I recently attended a workshop on Executive Function given by Sarah Ward, M.S., CCC/SLP of The Center for Executive Function Skill Development. She is amazing. I also attended her workshop last fall and was blown away. Amazing practical strategies! Tons of helpful information to absorb and implement.
When I heard Sarah Ward was coming to town again, I knew I had to attend.
I remember the first time I heard about Executive Function. We had taken Lily to our Children’s Hospital for a psych eval and they had me fill out the BRIEF, the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function. That was a revelation. Almost every question described Lily.
Suddenly, it clicked. This is why she never turns in her field trip permission slips, never knows what homework she has, doesn’t want to start on it, is the only kid who doesn’t know that this is Spirit Week and today is Crazy Hair Day? This is why we have to explain what’s going to happen next all day long so she doesn’t have a meltdown, why the smallest change in plans makes her freak out or why everything makes her freak out?
Her scores showed that Lily had clinically significant executive function problems, which can be common with ADHD. That’s when I started my quest to find out more about helping her learn executive function skills and also, unfortunately, began my struggle to explain executive function issues to her school district.
Abridged Executive Controls Skills Checklist (a handout from the workshop)
Compared to peers, this child…
Begins homework/jobs with little or no prompting
Devises solutions to solvable problems; doesn’t just ‘hope they’ll go away’
Sets a specific time to act (Says “I’ll do it after school”, & does)
Independently pursues hobbies and activities of personal interest
Can analyze a situation from multiple perspectives before taking action
Able to have fun with available toys/diversions
Can adjust to a typical behavior in a friend (“Justin’s grumpy because he’s sick”)
Transition times rarely incite tantrums/excessive anxiety
Can adequately block distractions when needed
Can tolerate boring or repetitive activities
Can read a book or listen to one being read
Doesn’t make you feel rushed to finish a conversation before s/he “spaces out”
Consistently brings all homework/school notices home
Keeps personal belongings organized and accessible
Bedroom basically neat; messes confined, not “chaotic”
Uses school book bag/locker effectively
Is rarely short of time to complete projects
Is able to coordinate multi-step projects in order, i.e. draw, cut, paste
Considers consequences of actions
Notices factors that could impact plans, i.e. checks weather before dressing
Able to retain information long enough to apply it to new learning challenges
Can remember and talk about what was learned in school that day
Recalls procedural steps, doesn’t ‘stare blankly’ when asked to ‘get started’
Is comfortable accepting ‘memory responsibilities’ (i.e. chores, dues, projects)
Picks up on important social cues such as taking turns during play with peers
Uses appropriate vocal volume in conversation
Rarely ‘crosses over the line’ of acceptable behavior
Accurately attributes the reactions of others to his/her own behavior
Able to shrug off or quickly recover from minor disappointments
Seldom overreacts to words or behavior of peers
Able to use imagination, reason or logic to cope with adversity
Emotions do not overwhelm reasoning skills or impair problem-solving
End of summer is approaching. Dread. The hummingbirds will leave and the school buses will arrive, and this year we have to pay for them… 100 bucks per student to ride the bus.
The sight of school supplies piling up in the stores makes my tummy feel yucky. We have exactly 3 weeks.
Can you say, umm… The Gates of Hell?
(How handy that WT took 4000 pictures of this sculpture, before I beat him to death with a baguette.)
Guess what? Funny thing… Rodin wasn’t exactly big on school himself and not everyone ‘got’ him. Some of his most famous work was criticized and rejected because Rodin’s style and themes weren’t traditional. Sound familiar?
Anyway, soon we’ll be meeting with Lily’s team at school to talk about our plan to support her executive function deficits and teach Lily more organizational skills.
I feel like I’m cramming for an exam. I read for pleasure on the plane to Paris. I just couldn’t bring myself to think about the start of school yet. But now, I need to get down to some serious research.
I have a few books about organization I’ve started reading in preparation. I’m looking for some really practical, concrete suggestions & tips that will get us from home to school and back every day.
I’m not sure I can make it through another school year like last year. But I feel that, because of our mediation with the school district at the end of last year, we’re finally going to have some specific supports in place to make 7th grade easier on all of us.
It’s been a while since I posted. I was vacationing in Paris, after all.
(And why no Wifi, Frenchies? It was nearly impossible to find Wifi there, or at least Wifi that didn’t cost a zillion dollars per second.)
I mean, of course, it wasn’t all Paris, Paris, Paris since my last post. There was a work trip to Hoboken for me, and for the girls… two ear infections, a bladder infection and don’t forget the fevers, coughing and vomiting.
