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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... read more
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

Decisions, decisions, decisions! For the ADHD brain, making a decision can be quite the process. First, you will need to collect some information, but how much information? When do you know when you have enough information? Is it the best/most informed information for the decision you need to make? Has this ever happened to you? If the decision is made quickly, we may be called impulsive. Yet, if we take longer than expected we are accused of procrastinating. What makes making decisions so difficult? Every decision or choice we make uses up willpower according to Dr. Nowell, Ph.D. Since we have a limited amount of willpower it can be more challenging to make a decision because of our lower level of willpower. The brain is the organ in the body that requires the most glucose to keep it running. Each decision uses up a bit more of that glucose which can then deplete the reserves in the rest of the body. The less energy the harder even the simplest decisions can become. Simplifying certain decisions can free up what I call our “brain bandwidth” and can translate into more freedom and less stress. One strategy for simplifying is to make decisions ahead of time about the little things you don’t want in your life or don’t need to think about each day.  Darren Hardy of Success magazine calls them your “non-negotiables” – those things you no longer have to think about because you have already made a decision about it and are sticking to it.  It could be setting a specific bedtime or deciding a no cookies after 6pm “rule”... read more
How to Increase Motivation

How to Increase Motivation

Motivation – is what drives us to do something willingly. As Google says, “motivation is the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.” It can be an internal reason or an external one. If you are motivated by internal or intrinsic rewards then the motivation comes from within you; like the feeling of a job well done, pride in yourself for reaching a goal, etc. This is what we would like to foster in our children and ourselves. However, if you are motivated by external or extrinsic rewards – then things that can be bought or received (games, toys, $) will motivate you. This would be the “carrot” type of motivation. The opposite is the “stick” type of motivation where task completion is based on avoiding a punishment of sorts. There is a time and place for this type of motivation too but it has a downside. In Daniel H. Pink’s book, Drive, he mentions that the carrot and stick type of motivation only works for simple, and/or uncreative type activities. Once a reward or a punishment is introduced it tends to narrow the focus and limits creativity. Pink says, “The drive to do something because it is interesting, challenging and absorbing – is essential for high levels of creativity” (p45). So if we are to become more creative and motivated at work, school or home, then the task/project needs to have three things. Pink refers to them as autonomy, mastery and purpose. The first as Pink calls it is “autonomy.” Autonomy means that you get to decide about the task, the timeframe... read more
Effective Studying to Really Remember

Effective Studying to Really Remember

Here’s a strategy  written for your child. It is called SQR3. It’s an acronym that stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recall, and Review. They may have learned about it in the third grade but I can almost guarantee that they are no longer using it. This process guides your child to interact with the information instead of just passively reading it and expecting it to stick. Here are the five steps to really reading and remembering what you have read using SQR3 (Survey, Question, Read, Recall and Review). Survey means to look through the whole chapter that you need to read and check out all the pictures, graphs, subheadings, words in bold, and questions at the end of the chapter if there are any. Question – make up some questions as to what you think is going to be important. Why are you reading this, what is important about this chapter and what do you hope to learn from reading it? You can also turn the subheadings into questions to help. Read the first page and then stop. Recall – what did you read about? Try to remember as much detail as you can (no peeking). Saying it aloud helps your brain to remember. Review – now look at what you have just read and recalled. How well did you do? Did you get all your facts right? What did you miss? Reread it if necessary and try again before going on to the next page of text. Continue with this process of read, recall, and review all the way through the chapter. Write down key facts in a... read more
14 Things Your Kids Need to Know

14 Things Your Kids Need to Know

As an Educational Consultant for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students I have the unique opportunity to observe different grade levels, schools and districts. Although I am observing the student’s ability to access the curriculum being presented I also look around to identify those with ADHD and watch how they are accessing the curriculum, communicating with their peers and maintaining their focus. Here’s what I have noticed: Students are asked to focus for anywhere from 45-90 minutes without breaks. Many adults cannot focus for that long especially if they are only listening Often they don’t know what is important to focus on – so they try to focus on all of it Students either do not take any notes or try to write down everything that is said They wait for the teacher to say things like, “This is important.” They trust that they can remember the information They do not try to put the details together to get the bigger picture and end up trying to memorize random facts that don’t go together They do not realize that studying for a test begins in class Students do not know how to study Teachers are providing study guides that have “fill in the blank” answers and students think that if they memorize the sentences they will do well Students do not look at their textbooks unless specifically told to Often students only get a few days notice of upcoming tests or quizzes Students are shocked at how poorly they do on tests that they think they prepared for. 90% of my students think that 20 minutes is enough time... read more
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... read more
Coffee and Routines

