Wondering, Investing, Noticing, Giving and Serving are the five pillars of WINGS Collective, an Oak Forest-based organization that provides services to school-aged children who need special learning help or have been diagnosed with language and learning disorders.
The organization this fall is adding a new executive function coaching to their list of programs.
“Executive function is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control,” said Jessica Brock, one of the founders of the organization. “Having difficulty with executive function can make it hard to focus, follow directions, and handle emotions, among other things.”
Children who have executive function issues can have a hard time making a plan and following it through, said Heather Grayson-Hillery, another founder of the organization. An example could be something as simple as finishing their homework, Grayson-Hillery said.
“You usually find it in middle school and high school, when kids are asked to be a little more independent,” Grayson-Hillery said. “Our goal is to support them so that they can be successful in school and in jobs later in life.”
While the pandemic hasn't exactly increased the number of children with executive function problems, the pandemic has shined a spotlight on areas the school model has fallen short, including those with executive function problems, said Amanda Villasenor, another founder of WINGS. The switch to at home-learning hurt some of those children as they were given more responsibilities, Villasenor said.
WINGS Executive Function Coaching will help students learn how to be more efficient learners, how to have more self-awareness and show greater independence in their everyday life, according to Brock.
The instruction is designed to teach kids how to learn to help them acquire, remember, and express or use information.
“We do this stuff all the time, it's easy stuff,” Villasenor said. “Everyone has these demands, a number of things to do and we are able to filter through and prioritize.”
Children that struggle with executive function often can't filter their tasks, Villasenor said.
For example, a student might be able to express themselves verbally, but struggle with writing, because there are steps of thinking that must occur before we write on a piece of paper, Villasenor explained. With multiple steps, it’s harder for some children to express themselves, she said.
“I’ve typically heard the phrase ‘he’s just lazy’ and 9 out of 10 times you can diagnose them with executive function,” Grayson-Hillery said.
WINGS also offers a variety of other programs, including half-day enrichment programs, tutoring, speech and language therapy, and Roots and Shoots in Houston Boots, which is a community club for 12-17 year olds that builds executive function, language and social emotional skills through an inquiry –based platform that includes community service projects.
The organization’s programs will begin Aug. 21. Currently, WINGS employees go into the home of their students or students come into the office. Brock said they hope to be able to take their programs into schools soon.
To learn more about WINGS and what it offers, visit https://www.wingscollective.com/.