I’ve recently been introduced to a concept called executive function.  In all honestly, we all know and understand the elements when viewed as separate entities, but when placed together under one umbrella, it is pretty impressive!

executive functions and adhd

NITTY GRITTY DETAILS

When researching ways to help your child cope better with ADHD, I have been sadly disappointed.  Most articles and advice up until now has been diet, routine and supplement related.  And yes, there is merit in the approach, but damn it – how does that help me with my kid when he has deadlines coming out of his ears and we both find ourselves overwhelmed.  (Him with the work and me with him)

To enable me to understand and assist Logan with homework., I joined in on a webinar hosted by CHADD, the National Resource on ADHD who featured Cindy Goldrich, an ADHD specialist.  The presentation centered around ways to improve homework time with strategies that work for ADHD.

Here’s where I was pleasantly surprised, the whole presentation was to empower me to help my kid to cope better.

THE SCIENTIFIC

Cindy explained executive functions as neurologically based skills that help you do, what you decide to do.  Interestingly enough, these skills are only fully developed by the age of 25-30 years.  And children with ADHD have a 30% delay or deficiency when it comes to these particular skills.

The thing that really struck a cord with me, is that these are SKILL that can be developed if I choose to focus on them.

The executive functions or skills can be summarised as follows:

  1. Initiation and activation or simply, the ability to get started.
  2. Focus – shifting your focus to do what needs to be done and sustaining your focus.
  3. Planning and organising tasks to make it happen,
  4. Effort and processing speed,
  5. Working memory, by retaining information and manipulating it when needed,
  6. Action through self-talk and monitoring oneself, and
  7. Emotional regulation.

executive functions and adhd

Source

MY THOUGHTS

I know my child and I know which of these skills he battles with the most, as well as his strengths.  Logan winged his way through the first term of grade 4, mostly unassisted because he felt prepared for his tests and assignments.  His school report wasn’t remarkably amazing, but all things considered, he did pretty well.  Better than I had expected.

Because Logan isn’t much of a readers, I have decided to focus on teaching and building these executive skills.  My thinking is, if he can master and improve on things like planning and organising skills, regulating his emotions and keeping focused, many of this other “challenges” will be minimized or eliminated.  Executive functions, along with the enhancements of multiple intelligences, will have him well on his way to success.

IMMEDIATE IMPLEMENTATION + PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

There are a couple of things I am going in implement in our lives to help build these skills.  Here’s what I have in mind based on what was discussed and encouraged in the webinar.

ANNUAL PORTFOLIO.

Cindy recommended creating an annual portfolio with goals, schedules, and achievement to help your child to plan and organize.  I have a file with documents per child, but I have never included them in the planning process.  The file also isn’t being used as a working file that is opened and reviewed bi-weekly, but rather a “one day, I’ll be the mommy of the year because I have managed to save all these important documents” kind of file.

Another amazing perk of keeping all their achievements for the year in this folder is to remind and motivate the child when the going gets tough and they feel like giving up.

CLOCKS AND SCHEDULES.

This one will help us plan and organise our time more efficiently and become more cognizant of time being wasted by procrastination.  It also brings awareness relating to what is happening over the weekend, what is happening in mom’s life and the likes.  Sounds simple, but I really think as soon as my kids have a bigger understanding of what is happening in my life and each other’s lives, they may have a little better perspective and understanding.

COMPUTER LITERACY.

According to Cindy, children in grade 3 and up, should be capable of doing a whole bunch of things on a PC.  Logan is competent with some of these but definitely not all of them.  Which means, the goal is to expose him to as many of these things as possible in the coming months.

  • The ability to type with all ten fingers,
  • Create and manage folders and subfolders
  • Update software and bookmark favourites
  • Know how to set up a template in word processing software
TRANSITIONAL SPOT.

A transitional spot is supposed to be a place in your bedroom where you alway leave your school suitcase, cellphone and important belongings.  This is supposed to help the scatter minded with managing and finding these items during a morning rush.

TIME MANAGEMENT.

This will probably the hardest item to implement.  The aim is to get the child to view time as money, in order to plan their time more efficiently.  Cindy recommends the Pomodoro technique, a time management tool that helps you hyper focus in short bursts whilst taking frequent breaks.  To make it work in our home, I will need to investigate it thoroughly before implementing the best fit in our home environment.

What do you think of these executive functions?    Have you given it some thought in the past?

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