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Executive Functioning is Crucial to Success

In a blog I read, written by Byron McClure, a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and author of the Blog Fligher Education, Understanding Executive Functioning, this blog cites information from a book Assessing Executive Functions: A Life-Span Perspective, by Cecil Reynolds.  In this book, Reynolds states Executive Function is  “associated with the frontal lobe of the brain.”  Reynolds states, the importance of the frontal lobe is that it “involves self-regulatory behavior, generative behavior, meta-cognition and working memory” (Reynolds, 2008) http://flighered.com/2012/05/13/understanding-executive-functioning/.
How does a school assess if a child has an Executive Function deficit?  One of the questionnaires that School Psychologists use is called Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning (BRIEF). According to McClure, the “BRIEF consists of two rating forms, a parent questionnaire and a teacher questionnaire, which is designed to evaluate and measure executive functioning in the home and school settings. The BRIEF is useful in evaluating children with developmental and acquired neurological conditions.”  In addition, McClure discusses a second assessment.  It is called “Conner’s – Third Edition Behavior Rating Scale.  This assessment is used for students who may have ADHD.  The assessment has a subset that rates Executive Functioning.”

On the www.ncld.org website, Dr. Sheldon Horowitz, defines Executive Function as the student’s ability to complete the following:

  • Make plans
  • Keep track of time and finish work on time
  • Keep track of more than one thing at once
  • Meaningfully include past knowledge in discussions
  • Evaluate ideas and reflect on our work
  • Change our minds and make mid-course corrections while thinking, reading, and writing
  • Ask for help or seek more information when we need it
  • Engage in group dynamics
  • Wait to speak until we’re called on
  •  
 Students with Learning Disabilities have difficulties organizing their time when working on a project.  More importantly, these students have difficulties asking for help.   Here is the link for further information.  http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-aamp-executive-functioning/basic-ef-facts/what-is-executive-function
Here are some strategies used to help students with Executive Function Deficit suggested on http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-aamp-executive-functioning/basic-ef-facts/what-is-executive-function
General Strategies
  • Take step-by-step approaches to work; rely on visual organizational aids.
  • Use tools like time organizers, computers or watches with alarms.
  • Prepare visual schedules and review them several times a day.
  • Ask for written directions with oral instructions whenever possible.
  • Plan and structure transition times and shifts in activities.
Managing Time
  • Create checklists and “to do” lists, estimating how long tasks will take.
  • Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk.
  • Use visual calendars at to keep track of long term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
  • Use management software such as the Franklin Day Planner, Palm Pilot, or Lotus Organizer.
  • Be sure to write the due date on top of each assignment.
Managing Space and Materials
  • Organize work space.
  • Minimize clutter.
  • Consider having separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities.
  • Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the work space.
 Managing Work
  • Make a checklist for getting through assignments. For example, a student’s checklist could include such items as: get out pencil and paper; put name on paper; put due date on paper; read directions; etc.
  • Meet with a teacher or supervisor on a regular basis to review work; troubleshoot problems.
  •  
My husband and I use many of these strategies with our son.  It is very helpful.  We have our son create an assignment calendar using iCal. Nico’s calendar syncs with my husband’s and my calendar.  This way we can also keep an eye on his schedule.  In the calendar we have him schedule time for projects.  We have our son work a little bit each day.  This helps chuck the assignments in to small digestible bites.  We use the timer to help us transition from break time to the next activity.  We also allow Nico a choice as to what assignment he will do first.  On the weekends, we ask him what time he wants to start his homework, he tells us the time, and for the most part he sticks to his promise.  Was life always like this?  No, it sure wasn’t.  My husband and I realized we needed to help our son with executive functioning because the school wasn’t going to provide any assistance. Please trust me, for every two steps forward, sometimes we take one step back.
  In today’s school system, the students either sink or swim.  The school’s excuse is that their isn’t enough funding, or the teacher has too many students.  My question to the school is “How many of those student in the class have an IEP?”  This is a contract between the parent and the school to ensure your child swims and doesn’t sink.   In reality, it is up to the parents and the parents alone.  The notion of it takes a village to raise a child doesn’t hold true in most public schools today. 
Here is my advice, identify and understand whether your child has an executive functioning deficit is crucial to the success of his/her school and future life experience. 

