A few weeks ago I received an email from the great people at Prufrock Press about previewing The Impulsive DIsorganized Child which is about Executive Function Difficulties (EF). I really knew nothing about EF, so this book was an enlightening read.
If you have a student, or know a parent who has a child with Executive Function Difficulties, I would highly suggest this book. The authors James Forgan, Ph.D., and Mary Anne Richey have organized this book perfectly. Each chapter is broken down into a short self-reflection survey, details and research about the aspect they are explaining, how to help your child at home, school, in the community, and how to use their strengths and technology. They also have a short list books that would be good to read with your child that they can relate to, along with suggestions for the classroom teacher. They also include some ideas of apps, and websites that will help your child in various ways.
Coming into this book I had no idea there were children who struggled with this, and this book helped me understand EF, and gave me strategies to offer parents and teachers in the future.
So what is EF? According to researchers at Harvard University, “Having executive function in the brain is like having an air traffic control system at the busy airport to manage the arrivals and departures of dozens of planes on multiple runways” (pg 195). After thinking about this, I found this analogy useful. When a child is struggling with planning, emotions, working memory, or focusing their brain is like a busy airport. A bunch of brain activity that moves the child to and fro, and the child can’t help it.
In the final chapter of the book, the authors put together a list of 10 principles to keep in mind when raising a child who has EF difficulties. Here they are from (p. 223)
- Keep the end goal in sight. Some parents get consumed with the daily homework battles, pushing their child to study, and seemingly endless arguing. They lose sight of envisioning the child’s future.
- Empower, but don’t enable.
- Help your child learn to use strengths as well as give her strategies to handle her weaknesses.
- Coach him in becoming a self-advocate. For example, many teachers appreciate students letting them know how they learn best and what kind of assistance is helpful.
- Help your child become proficient in using technology to serve as an external assistant to executive functioning skills.
- Reinforce effort not grades.
- Keep teaching perspective. Try not to lecture but instead teach skills. Positively shape and reinforce your child’s skill development.
- Communicate with teachers. The school staff is usually on your side. Most teachers are good-hearted people who want your child to work at his or her potential. If you are really lucky, your child has a dynamo for a teacher. Other teachers are duds. When your child has a dud, rather than engaging in bashing the person, use it as a life skills opportunity and teach your child that life isn’t always fair. Teach her to stick it out and try to make the best it can be.
- Involve others. If you have a spouse, start with him or her. Both of you need to be at teachers conferences., back to school night, and any other important school events. Next, consider creating a relationship with a professional counselor. Once established, schedule time to meet with the counselor on an as needed basis. Both you and your child can benefit from a neutral perspective.
- Don’t quit. Yes, you may feel discouraged; however, quitting on your child is not an option that will make him or her responsible, and independent. Instead take a problem-solving approach. Take each aspect of the problem and together with your child, figure out some possible solutions, implement them, evaluate the results, and go back to the drawing board if necessary.
This book has so many options for parents, teachers, and advocates for children to use. I learned so much from this book and I would highly recommend it. I also highly recommend it to be passed around for reading and discussions amoung parents, teachers, and advocates. Everyone can learn some great ideas, strategies, and solutions to help our children succeed.