Learning Specialist, Franklin Academy
Sara went to Syracuse University to get her undergraduate degree in secondary science education. While teaching, she realized how many students with disabilities were flying under the radar and not receiving the air that they needed from teachers. She decided to attend Southern Connecticut State University to get her Master's in special education with a concentration in assistive technology.
“The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal.”
Have you ever had trouble paying attention to the work that you needed to do? What about struggling to organize and plan a task? Initiating a task? Monitoring what you were doing and connecting that to what needed to be done? Regulating your emotions? Odds are you have struggled to balance all of these skills at some point. Imagine experiencing obstacles in all of them, all the time! What supports would you need to accomplish your goals? This challenge is what my students and I deal with on a daily basis.
I work at a school that focuses on students on the autism spectrum or with non-verbal learning disability. One of the most common attributes of autism is a deficit in executive functioning skills. A student on the autism spectrum often will struggle with at least three of the following five skills:
- Paying attention
- Regulating emotions
- Initiating tasks
- Organizing and planning
Because the majority of my students are on the spectrum, executive functioning is one of the first things we focus on in planning curriculum. How can we expect our students to take a test, follow the steps of a lab or even do a simple homework assignment without these skills? Sometimes it might seem like the students don’t care or are just refusing to do the work, when in reality there has been a breakdown in their executive functioning.
Kiddom is a tool to help students manage their executive functioning deficits without having to single anyone out. If any of your students a) lose hard copies of paper, b) cannot remember what the homework is from the time we have class to nighttime, c) struggle to monitor what they need to do, d) organize and plan when they will do different assignments, e) regulate their emotions when work gets overwhelming, or f) all of the above, using Kiddom can be the perfect solution. It keeps all papers in one place for students, so they don’t have to go searching through folders, backpacks, or even different email accounts, as well as having one place to look if they aren’t even sure if they have any work.
At the start of this school year, my students were assigned to write a lab report. In order to break down the different pieces and avoid overwhelming them, we had homework assignments focused on completing each section separately over a few weeks time. When it came time to put all the different pieces together, one student spoke up saying “Well, I don’t know where my pieces are; I typed them all but can’t find them.” The two of us spent about 45 minutes searching through her 10 different email accounts (yes, 10), each with their own set of Google Docs, to pull together all of the pieces. Had we been using Kiddom at this point, each homework assignment for the different sections would have been on one page and she would have been using 1 email to complete all the work. No more searching!
This is my class Timeline: a list of every assignment I’ve given. I can filter by student to personalize.
Seeing due dates for different assignments, or being able to see which assignments are late, allow them to better organize and plan when they’re going to do different assignments. Finally, I know that my students get unbelievably emotional if they know they have an assignment but can’t find it or can’t remember where to look for it. With all classes using Kiddom, it can ease those anxieties. Students know the one site to look at and can see exactly what they need to do.
Believe it or not, teenagers tend to not like looking different from the “normal student”. Even in my classes, where all students have differences, and the majority struggle with executive functioning, they fight anything that they see as making them stand out from the crowd. No matter how many times I tell them how it will help them succeed in class, they don’t want to hear it. This is where technology tools like Kiddom can come into play. It is something that can be introduced to an entire class, even the students who don’t necessarily struggle with their executive functioning. This way, students who really need it can feel “normal” and are more invested in using the site.
The chat feature is tethered to assignments, making it convenient for feedback.
Along with being able to use Kiddom with the whole group, it allows me to give feedback via comments on the assignment, instead of trying to pull a student aside where their peers can see and revving up those emotions. This also puts some accountability on the students to use that feedback and come to me with questions. For the most part, even students who don’t have those deficits will benefit and enjoy using Kiddom.
Kiddom is one of the easiest “fixes” to executive functioning deficits that teachers can introduce and work with students of all ages. At times, trying to find where student breakdown is can be time consuming, and by the time you figure it out, half of the school year is gone. Introducing Kiddom can save some of the already stretched teacher time. The best benefit that I have seen when aiding students in their executive functioning skills isn’t really the increase in completed work; it’s the confidence that appears in the classroom.
P.S. Want to dive right in? Click here to access a demo class!
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