Remember when we were in elementary school, and there was always that “one kid” who was just constantly messy? His papers were always getting lost, desk was a mess, backpack was a mess…the whole bit. Now, as an adult, I feel terrible for not understanding that those kids really struggled with Executive Functioning issues…and no one cared. They just got yelled at all the time.
Being messy and unorganized, constantly losing books and assignments–those are two red flags for having an executive functioning disorder. Executive function is a set of mental skills that help you get things done. These skills are controlled by an area of the brain called the frontal lobe. When we have good EF skills, it pretty much goes unnoticed. But if you lack them…oh boy! Other signs include:
- Manage time
- Pay attention
- Switch focus
- Plan and organize
- Remember details
- Avoid saying or doing the wrong thing
- Do things based on your experience
So when the Quaker School at Horsham told me that they are having Dr. Peg Dawson come…and would I post about it…yes! Absolutely yes! She is one of the best experts in this area. The following was submitted to me by the Quaker School at Horsham.
Learning to Thrive: How to Increase Your Child’s Personal Potential
Edwin is diagnosed with an intellectual disability. He has a job, and small apartment in Kew Gardens, Queens. He walks to work at a restaurant on Austin Street five days a week. His family lives nearby and supports him, and he also has someone come to his home a few days a week to help him. He has a serious girlfriend.
Edwin is thriving.
Years ago, Edwin was my student — as was Albert. Albert is a talented writer, artist and researcher. He was accepted early decision to a highly selective college in western New York. Yet despite his academic and artistic talents, he was dismissed after he earned a 0.0 GPA his first semester. Now, Albert is 25 years old and lives in his old room in his parents’ leafy New Paltz home. He worked for a while at a book shop, and then at a coffee shop, and then a delicatessen, but nothing sticks. He gets bored. He stops showing up.
Albert is struggling.
But, why? How is it that Edwin can live as a thriving, independent adult while Albert struggles? The answer lies in executive functioning: a set of skills that can be called upon as needed to perform academic tasks. Things like planning, prioritizing, preparing, organizing, thinking flexibly, self-monitoring, emotional control, task initiation, persistence, optimism…the list goes on.
Often thought of as organizational or study skills, executive functioning is so much more than that. Consider Edwin and Albert, for example. When they went home from school, how would they go about their work? Where would they choose to study? How would they prepare to begin? What would they do first? How could they connect what they were doing to the broader context of schooling? How would they check their work?
The answers to these questions — the skills these students used to perform necessary tasks — can have a great influence on their ability to achieve their fullest potentials.
The good news, however, is that executive functioning skills can be taught — and expert Peg Dawson, Ed.D., knows how.
In the book Smart but Scattered, coauthor Dawson provides activities and techniques proven to boost specific skills and problem-solve daily routines. Dawson demonstrates how to identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and make small changes that add up to big improvements.
Dawson will be speaking about executive functioning at The Quaker School at Horsham’s 1st Annual Children with Complex Challenges Conference on May 12, 2017. During the event, parents and educators will learn how to promote executive functioning in school-age children. Attendance is FREE and advance registration via email@example.com is required.
As an educator and a head of school, I have seen firsthand the effect poor executive skills can have on personal potential. It is my hope that the skills learned at this event will help all parents empower their children to become better students and more proficient learners.
Alex Brosowsky is Head of The Quaker School at Horsham, where he helps his students and their families shine by combining his extensive expertise in special education with the empathy he has learned as the father of a child with special needs. Read his articles at www.shine-together.org.