Here at Sense ABLE Brain, we are seeing more and more children who are struggling with Executive Function skills. They are coming in with parent and teacher concerns regarding impulsiveness, their ability to follow directions, keep their hands/bodies to themselves, to focus and pay attention, to control emotions and behaviors, and to limit talking out. We have developed this fun approach to help them develop the skills they need to be successful: The Silent Obstacle Course with Silly Instructions!

We start with a sensory-motor obstacle course that involves activities to stimulate and organize their proprioceptive, vestibular, and tactile sensory systems, and possibly their visual and auditory processing as well.

Then we tell the child that they will go through the obstacle course silently. The only exception is when they are on a specific obstacle designated as the “Free Spot” (usually the giant crash pad!) where they are allowed to be as loud as they want or make whatever noise or movement they want, or when one of the special silly instructions tells them to say something. (Working on self-control, delayed gratification, following instructions, and sequencing.)

We then set up special Silly Instructions at a few obstacles. The instructions are in bags with a variety of fasteners. (Truth be told, the “bags” are actually pockets that I cut off of my son’s old cargo shorts and pants! The drawstring “bag” is the leg of the pants cut off and sewn shut!) This gives them an often much-needed opportunity to practice fine motor fastening skills, and to remember to open and close the bags when they are at that obstacle.

Some of the obstacles require drawing one instruction from each of two bags. For example, they may draw “Make this out of putty” from the directive bag, and a “square” out of the shapes bag while standing on a foam wedge, with a small ball of poster putty on the wall waiting for their creative skills. They would then make a square on the wall with the putty. (Working on memory skills, direction-following, praxis, fine motor, visual-perceptual, visual-motor, self-help.)

Often the children require a great deal of cueing the first few times they do this Silent Obstacle Course with Silly Instructions. Some children become frustrated with certain aspects of the silent obstacle course. We allow frustration, but only on the “Free Spot” obstacle where they can yell, groan, stomp, kick, etc. (which is why it’s usually the large crash pad that is designated for this distinction). Once they have been given permission to feel what they feel, and to act upon what they feel in a safe manner, it is easier to help them transition out of that emotion/behavior and they can be encouraged to try again, possibly with assistance or cues for increased potential for success. (Working on emotional and behavioral control.)

After several sessions of repeating the Silent Obstacle Course with Silly Instructions during which we increase the sensory-motor, emotional/behavioral, and the cognitive challenges, we can see improvement in the child’s executive function skills. The best part is when we hear that the parents and/or teachers can see improvements as well!

For your convenience, I have included a FREE download of our version of Silly Instructions below! Enjoy!

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