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rojo's avatar

Does anyone have any experience with Executive Functioning Skill development in children?

Asked by rojo (15652 points ) December 15th, 2011

I am looking for information regarding actual assistance/skill sets that parents can work on with their children; specifically with a 13 y.o. male. Most of the information available on the web seems to be geared toward the professional and/or school teacher in a classroom setting. What I am looking for are things that parents can do to assist the process at home.

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12 Answers

jazmina88's avatar

Junior Achievement would be a good outlet. If that is still around.

wundayatta's avatar

My son has been diagnosed with deficiencies in his executive functioning. He has the sense of time that one is used to finding in third world nations. They give him extra time on his standardized tests, and he needs it.

So we… and by we, I mean my wife and his teachers… have been trying to help him get better organized. Right now they are using a binder with different sections for each subject. The big thing is getting him to remember his own homework.

My part is to enable him to be less responsible about his piano playing. Problem is that I think he would give up the piano if he could. So if I let him organize himself, he will let it slide and then we’ll be in a bad place.

Wish I had any useful advice. It’s tough, and I’m not always the biggest believer in educational technology.

RedmannX5's avatar

Was your song diagnosed with anything specific? Or just general deficiencies in executive functioning?

You might want to check out Lumosity. If you sign up for it (and I think it costs a small monthly charge) you can get online on their website and play small different “games” that help to train your brain on the topics of speed, attention, memory, problem solving, and flexibility (all of which are closely related to executive functioning). I think they even have an iPhone app too. I’ve personally never used the service, but I know quite a bit about how the brain works and it seems very plausible that it could help your child. The brain is an amazing organ, and is continually changing, strengthening, and weakening the connections between its neurons (it’s called neuroplasticity if you’d like to look into it). It’s really the connections between neurons that determine everything that you think, and how you think them. I am studying neuroscience right now, and have learned a lot of interesting things, including how to take advantage of neuroplasticity in order to become more intelligent, less forgetful, etc. You can really see yourself change in this way if you’re actively aware of what you think about and what you pay attention to, it’s quite amazing.

However, in order to take advantage of neuroplasticity and restructure your brain, you have to be willing to put the effort in, which is oftentimes very hard to get children to do. With Lumosity, however, all it would really take is maybe 30 min. per day for your child to play some puzzle solving games (which actually looked pretty fun based on their website, so you might be able to pass it off as just “online gaming” so your child would be more willing to participate, that definitely has a more appealing connotation than doing “puzzle-solving exercises”). So go ahead and check it out, and if it works out for you I’d love to hear about it, because I’m thinking about joining the website myself.

Best of wishes for you and your son

Sunny2's avatar

My understanding is that executive function is more about decision making than organization. Example: If a person walks by a garage with the door open, most of of us will just walk by it. Some one who has a problem with executive function may think of it as an opportunity and go in and look around and possibly take something without any consideration of consequence. The problem is getting the person who doesn’t think of consequences to think before acting; to protect himself from possible unwanted consequences of an action before doing something he’ll regret. Treatment is usually with a professional therapist.
At home, problem solving or decision making games might help and there may be more of those than I know, since I’m not a therapist.

linguaphile's avatar

@Sunny2 That’s impulsiveness, yes, one part of the continuum, but most difficulties with executive functioning are related to predicting consequences, predicting amount of time needed, understanding others’ reactions, predicting amount of work required to complete a task, planning ahead, prioritizing, managing the tasks of a job in sequence and understanding social cues.

@rojo I don’t know if you have a teacher’s store in your area, but if you can find one, go in and ask for workbooks and materials to help with executive functioning. They will be sure to have something—books or hands-on activities.

Sunny2's avatar

@linguaphile Thank you for increasing my knowledge. The predicting of consequences was the factor with which I was most familiar. Most of the kids I heard about with the problem were getting in trouble with the law.

linguaphile's avatar

@Sunny2 Glad to share! To add to that… some people who might have EF difficulties are people with ADHD, autism, traumatic brain injuries in the frontal lobe, EBD, and some learning disabilities (often the same disabilities that unfortunately end up in the :-( penal system which is where you might’ve made the connection?). Some people just don’t have good EF skills as part of their personality. It’s more common to have some EF difficulties than people realize. It’s more obvious in today’s culture because most jobs now require more EF skills, while in the past hands-on jobs didn’t require as many EF skills. Those jobs are no longer as plentiful.

