Virtual Learning and Executive Function Difficulties in Teens

Students have been virtually learning for about a year now and over this time an increase in students with executive functioning difficulties has been observed.  In the article, “Executive Function Difficulties an Issue for Teens Learning Virtually”, Kimberly Levin discusses specific areas she has observed difficulties in and the strategies she uses in order to help strengthen these skills.

-Sustaining Attention: Since students are not always being required to turn on their camera during virtual learning, they are getting more distracted by their surroundings. This is resulting in directions or lesson concepts being missed. Keeping cameras on and actively taking notes during lessons can help a student maintain attention to the lesson. Additionally, placing all other electronics on “Do Not Disturb” mode can help reduce distractions.

-Getting Organized: With classes online and students not always showing up, it has become easier to miss assignments and important due dates for class. It has also become more difficult for students to remind each other about due dates/ assignments due to the virtual learning environment. Some strategies to help stay organized are: reminding students to check their learning platform each day, creating daily checklists, using a planner to help keep track of important assignments and dates (either virtual or hard copy), and cleaning the work area each day.

-Initiating Tasks: Motivation to complete assignments has been observed to go down and procrastination has been observed to increase. “A good strategy for students is the Pomodoro Method: The student sets a timer for a 25-minute work period and then takes a five-minute break” (Levin, 2021). The length of time can be adjusted to the students ability. Additionally, breaking a big assignment up into smaller steps/goals makes it feel easier to start and less daunting to complete

-Complying:  It continues to be important to have buy-in from the student you are working with. Giving background information on executive functions can help students understand what is going on with them and why there could be a breakdown. Additionally, having the students help develop their own goals can encourage them to actively participate and feel more responsible for their learning. Continuously checking in on the goals they set allows them to reflect on what does and does not work for them.

Levin, K. (2021, March 29 ). Executive Function Difficulties an Issue for Teens Learning Virtually [Editorial]. The ASHA Leader. Retrieved 2021, from

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