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Executive Function Strategies for Your Morning Routine

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Adapted from Autism and Learning Differences: An Active Learning Teaching Toolkit

“Executive Function” describes a set of cognitive abilities that control and regulate behavior. Executive Function ability is necessary for goal-directed behavior and includes being able to initiate and stop actions, to monitor and change behaviors as needed, and to plan future behaviors when faced with novel tasks and situations. Executive Function allows adolescents and young adults to anticipate outcomes and adapt to changing situations.

The ability to conceptualize and think abstractly is where most ASD or LD students need extra instruction, practice, and training. Nearly half of CIP’s students who have attended college before enrolling in our program have had to leave post-secondary education due to difficulty in this key area.

Basic Processes

The basic Executive Function processes that adolescents and young adults on the Spectrum need to develop center around:

  • Planning
  • Organizing
  • Prioritizing
  • Shifting (cognitive flexibility)
  • Memorizing
  • Checking (facts, feelings, emotions, ideas, school work, homework, and work-related things)

Ask Your Student

What does your morning routine consist of? Whatever their individual routine might be – know that creating a list will help to get their brain organized and this will help them “have a good and successful day.” Before your student creates their own routine, show them this list of examples that a lot of people do during their morning routines:

  • Wake up at the same time each and every day (including weekends)
  • Pray, meditate, or do yoga to spiritually center yourself for the day
  • Head for the gym to exercise then return home
  • Take a shower, do general hygiene routine, and put on the clean clothes you’ve laid out the night before
  • Eat a good breakfast (it can be fast and easy) and do the dishes
  • Take any morning medications and/or vitamins and supplements
  • Consult a “to-do” list for the day and get things organized
  • Make sure backpack or briefcase contain all that’s needed for the day
  • Pack a lunch for school or work
  • Do a “quick ten” pickup before leaving for the day – taking ten minutes to whiz through the apartment or dorm room and tidy as much as possible in that time-frame

Make Your List

Now, help them create their own morning routine (what will “for sure” work for you), and hang it up on a bulletin board or bedroom, bathroom, or refrigerator door.

Download the Routine Guide

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CIP's full-year postsecondary programs offer individualized college academic, social, career and life skills support for young adults with Autism, ADHD and other Learning Differences. Learn more...

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