I had frontal lobe TBI from a car accident and developed some EF difficulties after that—I was able to rewire my brain, but only to 90% of what I was able to do before.

Sunny2's avatar

@linguaphile How did you (or they) measure that 90%? Or is it just a subjective estimate? (We have Alzheimer’s in the family)

rojo's avatar

To all who have answered, Thank you and sorry for the late responses.
@RedmannX5 It is my grandson actually.
He has been been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and “learning disabilities” and the poor kid has been medicated for it since he was seven. He has been having a few more problems lately (He’s a teen, duh) and the MHMR answer is to increase the dosages of the various medications. My son and his wife do not see this zombiefying as a viable solution (neither do I). As far as we can tell, no one has ever looked into the EF but my son has indicated he is going to insist that he be tested before agreeing to the increased doping they want to do.
I looked at the Lumosity site and passed the info on to my son, telling him I would cover it if he thought it would help. It also led me to look into other similar sites on line. We are ruminating on them now. Part of the problem is my grandsons attitude toward putting effort into anything.
@wundayatta The school he attends now has been helpful in the past and I hope, if we can get someone to confirm that EF is actually a major part of his predicament, that they will assist. His parents have already started working with it.
@Sunny2 The impusiveness is a major portion of the difficulty my grandson is working with on a regular basis. Once, when asked what were you thinking, his reply was “I wasn’t. I was just doing”. But, the other items described by @linguaphile describe him to a tee.
@linguaphile Thanks for sharing. I know I am one of those with weak EF skills, not the impulsiveness but certainly the planning ahead, prioritizing and managing multiple tasks; thus the multitude of sticky notes and writing pads covering my desk and computer screen. We make it work the best we can. That is what I am trying to do for my grandson.
We continue to try to find out more about this subject so any further input will be appreciated.

SpatzieLover's avatar

What can a parent do? Follow through with the therapy directives given to them from the school and the private therapists.

Aside from that, keep routines. Have the routines and schedules visible. Idealy, you’d laminate them. That way, the can use the visuals daily. He can use a dry erase marker to cross off what he’s accomplished, or circle what still needs to be completed.

One other idea would be for you all to learn and then help him utilize a catasrope scale. The catastrophe scale in a REBT therapy book under the “catastrophizing” chapter.

Basically, you have to keep putting your logic to work for you by asking yourself where each event is from 1 to 10 on the catastrophe scale:

An example of a one on the scale: You dropped a piece of chocolate on the floor…Do you eat it? (That’s what your mind’s dilemma is)

a five would be a family member has to fight an illness, but will survive it….or has been in a car accident but will pull through

an eight is a family member will die of a life threatening illness

a ten is an event of epic proportion (tsunami, earthquake, tornado) striking your town/block/home/family

It works best if you make the scale personal to you. That way you will be able to recall it, and employ it quickly every moment you need it.

This is a strategy used for therapy for most autistics/ADD brain types (neuro-atypicals).
It is vital that he learns how to better utilize the brain process he lives with. It is important that he understands his family is there to support him while he learns to utilize these methods.

rojo's avatar

@SpatzieLover Thanks for the input! We have tried the schedule thing but with paper and did not think of the marker board route. I will check int the catastrophe scale, sounds like something I could use myself.

SpatzieLover's avatar

It’s a life changer @rojo. Seriously. It has transformed my son. My husband is not as “plastic” as my son is…so it’s taking him longer, but it’s a vast improvement on life as we knew it.

Schedules and routines and chores all need to be written down. Right now, I’m working on a transition chart for my husband and a weekly “to-do”. It was all on paper prior to this, and that system didn’t work.

For our son, we have permanent (laminiated) picture charts. They work wonders. There’s much less need to repeat the next step in the process of life to him. ;)

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