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Task Initiation and Executive Function


We all understand the importance of getting things started – from daily chores to school assignments. Task initiation is a vital skill that sets the foundation for success, and it’s particularly important for your children as they navigate their academic journey.

Task initiation refers to the ability to kickstart tasks, whether they are simple or complex. This will become increasingly important for students as they juggle homework, school projects, and other commitments. Early on, children often receive prompts from teachers to start specific tasks. However, they will be expected to initiate tasks independently as they age.

The Importance of Task Initiation

Students who show proficiency in task initiation spend less time working on school activities and are better prepared for assignments, examinations, and homework. Challenges with task initiation can often be a hallmark for students with ADHD, which sometimes makes it more difficult for them to start school activities and, thus, complete them promptly.

Students who excel at task initiation have more time to complete their activities before their deadlines. Starting tasks early helps fend off procrastination and the stress of those last-minute rushes. Initiating tasks ahead of time also gives students the chance to seek out help if needed, promoting a better understanding of the material. 

As parents, it’s essential to recognize the signs that your child might struggle with task initiation. This can look differently between students, but some common symptoms include:

  • Your student is not spending time working on homework during the time given in class
  • Seeing many uncompleted assignments left at home
  • Disorganization surrounding assignments 
  • Frequent or recurrent late assignments or deadline extension requirements

Supporting Your Child’s Task Initiation Skills 

Now that we understand the importance of task initiation, here are some practical steps you can take as a parent to help your student improve their task initiation skills.

  1. Regular homework checks. Keep track of their assignments and ensure they start their homework on time.
  2. After-school check-ins. Ask about their assignments right after school to see what needs to be done and help them plan their work.
  3. Create a plan. Collaborate with your students on a “rule” for starting assignments (e.g., they should start their assignment no more than two days after they were assigned).
  4. Set reminders. Help your child set reminders for tasks to improve their time management.
  5. One task at a time. Encourage them to focus on one task at a time to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed.

Task initiation is a skill that students, whether they have ADHD or not, commonly struggle with. However, it’s a skill necessary for success in school and beyond. By fostering these skills early, we can help them start tasks on time and become better organized and more effective at completing assignments. The strategies listed above aid in honing these skills, ensuring students are equipped with them. You can set the stage for your student’s success through consistent support and guidance (and looping in your children’s educators).

Parenting a child who struggles with executive function can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Let Untapped help!

For More:

Self-Help for ADHD: 4 Strategies to Improve Task Initiation

Some Thoughts for Teachers on Helping Teenagers Develop Task Initiation

Task Initiation Made Easy: 8 Ways to Start Tasks with ADHD

EF Skills: Task Initiation

Task Initiation and ADHD – Strategies and Support for Getting Started

How to Develop Task Initiation in Children

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