Executive Dysfunction-Invisible Disability?

Oh boy, talk about intense.  I forced Lily to sit down and go through her backpack with me.  It was worse than I thought and my stomach still feels tight.

The poor child.  She’s been struggling with organization more than I knew.  There were piles of papers in there, some more than a month old, in addition to a wrinkled pink gingham dress, because, of course, why wouldn’t you have a pink gingham dress in your backpack?

We went through each paper, one by one… Is this something you still need? Something you need to turn in? Something you need to finish? Lily started to cry.  She wasn’t sure what the answers were; couldn’t remember and was overwhelmed and confused and mad at herself.  

Through her tears she said that her teachers wouldn’t take her late work.  I asked her why some of the work was unfinished and late.  Sobbing, she says that she doesn’t have time to get it finished in class because she can’t finish writing it in time, some of it she doesn’t understand and needs help and then she’s embarrassed to turn it in late.  I ask her why she doesn’t ask for help and she says because then they’ll single her out for help and she’ll be embarrassed.  

You know if you wear glasses and take them off and try to perform a task… that uncomfortable, off-balance, sort of confused feeling?  I think that must be what it feels like for her.  And it makes me wonder if her medication needs to be adjusted, because she wasn’t having quite such a difficult time at the beginning of the school year.  I’m horrified that I didn’t realize she was having such a hard time.  

I feel like we and the school and actually, anyone she comes in contact with, often think Lily is more capable of independent organization than she really is.  Executive Dysfunction is an invisible disability, especially for a gifted kid.  She’s so bright and clever that sometimes it’s hard to fathom just how impaired her Executive Function is. She doesn’t even seem to realize how much help she really needs.

A few months ago, when Lily and I discussed organization with Dr. K, Lily protested having an organizational system imposed on her, saying that she can do it without help.  Dr. K told her that was fine, but that if it didn’t work out, we would have to come up with another system for her to try.

This week, he told her that I’m going to meet with the school to discuss this and offered her a chance for input.  He told her that his idea would be that she would earn points/rewards by…

*writing her assignments in her planner every day as soon as they are given (checked by teacher)
*writing down any school work she needs to finish at home (checked by teacher)
*reviewing planner with teacher at the end of each day
*review planner with parent after school
*review with parent again after completing homework/mark assignments that need to be turned in the following day
*After turning in assignments in each day, check them off in her planner

In theory, this will begin to become a habit and we’ll be able to scale back some of the support. Her BSP or Behavior Support Plan that works in conjunction with her IEP is the best place to put this organizational system. I’ll give Lily some time to think about it and then see if she has suggestions for the backpack plan I can take to her IEP meeting this week.

Posted on April 3, 2011, in ADHD, Advocacy, Executive Function, Gifted, School, Twice Exceptional and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I hope you were as gentle with yourself as you wish Lily to be with herself. A mama can only keep track of so much!

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