves, while other are hesitant to do so. However, we have found that most children, especially those with executive functioning weaknesses,struggle when they are asked to self-advocate. When looking at self-advocacy in the context of students in elementary school through middle school, it involves knowing ones strengths and weaknesses and using that knowledge to communicate with others and ask for specific supports and accommodations when needed.

Many students do not realize that part of being an active learner involves asking questions and reminding teachers of accommodations and specific supports that optimize their learning. Students might feel as though they are being bothersome if they need to approach teachers for extra help or require additional materials. If students can be self-aware and positively assertive, there is no limit to what they can accomplish. Self-advocates are empowered and confident, and there are many ways that students can develop these skills.

Erica MechlinskiEncourage & Practice Self-Advocacy
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Conquering the Second Half Slump

For many adults, the month of January represents a fresh start. Whether it is dedicating oneself to a more frequent exercise routine, cooking healthier meals at home, or completing a project at work, it is common to reflect on the year that has passed and recharge for the year ahead.
Students may look at it a bit differently. As they roll out of bed for the first day back to school after the holidays, the second half of the year looms in front of them like a dense fog on a mild winter’s morning. They might struggle to regain momentum after working so hard throughout the first half of the year and motivation can begin to wane.
All students want to be successful, but when they do not know how to achieve success or are facing what may feel like insurmountable challenges, it is hard to maintain the inner drive to keep pushing forward day after day.
Parents can help their students by reinforcing efficient and effective habits so that their children return to school feeling confident and reinvigorated to tackle the second half of the school year.

 

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Erica MechlinskiConquering the Second Half Slump
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Holiday Prep

The holidays are host to a heap of executive functioning skills. From buying gifts to creating a guest list and preparing dinner to decorating the house, you must rely on the prefrontal cortex of your brain to help plan and execute most holiday festivities.
When the whole family is gathered and in the spirit, why not treat the preparation process as an opportunity to practice executive functioning skills? Not only will each member of the family have a chance to be engaged in the fun, but also everyone will learn life lessons about one important skill in particular: managing time.
Round up the kids for a family meeting and try some of these tips to get them excited and ready for the holidays!

 

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Erica MechlinskiHoliday Prep
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Waking Up is Hard to Do

If you look outside your window, the leaves are probably vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red. The air has become crisper and you need to grab a sweater before heading outside in the morning. The holidays are just around the corner and you may be looking forward to getting cozy in front of a fireplace soon. Many of these are feelings to which we can all relate to this November. We also know what it feels like when our days begin to feel shorter and we have to wake up in the morning without the sun’s rays coaxing us out of bed. For students of all ages, waking up in the early morning for school can be a big hurdle, especially in the fall and winter seasons.

Starting in fifth grade, children should be practicing independently waking up in the morning and getting their day started. If they don’t find a system that works for them during their school days at home, you could be making a phone call every morning to make sure your children roll out of bed to get to class on time in college! Below are some of our tips and ideas that might help your children rise and shine all on their own.

 

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Erica MechlinskiWaking Up is Hard to Do
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Long-term Planning

Time management can be defined as the methodical structure of allocating and distributing time among competing demands and priorities in order to increase efficiency and productivity.  For all of us, there are two types of planning that we engage in to make the most of our time: short term and long term. The one that poses a problem for many people is looking ahead into the long term. After all, it is much easier to think about what needs to get done now for tomorrow versus what needs to get done now for two weeks from now. Students often struggle with effective time management in the long term, in which case feelings of anxiety can take control when assignments are left until the last minute. Now that it is October, an increasing number of assignments with due dates at least a week away from the assigned date are frequenting planners.

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Erica MechlinskiLong-term Planning
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Amazing Apps

September has arrived, and the school year is in full swing. The lazy, carefree days of summer have been replaced by a flurry of assignments and schedules that require solid time management and material organization skills in order to have a successful school year.

Students with weaknesses in their executive functions can find it especially difficult to keep these foundational skills under control, so implementing technology into their daily routine to assist with these tasks can be a lifesaver.

Apps are always available to use anywhere, and they make it very easy to input information. They also go beyond the scope of human error by offering features such as automated reminders and syncing with any device, which takes some pressure off of a person’s memory.

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Erica MechlinskiAmazing Apps
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