Set Yourself Up for Success: Rehab Appointments and Executive Functioning

Executive functioning skills include our ability to make goals, plan the steps needed to achieve those goals, and then execute the plan. Under the umbrella term, executive functioning encompasses skills including: task initiation, response inhibition, planning, organization, problem solving, flexibility, time management, task persistence, emotional control, and self-monitoring. Everyday activities like getting to an appointment on time, meeting friends at a restaurant, or making that morning cup of coffee require us to use executive functioning skills. They help us effectively and efficiently make plans and carry those plans out.

Brain injuries, chemotherapy-related cognitive deficits, neurologic conditions such as stroke, and diagnoses such as autism spectrum disorder may impact executive functioning skills. Emerson Hospital’s team of speech language pathologists evaluate and help people manage their executive functioning skills to improve cognitive communication. Whether you are a current or new patron of ours, here are a few suggestions from our team to help you make the most out of your visits by boosting your executive functioning:  

1)      Find a professional that seems like a good fit. Review therapist biographies to see if there is a professional with experience, education, or training that you think would help your rehabilitation.

2)      Think about your goals for your evaluation or treatment. What information do you hope to gain? Write your questions and goals down prior to your appointment.

3)      Be prepared to tell your “story.” What symptoms do you experience? How do they impact work, home or social aspects of your life? What do your family, friends, co-workers observe?

4)      Double check your appointment time and location. Call or email to confirm your appointment one week prior. Confirm that the day of the week, date, time, and location are entered into your calendar accurately.

Professional Tip — Write information in your calendar in a consistent way such as time/event/location (9:30 a.m. Physical Therapy at 310 Baker Ave)

5)      Arrive to your visit fully prepared. Make a checklist of everything you need to bring. Common items include:

  • Health insurance card

  • Driver’s license

  • Doctor’s order

  • Previous reports related to your reason for your visit

  • List of medications

  • List of questions to ask

  • List of your goals

  • Notebook and pen to jot down recommendations and information you learn

6)      Keep a rehab journal. Establish a place where you write down information from each visit, your concerns, provider recommendations, and home exercises. This can be used to track your progress at home or work, as well as a place to write down questions for an upcoming visit.  

Professional Tip — Organize your note-taking so information is easy to find. For example, write the date at the top of each page or underline important words.

7)      Bring a third party. Involve a family member, friend, or caretaker to assist with note-taking and remembering important information.

8)      Don’t forget to make a follow-up appointment. Confirm the appointment detail by saying them aloud as you are booking your visit. Double check that your information is accurately written in your calendar.

9)      Plan how and when you will be reminded of the appointment. This will help you avoid the hassle of missed visits which include rescheduling and fees.

Professional Tip — Ask yourself these questions:

  • When do I need a reminder? — Set multiple reminders: one week before, one day before, and one hour before.

  • How will I be reminded? — Develop the habit of looking at your calendar at the beginning and end of each day. Use technology which has the benefit of reminder alerts or alarms.

This blog post was brought to you by Emerson Hospital’s team of speech language pathologists and written by Carey Bellino, MA, CCC-SLP. Carey is a member of the rehab team at Emerson Hospital’s Clough Family Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies. She works with adults and adolescents with a variety of cognitive, language, speech and swallowing concerns.

Have questions for Carey or want to connect with a speech-language pathologist or other specialist from the team at Emerson’s Clough Family Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies? Email her at, call 978-287-8200, or visit