Friday, October 30, 2009

Great article about ADHD

I recently found the following article in our local issue of the Thrive magazine. It explains the issues that a child or an adult struggles with if living with ADHD. I love how this article so clearly explains that the main problems are the lack of "executive functions". I used to think that these things were a lack of character in my children and that with consistent and firm discipline, these issues would resolve themselves. I'm not so cavalier anymore. After years of trying all the different appropriate discipline methods, I have observed that some things are NOT issues of willful disobedience, but are functioning problems inside the brain. How can you tell the difference?? I will give you examples from my home after each of the listed executive functions below.

The Eight Executive Functions
  1. Inhibition: Ability to stop one’s own behavior at the appropriate time (If the thought to tease her brother pops into her head when he is already upset, Lexi will ALWAYS do it. If the doorbell rings, Grant and Lexi drop EVERYTHING instantly every time and RUN to the door and yank it open!)
  2. Shift: Ability to move freely from one situation to another and think flexibly (Grant gets crazy angry if he's focused on an activity and we need him to stop and give another person a turn.)
  3. Emotional control: Ability to manage emotional responses by tempering feelings with rational thought (Grant gets crazy angry if focused on an activity and it's time to give someone else a turn and we ask him to stop. Then ANY discipline for that behavior no matter how calm you are only escalates him and makes him screaming mad.)
  4. Initiation: Ability to begin a task and independently generate ideas (If I tell Grant or Lexi to go clean up their room, they might get to their room, but then start to play instead of clean. They don't know where to start. This is not a problem with 5 year old Abby.)
  5. Working memory: Ability to keep information in mind until completion of task (If I ask Lexi to make her bed, pick up her clothes off the floor, brush her teeth, and get on her jammies she will get on her bed and play with the stuffed animals.This also affects how long Lexi can remember math facts.)
  6. Planning: Ability to manage current and future-oriented task demands (It never occurs to Lexi that she needs to begin working on a deadline days or weeks before. It doesn't hit her until we're ready to walk out the door. She never remembers to work on her Master Club projects until Wednesday afternoon.)
  7. Organization of materials: Ability to impose order on work, play and storage spaces (Lexi could never find her was always on the floor or in the other room where she took it to see what was going on out the window. Lexi's belongings are ALWAYS strewn across the floor and getting lost. She's leaves things out all the time and her baby siblings tear it up.)
  8. Self-monitoring: Ability to monitor one’s own performance and measure it against expectations (I'm not sure that this is such a huge issue in my house. Both Grant and Lexi seem to be aware of other people watching them and worrying about what others think of them.)

*Source Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Laurie Dietzel, authors of the book Late, Lost and Unprepared

These all still sound like issues that every child deals with, but in my children which are NOT ADHD the problem can be straightened out with correction, and isn't something that goes on for years!! With my children who are struggling with ADHD, I found thoughts going through my head like this, "Why does this child not GET this??" "Is he learning disabled??" "Why am I so ANGRY with this child??" "Why did she DO that?? She KNOWS we don't allow that in our family." "Why am I so TIRED??"

Don't be afraid to investigate further if you are struggling with your children. You are not alone, and there are lots of things that you can learn to do differently that are much more effective than what you are doing now. The Lord has a very special plan, an important purpose, for your child's life. It's our job as the parent to help prepare them for that purpose and help them reach their God-given potential. I'm still on that journey!!


Ken said...


These are interesting observations. I would still encourage you, though, with Grant and Lexi, to continue to train them so that those "executive functions" develop. I have seen too many cases of parents who abandon such training (either out of frustration or because they feel change is impossible) and have children whose lives are disasters.

But I assume that is what you meant by the sentence, "It's our job as the parent to them reach their God-given potential."

Brenda said...

Absolutely Ken!! I too have seen parents who just assume there is nothing they can do and use the ADHD as an excuse for unacceptable behavior. Don't get me wrong, we don't want to excuse, but it is helpful to know what is going on and why it sometimes seems you are making no headway. It's also helpful to know so that you can then educate yourself of more effective ways to meet the specific needs of these children and encourage them to succeed when so often they are viewed as failures in so many areas!!!!