Steve Kurtz interview on ADHD

I have found this most fabulous site.  The Coffee Klatch is a remarkable site that interviews many top notch professionals who work in the fields of Aspergers, OCD, ADHD and many other disorders.  
This afternoon, I listened to The Coffee Klatch.  I heard the interview with Dr. Steve Kurtz.  “Steven Kurtz, PhD, ABPP, is one of the nation’s leading clinicians in the treatment of children’s behavioral problems and disorders, particularly attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the social anxiety disorder selective mutism (SM)”  

Here is a brief summary of the interview.  I have a link below to click to listen to the entire interview.

What causes ADHD?  ADHD is difficulty with attention, materials, staying on task.  In addition, ADHD also includes, Difficulty with impulsivity not able to sit in seat.  There are two categories: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.  There are differences.  As a teacher and a parent, it is important understand that the child with ADHD is painfully uncomfortable sitting still.  Dr. Kurtz compares a child having ADHD to wearing a straight jacket.  It is uncomfortable, frustrating and painful to wear.  Because ADHD causes a child to stand out, this affects the child’s self esteem.  The children tend to have low self-esteem.

How do children get ADHD?  According to Dr. Kurtz,  ADHD is about 77% genetic. Most of the time it is passed through the genes of the parent.  Other factors that can cause ADHD include, low-birth weight, and exposure to alcohol, nicotine or drugs. 

Students with ADHD have low executive functioning.  A recent intervention “Cog med”, http://www.cogmed.com/, is a new computer assisted program.  “Cogmed” is about training your working Memory.  The idea of “Cogmed”, computer assisted program, is that it retrains the brain.  It is targeted for students about age 8 and up.   The primary intervention is still using medication.  The children  who improved in executive functions had a combination of psycho-pharmacology and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), and medications have made the most growth. 

In regards to CBT,  it is different from play therapy.  In the interview, Dr. Kurtz discusses that CBT is about providing the “parents and teachers skills to prompt, monitor and reinforce appropriate behavior, they do significantly better.”  It is important for the teacher and parent to know the behavior they are targeting.   It is important to reward for the appropriate behavior in order to support the child.  Dr. Kurtz said, “The child needs the adult to point out the behavior.” With older children, CBT works a little differently.  According to Dr. Kurtz, the teens are taught how to be there own monitors.  They teach the teen “how to organizer their world”.    Basically, teaching the young adults to advocate for themselves. 


As a teacher, I loved the idea about recognizing the ADHD student at least three times for something that child did well before I have that child change his/her clip (a very common behavior plan in many classrooms) for making a bad choice.   This is forcing the teacher to recognize that child for making good choices.  According to the interview, when teachers have the behavior plan and certain children change their clips for bad behavior, we, the teacher, are stigmatizing the child.  I had never thought of it in this way.

Click here and listen to the entire interview.



 http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thecoffeeklatch/2012/05/07/child-mind-institute–adhd-and-selective-mutism


www.childmind.org

So Tired of Bureaucratic BS and Lack of Response!!!!

Nolan is starting 9th grade next year. The placement test for his high school is June 2nd. I have tried to connect with the RSP teacher at the new school since March to arrange the placement test accommodations. It is now the end of April. I sent several emails and a few phone calls. The one time she did get back to me was to ask for the IEP, which I sent her the following Monday. I asked the RSP teacher to confirm she received it. Do you think she has confirmed ? It has been 3 weeks since that email. How hard is it to say,”Hey, I received your email. I am swamped. Let me get back to you by…”. What kind of customer service is this?
None!!!!
If I treated parents in my school district, like the some teachers I have come across in my son’s school experience, I would be written up in a heartbeat. I am shocked at the lack of respect some of these educators have when they speak with parents, whether special needs or not, is  unacceptable. Communicating in a positive and encouraging way with both parents as well as students should be part of their professional responsibility. The age and/or grade should not matter. If that child is under 18 and living under the parents roof then that educator should be communicating with that parent. Without the excuse they don’t have time. I know they don’t have time. I don’t have enough hours in the day either, but I make the time. Why? These kids and their feature success is important to me!!!!!  So, why isn’t it important to the other educators?  Did these educators forget why they signed up for this job?