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Poor executive function
Poor eye contact
Poor concentration & difficulty focusing
Poor social skills
Difficulties with comprehension
Low energy levels
Delay in gross or fine motor skills
Challenges with visual perception
Difficulty with sensory processing
Early intervention is the most effective way to help young children before their social, emotional and physical challenges start to impact on their quality of life. Addressing these issues early on in their development - from 18months - is essential to ensure that children reach their maximum potential.
At the Elijah Centre in North West London, groups of mixed-ability children aged from 18 months to 10 years are guided through a programme of activities and games designed to optimise their pre- and post-linguistic and neuro-motor skills. The programme is a combination of best practice in educational, clinical and cognitive psychology.
In the groups, every child receives an individual neuro-cognitive programme that addresses his or her needs both at nursery or school or at home. Targets are set for each child and measured at regular intervals to ensure progress is steady and goals are being reached. Children receive the necessary input to relate better to the world around them, and skills gained are easily transferrable to a typical mainstream classroom scenario. The end goal is to mould each child into a confident and capable individual, capable of tackling every day challenges like everyone else.
Encourage self-awareness, confidence and
Promote independent thinking and behaviour
Facilitate social and communication skills
Develop age appropriate interaction with adults
Build listening and comprehension skills
Prepare for mainstream schooling and everyday
"The level of the engagement of the children is excellent. Interventions are differentiated to meet each child’s needs. Activities are targeted at raising children’s awareness’s of other children in the group and what they are doing. The children are happy and settled. The PROSCIG methodology builds, independence, functional spontaneous communication, cognitive skills development, social competence, play skill development, generalization of skills, and proactive approaches to problem behaviour."
Laurel Friedman, Leading Educational Psychologist
2. Executive Function
Executive Function (EF) Skills are the range of self-management skills that enables individuals to attain goals. It can be considered to involve three key areas: Working Memory, Cognitive Flexibility and Impulse Control.
Working Memory controls an individual’s ability to retain and manipulate distinct pieces of information over short periods of time; keeping in mind the task at hand.
Cognitive Flexibility allows us to sustain or shift attention in response to different demands or to apply different rules in different settings; realising when which approach is appropriate to which situation.
Self-Control enables us to set priorities and resist impulsive actions or responses.
Typically, executive functions skills develop in childhood though to adulthood, peaking around the mid-20s. Poor executive functions skills make it difficult for individuals to manage their time effectively, follow rules and directions, plan and organise a sequence of events or execute tasks in an effective manner, an inability to inhibit impulses that do not help to achieve goals (such as avoiding distractions), being flexible and adaptable to change, and being able to solve complex problems.
What do we do at the Elijah Centre?
At the Elijah Social Cognitive Skills Centre (Elijah Centre), we implement the principles of PROSCIG© (Elijah 2013), to support children who face challenges in executive functions and self-regulation skills, to develop the necessary skills. PROSCIG© is based on three core principles: Social Perception; Social Problem Solving; Self-Monitoring/Regulation. Using these principles, the PROSCIG© program is tailored to meet the needs of each individual child in an integrated and holistic manner. Dr Elijah and the Elijah Team work with other professionals and the nurseries, schools, etc. of the children who attend the Centre in order to develop skills that affect the ability of the children to engage executive functions (such as Occupational Therapists, Music Therapists, Speech and Language Therapist, Arts Therapist and Physiotherapists), as well as provide continuity of intervention outside the Elijah Centre. Activities are broken down into steps that are made progressively more complex as the child’s skills develop. In addition to collaborating with schools, we work closely with the parents and families of children at the Elijah Centre so that the skills they learn are transferable to all aspects of their lives and they are able to engage what they learn to develop necessary daily living skills such as feeding, dressing and preparing with others etc.
We utilise a progressive, step-by-step approach to develop the skills with the children of the Elijah centre, setting realistic short-term goals with the children on a week-by-week basis. To cultivate a real sense of achievement for the children, they are rewarded both during the sessions and at home when they have attained their goals. Children may face challenges in one, two or all three aspects of executive functioning skills. Depending on the need of the individual child, the program is adapted accordingly. For children who face challenges in social flexibility, we work with them on first learning the importance of being flexible and the social implication when we are flexible (our friends will like to spend more time with us for example). We then carry out first, simple activities that start to build social and cognitive flexibility, such as changing the rules to familiar games, encouraging imaginative play in peer groups, so that children develop an understanding that it is okay for things to be different from time to time.
Children who face challenges in working memory engage in activities that build working memory, starting with simple memory games that become more challenging. We work on developing different types of memory: visual, auditory and tactile memory through visual activities, auditory activities and sensory play.
Self-control is developed through the PROSCIG© (Elijah 2013) self-regulation program. Children learn to understand the need to control impulses and are given a number of strategies that focus around communicating their need: learning to identify when a task becomes overwhelming, asking for breaks; carrying out exercises that relate to sensory needs; understanding the impact of their actions when they act impulsively; knowing to take into consideration their social and physical surroundings –dedicating an area for breaks.
After the learning stages, children are in a position to actively contribute towards setting their goals. We teach the children to also identify their individual needs and communicate this. By developing social language and communication skills, the Elijah children are better able to communicate their needs with therapists, mentors and their parents so that we all work together to bring about positive change in the executive function skills of the children.
Group sessions at the Elijah Centre take place every Tuesday afternoon and every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, in the morning and afternoon.