Executive Function and ADHD

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) is a commonly understood term that inspires images of children unable to sit still. While this is part of the struggle, there is much more to it. We often conjure feelings of frustration at repeated reminders to sit still and control their bodies. People who struggle with ADHD have brains that move as fast and often as their bodies do.

Executive function refers to the ability, or inability, to plan and carry out simple and complex ideas. Those who struggle with executive dysfunction struggle to remember even the most basic of tasks like putting pants on correctly.

These two boys are the perfect example of ADHD and executive dysfunction. Mack, the shorter blonde, and Sawyer, his cousin-friend are both highly gifted, but forget simple tasks like brushing their teeth. We lovingly refer to them as the "brain trust" because we know their brains are going a billion miles a minute, but they struggle to carry through with responsibilities and planning. Their bodies ache at the need to move. The task of teaching them to manage their lives as they age is Mt Everest.

At nine and almost 10, they more often remember to ask permissions and supervision for large tasks like deck disassembly. At 5 and 6, they didn't ask. We are still missing the planning piece. An idea pops into one of their heads and they are off and running. They might double back to ask about using the hammer, but the reason is lost in translation. Mack wants to build things with wood, but the suggestion of writing plans is cumbersome to him.

Medication is often helpful for kids and adults who struggle to control the 50 directions their brains need to go simultaneously. Other coping measures are necessary along with meds, though. Checklists and rote routines can help. This removes the need to plan. There is a static list that happens every morning, meal time, work day, etc. It never changes. Their brains can work on six other projects while running through the motions of routine. Choosing work stations for school and career that allow them to move while working are important. I require these two short periods of work interspersed with bursts of large or small motor work to help their aching bones. Picture lists and reminders are helpful for very young children, if they can remember to look at their lists. There are devices that sound reminders too. This can be converted to multiple named alarmed as adults.

Lately, my brain trust has been struggling to keep track of school work. This has resulted in lost or misplaced paragraphs and math sheets. Initially, I reminded them and warned them that they'd have to redo work should they lose more papers. Mack had to pay the piper this week and do double math two days in a row due to his negligence. Sawyer had to rewrite a paragraph because of his carelessness.

Yes, they both struggle with executive dysfunction and ADHD. Sometimes natural consequences and tough love are needed to help them develop the skills to become adults who are able to be in control of their lives. We need to ensure that our children can be productive adults. Helping them set up and follow through with organization and planning is crucial to their livelihoods later in life. They have backpacks with folders, binders, and notebooks specific to their courses and needs. When given new papers, they are told the particular place to put them. The hope is they do so immediately. But we know there's a LEGO in the way, so they get distracted. We check in. They follow through.

The process is exhausting and sometimes frustrating. But needed. As they continue to age, we will pull back on how many reminders and increase the tough love. Feel free to contact me for specific issues and potential solutions. Set up a consultation appointment under the coaching tab! Or comment.

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