Coffee and Routines

Routines, we all have them. Some are helpful and some are not. Routines that are based on good habits are sets of things we do every day that have a positive effect. You probably have a morning routine that gets you and your family out the door in the morning, and an evening routine that ends the day. Do they serve you? By that I mean do they make things run smoothly, keeping you relaxed or do they add chaos, disorganization or a sense of hurriedness to your life? I think the holiday season is one time where the impact of disrupting the routines of the day can show its effect. Behaviors erupt, patience is thin, and chaos reigns. If there is any ADHD in the family, then those routines/habits are even more important. For those with ADHD, a routine may not always be the same from day to day. In fact, for most people/children with ADHD every day is a new day and often a new “routine”. However, it definitely helps if those with ADHD can create a routine of good habits so that they are on automatic pilot rather than having to take the time to figure out what they should do next. It is the thinking “now what do I have to do?” that causes the mind to go blank or to act on whatever is in front of them. According to pediatricians at www.healthychildren.org, ““Every family needs routines. They help to organize life and keep it from becoming too chaotic. Children do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent.” We’ve all seen this. A... read more
7 Benefits of Coaching

7 Benefits of Coaching

Wouldn’t it be nice if changing your life was as easy as hitting a button? Last month’s blog talked about things you could do to create a new habit or change something about your life. But sometimes it takes more than “willpower” or reminders on your phone, it takes help. Help can come from a friend, family member, coworker, coach, book, or internet. It depends on what you are looking for as to which type of help you might need. If you are serious about making a change or developing a new goal for yourself or deciding to finally get organized, then a coach could be beneficial. There are all kinds of coaches and it can be difficult to figure out what kind of coach is best for you and for what you want to change. First you want to check that the coach has been through an approved program with actual coaching practice time. Then based on what you want to do, pick a coach that specializes in that field. It might be a health coach, business coach, life coach or organizer coach, etc. The list goes on but I want to focus on an Organizer Coach. An Organizer Coach has experience in ADHD, organizing and coaching. This trifecta of knowledge combines together to help you better understand yourself, develop goals, implement strategies, manage responsibilities and empowers you to live the life you dream of.  As a COC (Certified Organizer Coach) I believe that you have all the answers inside you just waiting to get out. I believe you are creative and resourceful and if asked the right... read more
Change 2.0

Change 2.0

There are only a few weeks left until the new school year starts and we all transition into the start of fall. If you had the power to change one thing about this time of year…..what would it be? Think about that for a few minutes and maybe write down a few things. Now pick the one that would make the biggest impact on your life. Stop dreaming about things like losing 20 pounds, getting organized once and for all, finding a new job, being less stressed or anything else that is on your mind and start changing your life TODAY! I know from experience that sometimes, no usually, change is hard and often we don’t try until we reach a breaking point. That’s what happened to me almost 32.5 years ago when I “got organized.” What I have learned in the years since then has made a bigger impact on my life than getting organized did. No one succeeds instantly Change takes time Relapses are normal You CAN succeed! You have to be flexible It is worth the effort – no matter how many times you have failed before The end result is better than you could ever imagine! Often times we get so caught up in the moment that we don’t take the time to think through and problem solve what it is we are struggling with. I see this all the time with my clients, they “don’t know why x happens”, and they just accept it as if it is out of their control. But they ARE the one in control – with every decision or... read more
Summer Fun to Build Executive Function Skills

Summer Fun to Build Executive Function Skills

Summer’s here and the learning never stops! Sure no one wants to even think about school during July and August. I understand that. But if your son or daughter struggles in school with organization, planning or focusing long enough to get through homework, then you might want to build some of their executive function skills this summer while having some fun. Below are three executive function skills with some activities you can do to strengthen them. Once you start to see your child/teen improving you’ll want to be sure they “transfer” their learning to school and their life by asking questions such as: “How might a stronger memory help in school?” or “What a fun day. Your plan was organized and we had everything we needed. Can you think of any other ways that great planning might be helpful?” Don’t forget to mention whenever you use planning, or working memory strategies so that your son or daughter sees that those skills are used every day. According to Bloom’s new hierarchy of skills the first step is the ability to remember. Working memory has been defined as being able to hold onto information long enough to use and/or manipulate it. For example, understanding the rules of a new game and being able to play it while keeping track of other players’ moves uses the working memory. Here are some ideas to increase working memory skills during the summer: Write it down! Use a planner, smartphone app (Google Calendar, Color note, Evernote, Remember the Milk, Hiveminder, etc.), or notepad to keep track of events, vacation, etc. so you don’t overburden your working memory. Practice... read more

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