Saturday, May 20, 2006
Executive functions like planning, initiative, problem solving, and more are so important to the success of every day endeavors. Those who have them appreciate the benefits but probably don't stop to think about them very often since they occur almost automatically and without a great deal of effort. But what about those who lack executive functions? They can be taught, but only through time-consuming methods that are often difficult to implement consistently. My son, who has a lot of raw ability, lacks many areas of executive functioning. His impulsivity, distractibility, and working memory issues override his higher cognitive processes, with the result that he is like an orchestra without a conductor. The musicians may all be talented, but if they are playing different songs at different times in different keys the result is neither impressive nor desirable. This must be true for so many who feel like they are underachieving and not living up to their own or others' expectations of them. How frustrating it must be to have people tell you how much you could do if only you would get your act together. Easy to say, but excruciatingly painful to someone who is not efficient when it comes to getting things done despite their best efforts. Such a person may spend ten times as long to get equivalent results as an individual for whom executive functioning comes naturally.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
My son just left at 7:33 for a class that starts at 7:30. He remembered the class, mentioned it to me 20 minutes before its starting time, and I reminded him that he should be getting ready to go soon. It is a 7 minute drive for him to get to the building the class is in. Add another few minutes to put his things in place and be ready to begin. Cognitively, he is bright. We have talked about planning ahead to get places on time. We have discussed the scientific impossibility of leaving home at 7:30 and arriving at his class at 7:30, and he understands it. It is not just this particular class, but any appointment when he has to be somewhere that he leaves home at the time he should be arriving at his destination. It does not matter what time of day it is, he is always late. We have given watches, planners, verbal reminders, and timers. Not one of these things has been effective in getting him places on time. His father and I have tried not reminding and prompting, to see if our son will become more independent and step up to the challenge of getting someplace (anyplace!) on time. No go. Truly. Nothing seems to make any difference. We are hoping for some new ideas, since our son wants to get a part-time job, but we don't know where he could work that doesn't involve showing up at a specified time and being on time.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
I had the opportunity to speak at a homeschooling conference in Michigan over the weekend, and one of the questions I was asked was "How can you be so happy and continue working with such distractible kids?" I've had my share of discouragement and anxiety, and wouldn't think of myself as exuding happiness, yet I've found that the perspective I have makes all the difference to my contentment or lack thereof. I used to labor over teaching my AD/HD son, watching hours of my life go by as he managed to stretch a 20 minute assignment into a two hour assignment - again. His distractibility often pulled us both off course, and my need to accomplish certain tasks in a timely manner was repeatedly thwarted. The frustration was constant and intense. One day, as I reminded myself that Josh wasn't deliberately trying to drive me nuts (although he couldn't have picked a better method if he was) I realized that Josh really couldn't meet the goals that were set for him. His difficulty with schoolwork was obvious, but I realized for the first time that Josh couldn't even meet the goals he set for himself. He was constantly faced with disappointing others with his inability to comply with their agenda, and he was continually faced with his inability to complete even his own personal plans. As frustrating and exhausting as it was for me to try and work with Josh hour after hour, it couldn't be much fun for him when there were many other things he would rather be doing. Most of us would hurry to complete less enjoyable work if it meant we could then pursue more favorable activities. But Josh never did that. He couldn't do that. I had a moment of insight that helped me through the frustrations I felt so often when working with Josh. It was the simple thought "The only thing more frustrating than trying to teach Josh right now would be to BE Josh right now." That freed me up and gave me the extra measure of patience I needed to hang in there with Josh and not give up or take my frustrations out on him.