Dyslexia and Reactivity / Flexibility

The Reactivity / Flexibility aspect of Executive Function challenges can be briefly summarised as involving:

🔳 Cognitive Flexibility
🔳 Reactivity and Responsiveness
🔳 Overcoming Habits
🔳 Inhibition Control
🔳 Emotion Control

Of these, we can broadly understand each of the challenges in the following way:

🔳 Cognitive Flexibility – This incorporates:
◻️ alertness
◻️ covert shift of attention
◻️ divided attention
◻️ openness to new ideas

🔳 Reactivity and Responsiveness – This incorporates:
◻️ alertness
◻️ speed of adaptation to new stimuli
◻️ readiness to adapt to new stimuli and information
◻️ speed of switching between different tasks

🔳 Overcoming Habits – This incorporates:
◻️ overcoming the shock of novelty
◻️ shifting attention
◻️ speed of learning new patterns
◻️ speed of adaptation to new patterns
◻️ purposively breaking out of practised responses to familiar situations

🔳 Inhibition Control – This incorporates:
◻️ resisting and inhibiting impulsive actions and responses
◻️ overriding certain powerful reactions in given situations
◻️ resisting temptations
◻️ mindfully lowering anxiety in unfamiliar situations
◻️ selecting and carrying out appropriate responses to given stimuli
◻️ ignoring distractions
◻️ delaying un-thought-out actions

🔳 Emotion Control – This incorporates:
◻️ responding emotionally to situations in socially acceptible ways
◻️ permitting, delaying, and self-censoring spontaneous emotional reactions
◻️ emotional self-awareness
◻️ emotional self-evaluation and adjustment
◻️ regulating “mood swings”

Together, these elements of Executive Functioning help control and regulate a person’s ability to respond to new and changing situations cognitively, emotionally, and habitually / dispositionally. This ability to adapt to “the new” is a core skill in many aspects of life.

Strategies are easy to implement when remediating Reactivity / Flexibility problems. They can include:
✔️ Reviewing and assessing responses to previous situations
✔️ Mindfully predicting / visualising potential outcomes of new situations
✔️ Practising autonomous goal-setting (and later: re-setting)
✔️ Practising “attention-switching” in a safe and fun environment
✔️ Physical response exercises – catching a dropped glove, etc
✔️ Making small conscious changes to the home / working environment
✔️ Making small conscious changes to daily routines
✔️ Keeping a colour-coded wall chart to map current and future activities
✔️ Keeping an “emotions diary” to record situation-response patterns
✔️ Practising breathing exercises / meditation / mindfulness
✔️ Mindfully examining why certain habits are as they are, and where they may be changed in a step-by-step manner

There are typically different patterns of Reactivity / Flexibility challenges in people with dyslexia. Remediation programmes for children and support programmes for adults should address the individual’s particular profile, rather than adopting a one-size-fits-all approach.

See for instance: