Executive functioning

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Executive functioning

Postby Audvis » Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:18 am

Much has been said about the importance of executive functioning for school success. Does anyone know of a professional who can help a child with deficits in executive functioning? Do I approach a psychologist, behavioural therapist or someone else?

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Re: Executive functioning

Postby slmkhoo » Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:24 am

Can you define what you mean by 'executive functioning'?

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Re: Executive functioning

Postby Audvis » Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:37 am

It includes skills eg being able to control impulses so that the person is not impulsive, think flexibly, control emotions, initiate tasks independently, working memory, organisation, self monitoring. For more details, refer to
http://www.ldonline.org/article/What_Is ... tioning%3F
I realise that a lot of my son's problems in school can be traced to this.

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Re: Executive functioning

Postby slmkhoo » Thu Oct 25, 2012 9:03 am

Audvis wrote:It includes skills eg being able to control impulses so that the person is not impulsive, think flexibly, control emotions, initiate tasks independently, working memory, organisation, self monitoring. For more details, refer to
http://www.ldonline.org/article/What_Is ... tioning%3F
I realise that a lot of my son's problems in school can be traced to this.

How old is your son? My older daughter is/was like this - she's 15yo now and a lot better than she was at 6yo! She used to drive me crazy. It's been a long haul for us since we realised she had these issues when she started school. For the first year, we actually had a tutor (just a college student) to come daily and sit with her for about 1 hr to keep her focused and complete her homework. I didn't have the patience or the time to do it. Over the years, we've mainly dealt with these issues by establishing routines and making sure she follows them until they are habits. Eg. a routine for settling down to do homework - clear working space of distractions, take out books and stationery, check what needs to be done, make a list, do them one by one and tick them off etc. We did this for every regular task - meals, baths, bedtime, packing bag for school... I wrote the instructions and pasted them all over the house at appropriate locations. My parents said I was a nag and that we treated her like she was in an army camp, but it did work. One good thing about her is that once something becomes habitual, she will stick to it, sometimes to the point of being too rigid (which is another issue!)

For things like flexible thinking, planning and organisational skills, emotional regulation etc, we talk a lot at home and so teach her to look at things from various perspectives, help her plan, helped her develop the habit of writing reminders and to-do lists, talk through her reactions and emotions etc, and it's an on-going process. She won't ever completely overcome these things, but she has got better over time. We didn't send her for therapies but did everything ourselves, but if you want professional help, behaviour therapy may be what you want. My daughter was eventually diagnosed as Asperger's, and I was told that executive functioning can be an issue for such kids, but since we seem to coping at home, we haven't tried to look for therapies.

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Re: Executive functioning

Postby Audvis » Thu Oct 25, 2012 7:00 pm

Thanks Simkhoo for your sharing. Unfortunately, I don't have much time to talk to my son who is 7 this yr, as I'm a FTWM and also have to spend time with my younger girl. Worst is when I do have some time for him, he doesn't want to pay attention to what I say.

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Re: Executive functioning

Postby Audvis » Thu Oct 25, 2012 7:01 pm

Thanks Simkhoo for your sharing. Unfortunately, I don't have much time to talk to my son who is 7 this yr, as I'm a FTWM and also have to spend time with my younger girl. Worst is when I do have some time for him, he doesn't want to pay attention to what I say. Meanwhile, his deficits are causing problems in school, eg not submitting completed homework, not following teachers' instructions, even violence towards classmates.

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Re: Executive functioning

Postby slmkhoo » Fri Oct 26, 2012 9:25 am

Audvis wrote:Thanks Simkhoo for your sharing. Unfortunately, I don't have much time to talk to my son who is 7 this yr, as I'm a FTWM and also have to spend time with my younger girl. Worst is when I do have some time for him, he doesn't want to pay attention to what I say. Meanwhile, his deficits are causing problems in school, eg not submitting completed homework, not following teachers' instructions, even violence towards classmates.

Sorry to hear he doesn't want to pay attention to you. Do you scold him or complain about his behaviour a lot? I went through that phase when my daughter was about that age and she also distanced herself from me. It was only when I realised that she needed practical help that things got better. I can't advise about the disobedience and violence, but for things like homework, maybe you get help him set up routines so he is less likely to forget? I taught my daughter to place all her completed homework in a folder or clip the books together, put them in her bag at the end of the day and then take them out to be handed in (depends on how hw is collected in your son's class) first thing every day. I also posted a big "Have you packed..." list near where she places her schoolbag and another on the front door so she would see it when packing her bag and leaving the house. If you can set up the routines and get him to make them habitual, that will reduce the scolding and nagging to some extent. And maybe you can ask his school teacher to set up some routines for him in school as well to help him get things done properly?

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Re: Executive functioning

Postby Gifts from Heaven » Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:49 pm

Hi Audvis,

I attended a talk this week and they shared some tools which I think may help you and your child.

Re submitting homework
Can hv a file labelled "Homework to be submitted" and hv him put his completed homework there. This will minimise chance of him not submitting his homework 'cos he cannot find it in his school bag. Can paste an instruction outside the file as a reminder for him to pass the completed homework to teacher on his own if teacher did not ask for the homework by a specific time eg. by end of the lesson.

Re initiating task independently
Can set up schedules and work systems so that he can just follow them and work independently. This is similar to what slmkhoo said about establishing routines.

Re controlling impulse and emotions
Maybe can explore a concept called surrogate frontal lobe. Like the situations of violence towards classmates, seek to understand the core reason behind his behaviour and how he see the situation first, then teach the thinking and problem solving skills he is lacking by talking aloud how you think (ie. you are acting as his frontal lobe).

As to the professional that your kid shld see to correct his behaviour, you can probably approach a social/behavioural therapist.

Hope this helps.

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Re: Executive functioning

Postby Audvis » Sat Oct 27, 2012 11:23 pm

Hi Simkhoo and Gifts from heaven
Thanks for your suggestions. We do have 2 files, 1 to store HW to hand in to teacher, another to store HW to be done at home. For the HW to hand in, he will claim that his teacher never ask for it. But it could be that teacher did ask for it, but he did not pay attention when the instruction was given. So prob he should just submit whatever HW at the beg/end of each period, but he needs to remember doing so, which is a challenge for him. As for HW for home, sometimes he will leave the HW book in his tray underneath his table and not bring home.
Recently his teachers have been complaining about his shoddy work. He does not finish the work, or do the correction but it is wrong again! Sigh...I suspect it is his inability to control his impulses. He likes to read story books and wants to finish HW as fast as possible.
Another BIG problem is taking care of personal belongings. Every other day, he will lose something, eg stationery or water bottle. He can just leave his thing there and walk away. Probably due to poor working memory? We always tell him to check before leaving a place but probably he forgets. Plus his vision is not good, maybe he can't find small items easily.

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Re: Executive functioning

Postby slmkhoo » Sun Oct 28, 2012 7:52 am

Audvis wrote:Hi Simkhoo and Gifts from heaven
Thanks for your suggestions. We do have 2 files, 1 to store HW to hand in to teacher, another to store HW to be done at home. For the HW to hand in, he will claim that his teacher never ask for it. But it could be that teacher did ask for it, but he did not pay attention when the instruction was given. So prob he should just submit whatever HW at the beg/end of each period, but he needs to remember doing so, which is a challenge for him. As for HW for home, sometimes he will leave the HW book in his tray underneath his table and not bring home.
Recently his teachers have been complaining about his shoddy work. He does not finish the work, or do the correction but it is wrong again! Sigh...I suspect it is his inability to control his impulses. He likes to read story books and wants to finish HW as fast as possible.
Another BIG problem is taking care of personal belongings. Every other day, he will lose something, eg stationery or water bottle. He can just leave his thing there and walk away. Probably due to poor working memory? We always tell him to check before leaving a place but probably he forgets. Plus his vision is not good, maybe he can't find small items easily.

You bring back memories of my daughter at this age - she was exactly the same! I can only say to persevere. My daughter did improve and now at 15yo, I don't have as many issues with the standard daily things. She still has issues when there is anything 'extra', and I am resigned that this will be something she (and the people around her) will have to deal with all her life. One thing that has helped a bit is that I have trained her to have some kind of notebook or to do list, and nagged her until writing things down and checking the list has become fairly habitual. When she was younger, I also made a large note to be placed in her pencil case which said 'Read your notebook!' and then had a checklist on the first page of the notebook which was things like - Start of day: hand in hw, have notebook on desk etc; End of day: pack hw file, check contents of desk, pack personal items etc so she would not leave things in school. I also organised her bag and pencil case and reduced everything to the minimum so she didn't have too many small items, and I would fine her a sum of money for every lost item (not replacement cost as she couldn't afford it!). I also only bought her the most basic items so it wasn't too expensive to replace. There were lapses, but with reminders etc, it will get better.

Edited to add: I didn't mention what we did about the shoddy work, rushing to finish and doing it badly. We employed the carrot and stick approach. Stick - if written work was done poorly, do corrections after teacher marks. I decided that it was good for her to see the red marks and crosses. If corrections done poorly, redo until correct. I would check this as I felt that the teacher had enough to cope with already. No TV/PC or reading time until they were done. Carrot - after a few days (we started with 3 then move upwards) of no forgotten stuff or undone hw, we would give some reward like extra TV time, choice of place to eat in the weekend etc.

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