Hello and Happy Holidays!
In this newsletter I will continue sharing more learnings from the CHADD conference. Specifically, I will address the question: “What are executive functions?” Dr. Jose Bauermeister combined medical research with his practical clinical approach to describe why it is important to understand executive functions when it comes to working with students who have ADHD. Dr. Bauermeister stressed that the person who has ADHD "usually wants to do things but can't always get them done" due to a difference in executive functions.
Finally, since it is already December and the year is coming to a close, I am inviting you to think about how you choose to transition into 2012. We all have our rituals-- or you may leave it up to what shows up at midnight! Whatever route you take-- don’t forget to focus and be grateful for the achievements, the small victories, and the experiences learned in 2011! Celebrate them and create room for a 2012 filled with wonder, growth and plenty of opportunities to celebrate achievements!
Best wishes during the Holidays!
CHADD Conference Highlights
What are EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS?
(Dr. Jose Bauermeister)
Dr. Barkley describes executive function (EF) as those "actions we perform to ourselves and direct at ourselves so as to accomplish self-control, goal-directed behavior, and the maximization of future outcomes."
What does that mean? How can we understand EF in laymen’s terms? The best way to understand executive functions is to imagine the conductor of an orchestra or the CPU in a computer. According to Dr. Bauermeister, executive functions allow self-regulation of behaviors that promote:
- Organizing/planning ahead (organizing time, projects, and things)
- Transitioning (changing activities, stopping an activity and moving to something else)
- Impulse inhibition (controlling emotions, thinking before acting or speaking)
- Postpone gratification
- Activation and effort (starting, paying attention and finishing work)
- Working memory and recall (keep information in mind long enough to act upon it, remembering to do things or memorizing).
- Respond to a plan and not to whatever attracts our interest at the moment (long term projects, planning for the future)
- Problem solving (taking a task apart, analyzing the pieces, and organizing it into new tasks or ideas).
- Guiding our actions by internal motivation (self-monitoring and "self-talk" to control behavior and complete future tasks)
WOW! This list touches on behaviors that affect every aspect of our lives! If there is a weakness or difference in EF all the above behaviors can be directly impacted! Imagine the orchestra without a conductor or a computer without a CPU... plenty of tasks and no one to lead. Now imagine controlling impulses, postponing gratification or planning, initiating and sustaining the interest to finish a project when there is an EF weakness... all these tasks to be tackled and no one in command!
Unfortunately, these deficits in executive skills often appear or can be easily attributed to "laziness or lack of motivation." Is it a choice that the student has? No, it is a neurological deficit that makes these tasks extremely difficult for students with attention deficits. Unfortunately students with ADHD are often punished for their executive function deficits.
IF there is an EF deficit-- What can we do?
In the academic setting we can aid the student with structures that provide necessary support through accommodations such as: modified assignments, reduced written work, extended time on tests, chunking long-term projects into segments with separate due dates, allowing the use of assistive technology and allowing additional time to hand in homework.
At home you can help the student develop a visual process (using post-its, index cards, color to highlight important information and graphic organizers to help preserve thoughts). Use the same means to offer reminders about morning routines, evening routines, weekly chores, etc. Be very specific and divide the task into smaller steps when giving instructions.
The coaching process helps the student gain awareness of the weaknesses and how it affects his/her performance and daily life. Through "modeling" and "shaping" behavior in a supportive, non judgmental way, a coach can help the student master skills or teach her to become aware and compensate for deficits as a lifeskill.
Tips & Resources
These are some of the calendars I find helpful in keeping me and my household organized.
The 2012 Do It All Mom Magnetic Calendar #15519
2012 Mom's Plan-It Plan-It Plus calendar
2012 Teen Plan-It Plus calendar
2012 Household Manager With Notepads Wall Calendar
A student recommends: google chrome stayfocusd -- this application blocks websites and it doesn’t let you change the settings. Another tip to stay focused.
Any ideas? Suggestions? I'm here ... contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In My Own Words...
This is what comes off the top of my head... (nuggets gained by a recent college grad through the process of coaching. Now she is successfully navigating through every day life)
- Find structure and balance ! Reward yourself for meeting goals and enjoy life.
- Setting small goals each day/week to tackle the larger projects.
- Viewing ADHD as a strength, learning to work with it in a way that maximizes your greatness!
- Taking breaks, sitting down for hours at a time to work on a large project without end is less productive.
- Listen to your body!!
- Notice. How you respond to yourself, to others, to whatever... and don't put any judgment on it. You can decide what next, but don't let it keep you from moving forward.
- Let go of the negative self-talk.
Ever since I was a child I looked forward to the end of the year. Puerto Ricans welcome the New Year with rituals such as: eating 12 grapes at midnight (one for every clock chime- one for every month of the year) or throwing water out of the front door to cleanse the house to welcome the year. My grandmother used to make thin yellow bows out of ribbons and pin them to our shirts/dresses-- symbolizing health and good wishes for the new year! When I lived in Ecuador I marveled at their traditions-- making an “old year” puppet mocking a political figure or a public figure and then burning it at midnight. Want to travel during the new year? Then grab your bags at midnight and run around your house with a suitcase. My favorite was folding a dollar bill flat, tying it into a knot and placing it in your wallet (you can’t use it) in order to always have money during the new year.
It seems that even as a child I understood that every 'end of the year' brings an opportunity to start anew... to write on a clean slate.
As I’ve grown I’ve adopted a more meaningful ritual to say goodbye to the present year and mindfully transition into the new one. It is not about resolutions-- since I do not really believe in them. It is about being thoughtful and intentional about who I choose to be as the new year begins. I ask myself questions and reflect upon them... slowly letting them simmer. Sometimes I take a group of them... sometimes one or two...
I am sharing them with you and hope you find your own way to incorporate them as you celebrate 2011 and welcome 2012 in your own meaningful way!
- What successes are you celebrating? (insights, accomplishments, learnings)
- What challenges or disappointments helped you grow in 2011?
- What was the biggest discovery about yourself this year?
- What are you most grateful for in 2011?
- What worked in 2011 that you want to transfer into 2012?
- Whose lives did you touch in 2011?
Now step intentionally into 2012...
- What is next for your life in 2012 and how can you consciously create what you want?
- What change will you invite for 2012?
- What do you need to leave behind or let go of in 2012?
- What boundaries must you establish so that you find balance and fulfillment in 2012?
Ana Isabel Sánchez
Coach ADD Life Skills, LLC
11140 Rockville Pike Suite 550-K
Rockville, MD 20852
office 301. 468.5950