Executive function—it’s such an elusive, abstract term for such necessary everyday skills. And it’s such an area of difficulty for so many of our clients. Activities like planning dinner, resolving a problem with a friend, and finding the most efficient route to work all require executive-function skills.
Helping clients develop these crucial skills allows them to function better day-to-day, and smart phones and tablets can support this teaching between sessions. Looking to harness technology for both compensatory and rehabilitative purposes? These four apps work for me!
- Alarms and Calendars
Help clients set an alarm to, for example, take medication or start their homework, or input events into a calendar. That teaches them to plan and create routine. They develop the ability to see a solution to a problem and bolster their memory. Similarly, use calendars to engage compensatory strategies and executive function skills—like planning—by discussing how many minutes or days before an appointment they might need a reminder in order to fully prepare.
- List Apps
Apple now has a built-in “reminders” app, which translates across Apple products. Another favorite list app of mine is Wunderlist, which allows you to create multiple checklists, so you can check off completed tasks while keeping tasks organized, another key executive function skill.
I love to use mapping apps in the most functional way possible. Prompts such as: “Find the nearest place to get coffee” or “What is the quickest way to get to the drug store?” simultaneously exercise multiple executive function skills.
- Rehabilitative Apps:
- In the clinic – I love the Verbal Reasoning app from Virtual Speech Apps. It instigates conversations about problems and solutions, offers flexible cues, and works for adult clients. It also includes other reasoning skills such as answering negative and why questions.
- At home – Constant Therapy makes assigning homework to clients easy; clinicians select tasks and clients perform them on their own smart phones or tablets. The app also provides a great executive function task with its Instruction Sequencing feature. This prompts clients to sequence steps for everyday activities.
This list only scratches the surface of potential technology uses for treating executive function issues. Share ways that you use technology to train executive function in the comments section below.
Jordyn Sims, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist working in the Boston area. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 1, Language Learning and Education; 2, Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders; and 15, Gerontology. Sims has experience with adults and children and is a clinical consultant for Constant Therapy. firstname.lastname@example.org