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Publication Title:

Strategies for Building Executive Function Skills in the Early Years

Author(s):

Janice M. Gruendel, Ph.D.

Date: January 2015

Publication Type: Issue Briefs & Policy Reports

Policy Area: When Brain Science Meets Public Policy

Page Count: 12

Publication Excerpt:

Scientific advances over the past decade confirm how critical a child’s first five years are to health, well-being and early school success. This is when a child’s brain is growing at the fastest rate and in the most extraordinary ways. One key area of growth during this period—executive functioning and self-regulatory skills—sets the stage for subsequent learning and successful adult outcomes. From governors’ offices and legislative office buildings to the halls of academia and classrooms for children and adults, interest in the development of executive function and self-regulation skills is increasing dramatically. This white paper explores the development of these critical life management skills, identifies evidence-based and promising practices that foster them, and suggests four strategic opportunities for policy makers.

With technology that enables scientists to literally “look into the brain”1 coupled with advances in genomic research,2the study of brain architecture and function has increased dramatically over the past two decades. In the public policy arena, interest in brain development has recently focused on executive functioning skills that enable adults to secure work and perform successfully and earn their way out of poverty, adolescents to make better decisions about their behaviors, and children to be able to follow directions and focus, take turns, and regulate their youthful impulses in preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school classrooms.

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