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Executive Function Skill Building Fun – From the Archives

Executive Function Skill Building Fun – From the Archives

Summer is a great time to help your kids strengthen their learning skills. The more they use them the less they will “lose” them.  Summer learning doesn’t have to be pages and pages in a workbook but with a little creativity you can have fun and learn at the same time. Most schools now expect students to read at least one book over the summer. (Check your school’s website). Whether your child is just learning to read or reading to learn, finding books that interest them is the key. Don’t just send them to their rooms to read but show you are interested in what they are reading. Be curious and ask them about what they are reading, have them summarize, compare or simply talk about what they liked about the book (don’t just accept it was a good book). Reading increases vocabulary, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, comprehension and increases their knowledge base. I think it is the number one skill for learning. If your child is a strong reader, then they can learn anything. The executive function skills are the other piece of the learning puzzle. These are the skills that enable your child to plan, organize, problem solve and follow through to completion. In Massachusetts, the standardized testing is undergoing some changes. Schools realized that memorizing facts did not make better learners. Many did poorly on the PARCC test where they had to use their thinking skills to problem solve.   You may also hear reference to the “common core” which refers to specific grade level skills that students are expected to achieve at each...
Change Your Mindset – Raise Your Self-Esteem

Change Your Mindset – Raise Your Self-Esteem

What would you do? Things are not going your way and you are having one of those days. You know, the kind of day that you struggle to write that report, meet deadlines, you burn the new recipe, or fail at something that should be easy for you. You have messed up and you and everyone else know it. What does that internal voice say to you when that happens? Do the ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) come marching in or are you understanding and patient with yourself? Will you pick yourself up and try again or resign yourself to not being “good at” X? Things like this happen throughout our lives and based on your level of self-esteem and your mindset you may either never attempt that again or jump back in with both feet and push through it until you get it. Imagine that two students have received low grades on their test. Their initial reactions are similar as they are confused and disappointed in themselves. What happens next determines which of them has a stronger sense of self-esteem and a growth mindset. Student A is frustrated and discouraged and hides the test in her notebook and refuses to even look at it. She makes excuses about not having enough time or not understanding because of the teacher. (Empty)Promises to do better will likely not work out and her confidence in that subject will continue to decline. Student B takes the oppsite approach. Although she is upset, she tries to figure out what she did wrong. She asks a friend about one part and goes after school to...
Helping or Hurting? The Dilemma of Enabling vs. Empowering

Helping or Hurting? The Dilemma of Enabling vs. Empowering

We all want our children to grow up to be responsible, successful members of society. Isn’t that what you want for your child? So we “help” them at every turn so that they can make it to school on time, complete their homework perfectly, and get good grades. But are you really helping or are you hurting them? Let me explain. If your child or teen has ADHD/ADD then you know that they struggle with routines, focus and remembering what they need to do as well as, doing what they know they need to do. You may feel that if you don’t remind your teen then they would never get out the door in the morning or finish their homework. And you may be right. However, providing them with the information they need before they have had time to consider what comes next does not help them develop the necessary skills to become independent instead it makes them dependent. Think about these questions: Are you helping your son or daughter create a routine to get out the door (with everything they need) or are you telling them what to do each day? (Ex. get your shoes on, did you brush your teeth, do you have your homework? And on and on.) Are you empathizing and really trying to understand what they are feeling or are you just trying to solve their problem by telling them what they “should” do? Are you checking their homework and making them correct it so that the teacher doesn’t know that they are struggling with it? Are you reminding them of everything they have...
Working Together with ADHD

Working Together with ADHD

Working together in small groups is a common occurrence in middle and high school classrooms these days. Teachers have noticed that students learn, share and cooperate when they have a common goal or purpose. In the “work” world many projects are team or group projects so it is a skill necessary for a student’s present and future. Group work: Encourages the development of communication skills Develops alternative ideas and perspectives (and conflict resolution skills) Enhances social skills and interactions (and provides a safe environment to test ideas). Boosts critical and creative thinking skills and develops active thinkers If you have ADHD then a group’s lack of structure, unclear expectations, and multiple “leaders” can be either a distraction or a blessing. A teen’s ADHD brain loves stimulus and as long as the ground rules have been clearly understood, then the novelty of a group approach can help feed that brain. It is quick to think in novel ways, is open to other perspectives and able to make connections quickly. Of course, they can also take the group off topic and off schedule if not carefully monitored. Although some teens want to keep their ADHD and its challenges a secret, others have accepted it as part of who they are. A group can provide a smaller, yet safe environment for them to experiment with their ideas and to practice their social skills of cooperation, problem solving and conflict resolution. It can also provide peer role models for communicating, while monitoring and inhibiting their own (often impulsive) behaviors. Others in the group can help keep themselves and the teen with ADHD on...
What is Executive Function?

What is Executive Function?

Executive dysfunction or executive function deficit is defined by Web MD as a “set of mental skills that help you get things done.” It is a simplified definition but when you break a task down into all the components needed to complete it, it is easier to see how having one or more weak areas can stop the progress. Just take a look at the processes and skills that are needed for “thinking” in the graphic to the left. That does not take into account the other skills needed to actually get something done. These executive function skills develop in the prefrontal cortex of the brain which continues to develop until around age 25. However, these skills seem to be really important during the teen age years, yet are not quite developed enough to be depended upon. Executive function skills help you: Manage time and be realistic about what you can and cannot do in the time available Regulate your emotions and behaviors to avoid saying or doing the wrong thing Determine what you should pay attention to and what you should not Switch focus based on the feedback you receive about the effectiveness of what you are doing Plan and organize in a logical, methodical way to complete tasks and thoughts. Remember what you need to remember at the right time Allows you to make decisions based on your past experiences and avoid repeating your mistakes In school, executive dysfunction can look like missing homework, forgetting to study for tests, doing poorly, spending hours on homework, or not being able to find things they know they have. One...