Home Book Review A Parent’s Guide to Executive Functions – Helping Disorganized, Inattentive, and Forgetful Kids
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A Parent’s Guide to Executive Functions – Helping Disorganized, Inattentive, and Forgetful Kids

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Executive functions are the brain skills that children and adolescents use for a variety of thinking tasks – including organization, planning, attention, self-control (also called regulation, self-monitoring or emotional control), self-awareness, flexibility, initiation (motivation), and working memory. These are skills that develop throughout youth, sometimes into a person’s early to mid-twenties.

So if your child is forever losing personal items, gets to homework at the last minute, has melt-downs over small things, or isn’t achieving as expected in school, you may be looking at delayed executive skill development.

Executive dysfunction is found in children and teens of all ability levels. It is a common in children with learning disabilities and ADHD. It is also frequently seen in children with very high IQ – think “absent-minded professor.”

So before you punish your child, demand a meeting with school teachers, or ask your child’s doctor for a prescription, there are two key things to know:

1) It’s not usually an attitude problem – it’s a brain processing problem
2) These skills can be improved

In order to help your child develop these critical skills, there are a few parent-friendly books on the topic.

The primary book is “No Mind Left Behind – Understanding and Fostering Executive Control – The Eight Essential Brain Skills Every Child Needs to Thrive” by clinical psychologist Adam J. Cox, PhD. This book clearly explains the eight different executive functions, what is “normal” for certain age groups and when there is cause for concern. It offers practical improvement strategies for both parents and teachers of children and adolescents. The author also has a wonderful website that includes an executive skills checklist so you can review if your child may have a challenge with one or more executive functions, a newsletter, and lots of practical parenting information.

Another similar book is “Late, Lost and Unprepared ” by psychologists Joyce Cooper Kahn and Laurie Dietzel. Along with offering hundreds of common-sense interventions for a variety of situations, these caring authors remind us to be compassionate and offer empathy to children with these problems.

Also, “Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents: A Practical Guide to Assessment and Intervention” by school psychologist Peg Guare, EdD and neuropsychologist Richard Guare, PhD is an excellent guide for clinicians wishing to review the assessment and treatment options.  They also wrote the more parent-geared “Smart But Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential.”

Being an informed parent about executive skills can save you and your child a lot of unnecessary stress, conflict and failure. These books provide valuable resources to help your child or teen to be successful in school and life.

By Antoinette Turner

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