Anyway, yes… I was in Paris! Met WT (World Traveler) there, while the girls enjoyed Iowa at Grandma & Grandpa’s house. They are still enjoying it and I’m missing them so much, I’m having dreams about them.
I don’t think the feeling is mutual because they’re too busy sewing, gardening, catching fireflies, eating corn, doing 360’s in the go-cart, playing dress-up and attending Grandpa’s Gun Safety & Target Practice Workshop.
It seems so long ago that I picked them up from camp. They had a great time and Lily, especially, came home beaming. When Lily’s counselor walked me to their cabin she said, “Oh no, you’re here to pick up our ‘voice of reason’. What will we do without her?”
Yes, she told me that Lily had come to be known as the voice of reason because of her calm demeanor and sage advice in times of tween drama. The example Lily gave me was when the girls were all freaking out and screaming because they thought they saw a skunk. Lily calmly pointed out that this furry animal didn’t appear to be a skunk since it was not black and white and instead was brown and looked like a raccoon.
Her counselor told me that it had taken a little while for Lily to warm up and get comfortable with the other girls, like a whole week. But her 2nd week was great.
As we walked out, I watched the other girls carefully for their interactions with Lily. They all hugged her and she seemed to be just fine socially. As we walked through camp, other girls and their counselors would pop their heads out and tell Lily good-bye. I was impressed with all the friends she had made. So, camp had a bit of a rough start, but a happy ending.
P.S. Lily did complain to me that the other girls in the cabin wore different clothes than she wears and knew songs that she didn’t know. Yep, that’s my plan. Keep the pop culture away for as long as I can.
Just dropped the girlies off at Camp. Overnight for 2 weeks. Their flurry of packing has demolished the house. But I don’t mind.
You see, WT (World Traveler) husband is in Brussels for a week for work, so I’m all by myself! Whoot! I have stocked up and am looking forward to eating cereal for dinner and bon bons for breakfast and anything else I feel like doing!
Reading books, yes! Exercising, yes! Sleeping, yes! Cooking, no! (Well, our stove is broken anyway.) Nagging, no! Yelling, no! Acting as the frontal lobe for everyone else in the family, N-to-the-O!
The drop-off just demonstrated for me again, the differences between my children. Sometimes I know Lily’s world so well, that I forget that it’s not ‘normal’, until I see Zoolander in the same situation and realize again that her reactions are more like other kids’.
Actually, that’s how we finally realized that Lily was different than other babies. After Zoolander was born, we were surprised to discover, “Ohhhh, that’s how babies are supposed to act! You mean, you can actually follow the instructions in those baby books and they work??!! Holy crap, THIS is a piece of cake!”
Both the girls’ counselors came to our car to help with the luggage. Without question I knew that I would go with Lily to her cabin first, to help her transition. Of course, she was anxious. Zoolander was on her own with a stranger. Of course, she didn’t care.
I helped Lily make her bed and there was one other girl in the cabin. I overheard the girl tell the counselor that she attends ‘Suchandsuch Academy’, a private school that specializes in educating Twice Exceptional students and students with learning differences. Hmmmm. Maybe Lily will pick up on that. She usually does. She has told me before, “Mom, that girl/boy is like me.”
Last summer, the one girl she really made friends with at camp, turned out to be in her Gifted and Talented class this year. [An aside–Just read an interesting post at Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund about helping Gifted kids ‘find their tribe’.]
Anyway, a gaggle of her cabin-mates arrived loudly and Lily instantly retreated, turned away, wouldn’t make eye contact, didn’t introduce herself. I sensed it was time for me to split, before she wanted me to help her out of this social situation. I quickly left, but wished I had given her a better pep talk beforehand–reminding her specifically how to be friendly. It makes my stomach hurt thinking about it.
But I know that the counselors will include her and help her warm up. The young counselors always seem to know what to do and how to handle her. And that’s just one of the reasons why we spend the money to send Lily to this amazing camp that encourages campers to be themselves and to respect others for their differences, so that she can practice her social skills in a safe place.
As I walked down the road approaching Zoolander’s cabin, I could see her standing on the balcony waving wildly. When I walked up, she was jumping up and down she was so excited and talking, talking, talking, “Mom, isn’t this awesome. I love this balcony. I got a top bunk. I was worried about that, but I got a top bunk and it has a shelf where I can put my stuff. Remember my friend I met last year? She’s going to be here and she’s in my cabin and isn’t that so great.” Zoolander didn’t even notice when I left.