Understanding Executive Function Disorder in Children

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Does your child come home from school frustrated and discouraged? Is his backpack stuffed full of wrinkled papers, dried up pens, broken pencils, old tests, last month’s assignment sheets, expired permission slips and checks that were supposed to be turned in to the office to pay for lunches?

Does he frantically try to study for the mid-terms on the night before the test? After the all night study session, does he wake up late and cranky, begging you to write an excuse to let him stay home? How about the science project that was assigned 5 weeks ago? Are you dashing off to the store to get poster board, vinegar, baking soda and plaster of paris to create a working volcano by tomorrow’s deadline? Does your child’s teacher report your child cannot manage his behaviors, stay on task, or organize his desk? If these problems sound all too familiar, your child may be suffering from Executive Function Disorder.

 

What is Executive Function Disorder?

Puberty can be a challenging time for children and their parents. The hormonal changes, mood swings, and physical changes that take place in early adolescence are a normal part of growing up. The body is changing, and the frontal cortex of the brain matures as a child enters the early teen years. As the brain matures, a child develops the ability to perform complex tasks that he was not able to master in early childhood. Most children develop these skills as they get older and can breeze through tasks and assignments without incident.

If a child has Executive Function Disorder, he has a chronic inability to organize and manage tasks. The symptoms of EFD are often mistaken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. There are subtle differences in the two conditions.

 

Executive Function skills have been identified and broken down into six steps:

1. Analyze
2. Plan
3. Organize
4. Develop
5. Adjust
6. Complete

Most children learn to analyze the assigned task, plan out a strategy to accomplish the task, organize thoughts and materials to get started on the assignment, develop a timeline to assure the task will be completed on time, adjust the timeline to allow for problems or interruptions that may occur, and finally complete the project in the allotted time.

Kids who have executive function disorder issues are unable to perform these tasks. The resulting frustration leads to poor performance in the classroom, inappropriate behavior, and an on-going struggle to succeed.

 

How Does EFD Affect Children in Their Daily Lives?

The impact of Executive Function Disorder can be overwhelming to a child. No matter how hard the child tries, the disorder renders him unable to complete the simplest tasks. He finds himself in a state of panic when he can’t find his lunch money, or the permission slip to go on the field trip. His desk is such a mess that the teacher makes him lose recess time to stay behind to clean it. He leaves for school in a state of depression because he was unable to find the tee shirt he was supposed to wear to the pep rally. The list goes on and on. A child who has executive function issues has such a hard time setting schedules that he might miss his best friend’s birthday party, or show up late for a swim meet. It is difficult for his teachers and peers to understand the disorder. His persistent objectionable behavior can cause a loss of friendships and humiliation in the classroom if he does not receive the proper help to manage the disorder.

 

What Steps Can Be Taken to Help a Child with EFD?

Children with EFD need positive reinforcement and encouragement. To-do lists, verbal prompts, charts and calendars are all helpful tools for helping the child stay organized. Regular communication with the teacher is also advisable to assure projects and assignments are turned in on time. A chaotic environment makes it difficult to function. Encourage the child to keep his room tidy. He will probably need help and support to maintain an organized area to work and study.

The ACTIVATE™ program by C8Sciences has been developed to address and improve the outcomes of children displaying any or all of these symptoms. The research used in developing the program has categorized the executive function skills into eight basic core cognitive capacities. These core capacities form the foundation for a child’s ability to learn. The core capacities include sustained attention, working memory, information processing speed, response inhibition, cognitive flexibility, category formation, pattern recognition, and multiple simultaneous attention. If a child is taught to develop these core capacities, he will experience fewer disappointments, less frustration, and higher self- esteem.

ACTIVATE™ is designed to strengthen the core capacity skills. The program enhances the ability to analyze and complete classroom assignments. Children are presented with games and activities that inspire the child and sustain his attention to a task while having fun. Our systematic learning program combines brain activity with physical exercise. The exercises and games help the child develop the skills necessary to stay on task and complete assignments in the expected time frame. Specific exercises that build working memory skills and the ability to move back and forth between tasks are a basic component of the program. Children enrolled in the ACTIVATE™ program who have Executive Function Disorder show improvement in category formation and cognitive flexibility within weeks of beginning the program.

 

Putting Order in the Disorder

Living with Executive Function Disorder is difficult when it is misunderstood. Children with the disorder want to be successful and feel “normal”. The turmoil in their minds, their environment, and the classroom can be re-directed and calmed with the right training and lots of support and encouragement. The ACTIVATE™ program outlines the steps to success and provides the tools necessary to accomplish those steps. Understanding the disorder is half the battle. Making sure the child is set up to succeed is the most important thing you can do for a child who struggles with EFD on a daily basis. EFD doesn’t have to impair a child’s ability flourish in his environment. Learning and developing coping skills and good habits as early as possible will help assure triumph in life as he grows toward adulthood.

By | 2018-05-07T23:54:02+00:00 April 28th, 2015|C8Parents, C8Schools|Comments Off on Understanding Executive Function Disorder in Children