6 Activities to Strengthen Executive Function for Autism

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Welcome! If you’re here you’re either ready to learn about executive function activities or you’re wondering what the heck executive function is and why your kiddo needs to strengthen it.

Executive function is a set of cognitive processes that will enable our kiddos to plan, organize, prioritize, and regulate their thoughts and actions to achieve goals.

These skills are the building blocks of independence! How? They enable them to navigate daily tasks, solve problems, and adapt to new situations effectively.

For autistic individuals, developing and honing executive function skills can be particularly challenging (I know, another challenge :P).

But! It is also incredibly important for their overall well-being and success. From managing daily routines to navigating social interactions, executive function plays a central role in every aspect of their lives.

Now you know what executive function is and why it’s important, why don’t we dive into activities to strengthen executive function for autism.

1. Multi-Sensory Sensory Bin Activities

Create sensory bins filled with different textures, objects, and materials that encourage exploration and engagement.

Introduce themed sensory bins based on your child’s interests, such as a nature-themed bin with leaves, rocks, and pinecones, or a water-themed bin with floating toys and water beads.

Use the sensory bins as opportunities to practice skills like sorting, categorizing, and problem-solving in a multi-sensory environment.

I have a list of Outdoor Sensory Bins that can give you some ideas for fun summer activities!

Sensory Bin Recommendations:

2. Adaptive Interactive Storybooks

Find storybooks that are interactive for your kiddo. Think storybooks that feature tactile elements, sound effects, and interactive features.

You want to engage multiple senses and encourage their active participation.

You can also use storybooks that explore cause-and-effect relationships, sequencing, and problem-solving concepts, but make sure they are in a highly accessible and engaging format.

Adaptive Interactive Storybook Recommendations:

3. Music and Movement Challenges

This one is fun for the little ones that love to dance! You can incorporate music and movement challenges. You’ll use this to not only promote executive functioning skills, but also your child’s strengths in auditory processing and gross motor skills (think monkey-see, monkey-do game).

Create simple movement routines or dance sequences to music (there are so many videos on YouTube so you don’t have to create your own). You want to encourage your child to follow along and imitate the movements.

You can even use rhythm instruments or body percussion to practice timing, coordination, and even sequencing.

Music and movement challenges provide opportunities for your child’s self-expression, creativity, and social interaction in a supportive and inclusive environment.

Music & Movement Recommendations:

4. Interactive Sensory Sorting Stations

Interactive sensory sorting stations are set up in a way that engages children in sorting activities using different sensory materials. Think of materials like fabric swatches, pom poms, beads, or texture objects.

Make sure you provide clear containers labeled with the pictures or symbols that represent the categories. Then encourage your kiddo to sort the items based on a specific criteria.

This helps build skills in categorization, organization, and attention to detail! All are important skills to develop to strengthen executive functioning skills for autism.

Sensory Sorting Bin Recommendations:

5. Adapted Visual Task Boards

This is basically using visual schedules and task boards to help our kiddos understand schedules. You have to use clear symbols or photographs to represent daily activities or routines.

It’s best to use Velcro or magnet so the kiddos can move the task cards as they complete each task. The visual support element helps build executive functioning skills such as sequencing, planning, and task initiation.

Visual Task Board Recommendations

6. Story Sequencing Activities

Use story sequencing activities to develop skills in memory, sequencing, and comprehension to engage your child. You can use picture cards or story sequences you can find online (you know I’m going to recommend some!)

Encourage your kiddo to arrange the story into the correct order. You can use visual cues or physical prompts as you see fit. If your kiddo is down for it, then you can act out the story together to encourage participation and reinforce the story’s narrative.

Story Sequencing Activities Recommendations:

Conclusion

All 6 of these are creative approaches that target strengthening executive function for autism. I thought it would be fun to engage with sensory fun and visual supports!

Remember to tailor these activities to your child’s sensory sensitivities if they have them, but also their interest and preferences. I know you know, but just a friendly reminder to use positive reinforcement and encouragement throughout this learning process.

Did you find these fun and helpful? I’d love for you to drop a comment below and let me know what you think. Especially is you tried any of the ways to strengthen executive function for autism!

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