Executive Functioning, Parents, Strategies

Sample Support Removal: Chore Chart

At Customized Learning Solutions, we promote 5 key principles for supporting the development of executive functioning skills. Whenever creating a strategy or system, we feel it is important to keep each of these in mind in order to promote success.

  1. Externalize the Brain
  2. Provided and Taught By Adults
  3. Structured, Visual, and Tangible
  4. Explicit and Chunked
  5. Remove Supports Slowly

Here, we will be talking about the most challenging of those principles: the strategic removal of supports.

The long term goal is always for students to reach independence. As adults, we struggle to strike the perfect balance of support: we need to provide opportunities for growth, but can’t pull away too quickly and cause a collapse.

It’s a real life game of jenga. We have to find the right pieces to pull away that won’t make the whole thing come tumbling down, but need to make sure the tower keeps growing.51NEBPHiLjL

The challenge is finding those perfect pieces. Here is a sample support removal for a classic executive functioning obstacle: the chore chart.

The problem: There is a list of chores the child is expected to do, but they never seem to get done. Here we have scaffolded steps to grow toward independence. It won’t be fast and it won’t be easy, but it’s better than the broken record.

Level 1: Complete supervision

Spend the entire time right next to your child as they complete their chores. This serves two main purposes. First, they will get done. Hooray! Second, this allows you to get a better sense of whether your child fully understands their responsibilities.

You may realize that your to-do list needs to get more detailed. For instance, if “Clean Your Room” is on the chart, that may need to be broken into sub-steps like make your bed, empty your garbage, put all clothes away etc. or else they may stand there floundering.

Make adjustments to the list as needed. Stay on this level until they are fully capable of completing the list while you’re there. Told you it wouldn’t be easy…

Level 2: Adult as Time Manager

Once your child totally understands their chores, it’s time for them to do it solo. However, it’s not likely that they’ll be springing out of bed Saturday morning looking for the nearest broom. So, in level 2, you’re still the enforcer.

The adult here is responsible for the initiation phase. Designate the time that the chores are going to happen, then don’t leave until the process has begun. You also may need to check in periodically to make sure they haven’t lost momentum. If they have, don’t leave until they’ve started again.

You know you’re ready for Level 3 when they only need a little help getting started and are able to keep it up for the most part.

Level 3: Adult as Reminder

“Time to start your chores.” That’s your mantra for this level. It’s time for the child to take responsibility for the initiation, but they still need a reminder to do it.

If this is the step where things start to stall, it may be time to introduce a consequence for not completing chores within a time frame. For instance, you can’t __________ until your chores are done.

Level 4: A Non-Human Reminder with Human Check-ins

Level 4 is where we finally start reaching something that resembles independence.  Together, decide on a reasonable reminder that is not dependent on another human. A phone alert, a recurring calendar event, a big sign on the door. Whatever it is, make sure you talk about making it something that will actually be seen.

Continue to enforce the consequence of not completing chores, and check-in to see how things are going, but no engaging in conflict. Simply a, “Remember, you can’t ________ until your chores are done.”

The Other Principles

It is important to use the other guiding principles in the chore chart process as well:

  • Externalize the Brain
    • There should always be some sort of external reminder
    • The list of chores should be written down, not done by memory
  • Provided and Taught By Adults
    • This is built into level 1 — actually teach your kids how to do the chores and you create the detailed list
  • Structured, Visual, and Tangible
    • Make the chore chart structured and visual (for younger kids, use pictures too)
    • Have it posted somewhere clear
    • Make it tangible — a piece of paper in a sheet protector allows you to cross off with dry erase markers
  • Explicit and Chunked
    • Larger chores should be chunked into pieces
    • Any specific steps or requirements should be explicitly mentioned (i.e., empty the garbage AND replace the bag)

If you move onto the next level and it all falls apart, take a step back. Troubleshoot where things hit a snag. See if you can either problem solve a baby step in between, or perhaps you just need more time in the previous level.

See if you can tailor this example to chores in your house, and even to other processes altogether!

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