Wednesday, January 30, 2013

ADHD 101 - Week 3

Welcome! This weeks lesson is focused on Responsibility. In order to understand children with ADHD and what can seem to be lack of responsibility, I think it's important to understand something called Executive Function Disorder.

What many of us may not realize is that children and adults living with ADHD have some form of Executive Function Disorder. Executive Function refers to a set of mental skills that are coordinated in the brain’s frontal lobe. Executive functions work together to help a person achieve goals. 

Executive functions include the ability to:
  • Remember details
  • Organize and plan
  • Manage time
  • Concentrate and focus
  • Control inappropriate speech and impulsive behavior
When individuals have problems with executive functioning, it effects their ability to:
  • Develop and maintain appropriate social relationships
  • Work or go to school
  • Indepently achieve the activities of daily life
  • Planning meals and taking time out to eat
  • Paying bills, scheduling and attending doctor's appointments, etc.
It's important to realize there is no 'magic pill' that fixes or improves executive weaknesses. Positive reward systems or behavior plans or consequences, etc. are not effective in this case. Diets, medication and other parenting techniques are very effective for other issues, including ADHD symptoms but not for Executive Function Disorder.

So what is out there to help kids with these issues? There two are basic approaches you can implement today that will help your child: Routine Consistency and Simplifying Multistep Tasks.

Routine Consistency helps children have smoother transitions - especially morning routines, after school and before bedtime. Without it, children with executive dysfunctions are easily distracted, lost and become overwhelmed. They feel as if they are spinning in circles and not accomplishing anything. They have difficulty seeing how the ‘small tasks’ are needed to help them achieve a goal or accomplish something.

Simplifying Multistep Tasks breaks down the routine into simple steps. This makes it easier for your child to follow a task as well as feel accomplished when completing a task. Children struggle with deciding on prioritizing tasks and completing the small steps necessary for accomplishing the bigger task.  To tell a child with executive function weakness to “Get ready for bed.” you probably meant for him/her to put on PJ’s, wash face, brush teeth and pick out clothes for school. However, the child may see it as there being so many steps and options to choose and he/she doesn't know where to begin. Simplifying the task makes it less overwhelming and easier to accomplish.

A key to successfully implementing these changes is preparation. It will take a lot of patience and at least three months to make these changes in your home. It's also important to identify the primary purpose of implementing these strategies. It’s not just about raising grades or stressing the importance of brushing teeth.

Ultimately, it's about building a stronger family connection by minimizing stress and frustration. It's about increasing the child’s executive functioning skill of organizing so he/she will have more success and improving his/her self-confidence. 

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below.

All the best,


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