How Parents Can Help Kids with Executive Function Disorder

It may take the patience of Gandhi, but it can be done.

Does everyone have their boxing gloves on? If not, go get them because, as I promised last week, you are going to learn skills to punch Executive Function Disorder (EFD) in the face. Just to review, a student with EFD has trouble:

  • planning out long-term projects and papers
  • initiating tasks such as getting started on essays, projects, and studying for exams
  • prioritizing assignments
  • organizing materials in backpack and work space
  • being punctual
  • meeting due dates for assignments
  • memorizing and retrieving information for tests
  • retaining information and then using the information to perform a task such as remembering the steps for a formula while working on an algebra problem.
  • writing a sequential, organized essay or story with rich details

A kid with EFD is easy to spot. His desk is crammed with papers, dissected pens and old, sticky fruit rollups. He is frantically pawing through all his folders and looking in the bottom of his backpack for homework he swears he did the night before. He hasn’t noticed everyone else has gotten out their textbooks and are busy annotating chapter three. He will inevitably start his poster on the American Revolution the night before it's due, leave the assignment sheet at school, and make his mother go to Walmart at 10 p.m. to get the poster board and stick-on letters he absolutely needs. 

How do we take this mess and make a good student out of him? Well, it’s a process that may take the patience of Gandhi and a good sense of humor, but it can be done. It is imperative that parents and teachers work together to teach and reinforce effective strategies. These strategies should be introduced in the classroom and practiced at home. Here are some ideas you can try at home to help your child

  • Teach your child to set an alarm — on his phone, if available — to help him transition to new activities and remind him that it's time to do something such as go to hockey practice, walk the dog or leave for the bus stop.
  • All homework should be done in a place where parents can see if the student is doing his work and not trolling through Facebook.
  • Teach him to have his backpack packed and his clothes laid out for the next day before he goes to bed.
  • Have a daily set homework time and stick to it whenever possible.
  • Check his planner each evening to make sure homework is done. If he did not write in his planner, have him check the online teacher blogs.
  • Provide necessary school supplies for organization and keep extras on hand. Kids with EFD lose things so he may go through a box of pencils a week.
  • Keep a supply of poster boards, markers, glitter, letters, and whatever else might be needed for projects.               
  • Encourage to-do lists.
  • Clean out his backpack with him once every two weeks. Throw away anything that is no longer needed, and have him put everything else in the appropriate folders and binders.
  • Keep a monthly calendar in plain view so he has a visual of how much time is left before an assignment is due.
  • Be available to quiz him before tests, even if Downton Abbey is on.
  • If your school district has an online gradebook, such as Powerschool, check it at the end of the week to make sure he is actually turning in his assignments and studying. If not, or if his teacher(s) is not great at keeping it updated, it may be beneficial to send an email at the end of each week asking for a quick update. You can use the information you receive to provide a weekend reward.

The idea is for these strategies to become second nature and for your child to perform them independently. It will take time, and you may want to beat your head against the wall from time to time, but keep at it. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

Sue Schaefer, M.ED., M.A.T., founder of Academic Coaching Associates, is an Academic Coach, Student Advocate, and certified teacher. You may visit her website at www.academiccoachingct.com, email her at susan.schaefer@academiccoachingct.com and follow her on Twitter @sueschaefer1

Lucy November 23, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Lucy November 23, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Billy boy, you are the pot calling the kettle black. You troll in these forums insulting Maria, Robin, me, and others who have a different political view. Your posts are inflammatory and contribute nothing constructive to the discussion. If you had any sense of decency, you would post under your real name; you would present a courteous and respectful post without indulging in ad hominem attacks; and you would be respectful. But the demons must visit you every night, coaching you on how to be mean and disrespectful: in other words, a dittohead troll.
Bill November 23, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Ok Lucy, just for you as you are such a courteous and kind young lady. My first name is, in fact, Inigo. Yes that's right, my name is Inigo Montoya, you kill my father, prepare to pay.
Lucy November 23, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Cute and funny, and I am Mandy Patinkin, the actor who play the character, Inigo Montoya, in the movie, "The Princess Bride." Billy, I would respect you a whole lot more if you posted under your real name and debated in a rational and civilized manner without relying on insults and name calling to drive home your argument. You might discover that you do indeed have some substance to your point of view and convince others as well. I must end this thread since this is getting us nowhere. My point is that both Democrats and Republicans rely too much on anonymous invective, insults, and name calling instead of presenting their positions rationally and identifying the source of their statements: their real names. Sources of statements always matter: it is a requisiite of scholarship and distinguishes informed thought from hearsay and opinion. Anonymous postings are not worthy of any consideration since their authors do not have enough conviction in them to identify their source. I am not a flaming liberal. I hold many conservative views, especially those that are financial. I believe most Americans would find more that they agree upon than disagree upon. If more of us assumed responsibility for our statements, and presented them in a more dignified, intelligent, and respectful manner, we might be able to overcome this division among the 99% that is getting us nowhere. My sincerest best to you, Billy.
Bill November 23, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Well hello Mandy, I knew Lucy wasn't your real name. Get it? You see, it's kind of silly to complain that someone isn't posting under their "real name" I have no way of knowing that your real name is Lucy, other than you claim it is. I just have to take your word for it. Like Mr Hood here, I could just as easily as he, set up a profile under the name Francis Alueitious Snugglebottom or, Lucy Bonola. Buh bye, see you later.


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