Executive Function in the IEP Meeting

IEP and 504 plans often contain the term “executive function” for students who are dealing with the impact of ADHD, dyslexia, or other learning differences in school. Merely writing executive function, however, is not enough to ensure that students will receive the support they need to overcome their executive function challenges. An effective learning plan is specific in three areas: defining the challenges teachers are seeing, describing where and when intervention will be used to support the student, and outlining a plan for implementing the interventions and assessing the student’s progress.

Define the executive function challenges

Executive function can be hard to define, but it is important to be as specific as possible. Instead of listing executive function alone, the IEP or 504 plan should provide concrete examples that accurately describe when and where the challenge is occurring. Terms like “organization” or “thinking flexibly” are too broad when it comes to laying out a plan.  “Organization” can become “turning in completed work, planning long-term assignments, and using unstructured time efficiently.” By being precise with language, teachers will have a clear idea of where executive function supports are needed.

Describe where and when intervention takes place

The plan should be just as meticulous in describing where and when the student will require support. It is not enough to say “in general education classes” or in “special education classes.” Leaving the setting vague makes it difficult to tell who is responsible for helping the student grow in this area. The IEP or 504 should list specific assignments and classes to indicate where executive function interventions would be most helpful. This has the added benefit of making it easier to measure how successfully the school is implementing the plan.

Identify specific interventions

Finally, the IEP or 504 plan should name specific strategies and interventions. Vague language, such as “organization strategies,” “graphic organizers,” or “perspective-taking strategies” leads to broad interpretation, which could result in inconsistent approaches or limited interventions. By naming specific interventions, it will be clear to all parties exactly how the student will be supported in this area. Be as concrete as possible, and consider referencing a research-based intervention, such as SMARTS.

IEP and 504 plans that are specific about executive function issues and intervention plans will become strategic tools that can help students overcome their challenges in executive function and show their true potential.

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director