Saturday, March 9, 2013

It's All About the Executive Functioning: A Book Review

I don't often say that a book is a must read, but this one is: Executive Function & Child Development by Marcie Yeager and Daniel Yeager.

If you've ever wondered why your child can stay focused and complete some tasks and yet is hopelessly lost on others, so you decide it must be deliberate, you need to read this book.

Our kids with neurological differences from autism to ADHD and beyond have enough to battle with without adding the erroneous assumption that they are intentionally forgetting to complete tasks we give them. Sure, maybe sometimes they don't do it on purpose, but I have a feeling, having read this excellent book, that this is rarely the case.

Think about the things that our kids are able to do without constant reminders from us. Are there things about that activity that provide external cues or reminders? If there are, then you have your answer. Video games are a perfect example of this--tons of external cues.

Our three part commands or regular routines that we think our child should be able to do on their own since they do it every day? If you aren't there providing the external cues, are there any for them? If not, then they may have an executive functioning issue--if they can't internally cue themselves and keep track of where they are and what they need to do, then why would you expect them to? It doesn't matter if the routine is the same.

I wish this book had been in my hands two decades ago when Bobby was three. It would have saved us all tremendous frustration.

I've written over the years at Countering how I'm mystified by the things Bobby does so very well, and those things he just can't hold onto, and in the end, it really does boil down to executive functioning.

When he's cooking, if it's something he needs to tend to closely, he can--external cues. Microwaving or baking he can walk away from and unless he gives himself an external cue like a timer, he doesn't remember to check it.

External cues. That is the answer to a lot of his problems in focusing. The problem is that the external cues have to be auditory and sufficient to draw his attention. Written text, notes, signs--those are wholly inadequate for him, but for others they may be just the right thing.

With the knowledge and insight I've gained from this really excellent text, I can help my children and myself create external cues that work for us so that I don't have to be the external cue for them.

This, in all honesty, has been a tremendously beneficial book--I rarely am effusive in praise, but what a life-changing book for Bobby and me--any reduction in frustration and the most important thing--the realization that the behavior (not doing something) isn't intentional--oh, my---what a weight off of me and him.

Do yourself and your children (or spouse) a favor and if this is an issue your family is dealing with, read this book.

And then don't wallow in guilt for not having known it sooner.

--Kim Wombles



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