Creative Sky Psychology Talks...ADHD and Executive Function
Executive Function Challenges in Kids
Executive functioning skills are our brains higher order skills that allow us to manage tasks, exercise self-control, establish priorities, concentrate on important assignments, and adapt to changing circumstances. Executive Functioning is associated with the prefrontal cortex. This happens to be one of the last regions in your brain to mature. As such, all children experience immature executive functioning skills, making them easily distracted, and unable to properly regulate emotions. Most children might hit their sibling if they are upset, rather than using their words (how annoying)... Other children, however exhibit a significant delay in their executive functioning skills compared to their peers, which may persist into adulthood and create difficulties throughout their lives. This often coincides with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
ADHD is the most prevalent condition associated with executive functioning issues, though other conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Anxiety, Depression, and Learning Differences can also result in executive functioning challenges. This is largely because the issues arising from these conditions can involve difficulties with executive functioning skills - though may mot be the primary cause. For example, a child with Anxiety may have trouble paying attention in school, but this is due to the take-over effect of anxiety rather than a true Executive Function deficit.
Instead of solely focusing on the extensive list of potential challenges that can arise from Executive Functioning challenges, it may be more helpful to zoom in on the specific difficulties your child is experiencing under the Executive Function umbrella. By identifying and addressing your child's individual challenges with executive functioning skills, you can better tailor strategies and interventions to support their specific needs and help them succeed. At Creative Sky Psychology, we are able to support parents to pin point where the specific challenges lie, and tailor intervention plans towards such.
Strategies for Parents
Scaffolding: Accommodations often involve the idea of scaffolding—where you add more structure to the environment to teach kids good habits and routines, and then slowly remove the structure until they can do it themselves. This laddering approach helps children feel success and want to move forward! We support parents to help children start with where they are at developmentally and build skills from this point forward. Success begets success!
Shift the Mindset: Having the mindset that your child's Executive Function challenges are not purposeful misbehaviour, rather are skills that need to be learned is an important factor in working on Executive Function skill building. This can also help you and your child think positively about their differences, instead of feeling bad or guilty about the things that are difficult for them.
Stay Away from Punishment: Try to avoid punishing your child for difficulties that may arise from issues related to Executive Function challenges. Natural consequences may not be effective for addressing weaknesses stemming from lagging skills, as these weaknesses are not due to a lack of effort or desire on your child's part, but rather a genuine inability to consistently meet expectations due to skill deficits. Make plans with your child with how to address the challenges such as creating a "visual schedule". If you are having difficulty with this contact a mental health professional or Psychologist who specializes in this area.
Take Breaks and Give Yourself a Break: Take breaks and set realistic expectations for yourself and your child! Your wellness matters too...
Executive Function challenges often create frustration and emotional difficulties, as it can be difficult to meet the expectations at both home and school. At Creative Sky Psychology, we assess the functional impact of Executive Function challenges in several key areas. We provide children and adolescents with strategies to break down tasks into manageable components based on their age and developmental stage. By fostering a sense of accomplishment, children become motivated to do more and try more!