The Executive Functioning Skill of Task Initiation

Do you find yourself consulting with teachers frequently about students who struggle to start tasks independently? Or what about students who are unable to plan and decipher when a task will be completed? How can school psychologists best help students who struggle with task initiation? How can school psychs set students up for success? Let’s talk more about the executive functioning skill of task initiation!

Task Initiation in the Classroom

When school psychs observe a student in the classroom who struggles with task initiation, they will see a child who has difficulty stopping a preferred activity to complete a nonpreferred task or they notice the teacher giving the child several verbal prompts to begin the task at hand. Have you assessed a student who struggles to generate his or her ideas? Or what about students who have difficulty answering open-ended questions? What strategies would you suggest the teacher use to help the student strengthen his or her task initiation skills?

How the School Psych Can Help

Now that you have established a weakness in the student’s task initiation skills, how can the school psychologist help? Psychologists can suggest the teacher model the skill, how to star an assigned project, and even provide external support for the student such as coaching through the first few problems on an assignment. Are there other strategies school psychologists can share with teachers during a consultation? What suggestions can the school psych offer during an IEP meeting when accommodations are agreed upon? What are some sample IEP goals that are geared toward task initiation?

Are you interested in learning more about what task initiation is and how weak task initiation skills present in the classroom setting? Are you looking for specific suggestions on how to explicitly teach task initiation skills to a struggling student? What strategies can be implemented to help the child access the curriculum? To access our information-packed Task Initiation document, click on the button below!

And if you would like even more ideas to help students with task initiation difficulties in the classroom setting, consider joining our Prepared School Psych community. We have ideas for teachers for this executive skill plus others. Check it out today at

Matheis, L. (2021). How to help children with working memory deficits.
Dawson, P. & Guare, R. (2018). Executive skills in children and adolescents: A practical guide to assessment and intervention (3rd ed.). The Guilford Publications Inc.
Dawson, P., Guare, R., & Guare, C. (2013). Smart but scattered teens. The Guilford Publications Inc.