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Executive Functioning

Why is Executive Functioning Important in Real Life?

– Park Academy Parent

Before dyslexia and ADHD, I had never heard of Executive Functioning skills. Is it how to make reservations for a private jet? Dictate a letter? Never heard of it. Talk about being thrown into the deep end of the pool as a parent.

*Executive Functioning: prioritizing, planning and organizing, self-regulation, managing time, self-starting, mental flexibility, multitasking, working memory, etc.

I really never gave a thought that kids have to be taught these life skills. I thought that once in school, those types of skills generally fall into place as the months and years pass.

But what if a child isn’t neurotypical? What if those skills don’t develop the way they do in most people? What if a child is unable to understand the difference between 10 minutes or one hour? A day vs. a week? Friday from Monday?

Here is what my son can tell me now:

—Starting chores. “It feels like it’s gonna take a year!”

—Cleaning up his room. “Also gonna take a year!”

—Putting things away. “I’m too lazy, and I won’t remember anyway.”

—How much time does it take to get ready for soccer practice? “None, I just walk out the door.”

Time distortion. Then I realized how much the concept of time is used in our everyday lives: time to get up, time for school, time to go, lunchtime, dinnertime, bedtime. Last week, next week, next year, last night, the day before yesterday, just a minute, in a while, tonight, and on and on…

For him, there is now, and not now. It is getting better, though. My son is so courageous, just navigating the day and adapting to this kind of constant input.

If a child doesn’t really have a sense of time, of course something they don’t like seems like it takes forever. It feels so overwhelming. To understand this as a parent is difficult, and frankly, inconvenient.

“Why can’t you be like (fill in the blank)?”

“When will you (fill in the blank) by yourself?”

These thoughts run through my head from time to time. I’m guessing some of us have even said something like this out loud. Apologize and tell them you are trying your best.

We, as parents, have to adjust our thinking and understand they are not just being defiant or lazy. It is not their fault. There is a balance somewhere. It’s up to us to find it.

Throw in dyslexia, processing deficits or ADHD, or all of the above, and it’s a rocky road.

Fortunately, the brain is capable of developing new pathways. Neuroplasticity. It takes time (haha) and practice. And grit—from everybody.

This year, Park Academy has an Executive Functioning class. Woohoo!! As a fellow parent/friend said to me, “I could cry!” Mainly related to school, these skills and workarounds will translate to everyday life. It’s a slow process, but it will get better.

We are all trying our best.

*If you would like more information about Executive Functioning or any other related issues, there is a list of websites and Facebook pages on the bulletin board in the front lobby.

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