Single Biggest Reason Why Most People Don’t Understand Executive Function

Single Biggest Reason Why Most People Don’t Understand Executive Function
Single Biggest Reason Why Most People Don’t Understand Executive Function:

Google Gobbledeegoop

I hear from many parents that they’ve been told their child has executive functioning challenges, but they aren’t really clear what that really means.  

Perhaps they have had some sort of assessment done, been delivered test results, and sometimes even a diagnosis.  

Lots of information is provided at once, too much to digest and they haven’t even begun to formulate the questions. 

The term “Executive Function” is typically shared in the context of test results and sometimes the specific areas are broken down and shared as strengths or weaknesses.

More often than not parents walk away from the meetings with papers in hand, a bunch of standardized test scores, and questions they aren’t yet sure how to formulate.   

Sometimes the term has been used by an educator in a meeting, not necessarily linked to testing.  

Executive functioning is not something that requires diagnosing.  It can be impaired for a variety of reasons.  For example, under times of high stress or when depressed, temporary challenges can occur. 

Either way,  parents will typically follow up with some time on Google seeking answers.  'Cause that's where we all usually end up! 

Looking up Executive Function in cyberspace is going to bring up a bunch of scientific jargon and confusing definitions.  

Executive Function is broken down in different ways depending on who you ask.  

The bottom line…Executive Function is the ability to get shit done!  

It is the brain functioning required to execute complex tasks such as (though not limited to!): 
  • planning
  • organizing
  • time management
  • initiation
  • emotional regulation
  • focus
  • persistence
The Executive Function "umbrella" is quite large and one doesn’t necessarily struggle with all of that falls under it! 

Age and development are key factors.  For example, it is not uncommon for a two-year-old to be highly impulsive, but by the time the child is 10, we expect to see them have fewer impulsive behaviors. When that child is a teen and is still impulsive it presents a challenge as it may manifest in risk-taking that can be troublesome.

Simplified further...all of our brains engage in Executive Functions and 

Want more info on Executive Function at different ages and stage? Click Here

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Mental Health Over Academics...Understanding Why

I'm going to let the video do it's thing this week...so grab a cup of something yummy and hit play.  Then share it with someone else 💜





How does fear affect our health?

How does fear affect our health?

Experiencing fear is a healthy survival mechanism that is fundamental to our existence...living in fear is unhealthy.


Our bodies hold onto that fear and has negative effects on our physically wellness (ie: crippling our immune systems, screwing with our sleep, eating disorders, muscular pain, etc.) and emotional wellness (ie: dissociation, anxiety, phobias, mood swings, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc.)


And to my midlife mamas...fear raises our cortisol levels and messes with our hormones and we certainly don’t need anything else messing with our hormones! 


Fear puts us in fight, flight freeze mode and shuts down our pre-frontal cortex which makes it difficult for us to engage in executive functioning! 


Are ya hearing all the chatter about not being able to focus, zoning out, stress eating, stress baking, drinking, scrolling endlessly on social media? 


So let’s talk straight about fear…


Zig Ziglar said FEAR had 2 meanings:  Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise


Running from our lives is an unhealthy coping mechanism. 


Believe me, I tried, years of emotionally eating my fears instead of facing them has added up! 


I now choose  to be resilientAF and rise to face my fears.  


I get it.  This shit is hard.   Facing fear head on is intense. 


Choices in life are sometimes gut wrenching.  


Parenting taught me much of what I know about fear- we as parents hold fears for our children’s safety and well being.


The fears in my head were often way worse than the realities and when we hit the deepest darkest moments and real life scary shit was happening- the fear was overpowered by love- a love so intense that fear couldn’t continue to paralyze me. 


I now fully realize  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”  (Franklin D. Roosevelt)


Action absorbs anxiety and fear- we free ourselves up to live more fully and present to love and gratitude.  Self care is love in action. 


Radical Self Care that I turn to when fear is present:  

  • workout -especially with the boxing gloves on!
  • take a walk, bonus points if the sun is shining
  • dance! sing!
  • gratitude journaling
  • Aroma Freedom session
  • connection with loved ones
  • Kava Stress Relief tea
  • Stress Away and Peace & Calming essential oil blends
  • nurturing whole foods
  • hugs...lots of hugs

Want to bump up your self care game? Come hang with a bunch of resilientAF midlife mamas? You are not alone! We get it!  










Simple Strategies for Impulsive Behaviors (Executive Function Series #7)

Impulsivity is a HOT TOPIC


Inhibition is the executive function skill that allows one to stop their behavior, actions, and/or thoughts at the appropriate time. Impulsivity is the lack of inhibition. 


That's all it means! So what does this look like?


  • not following directions

  • inconsistent performance on tasks 

  • touching things... other people's things.. other people 

  • restlessness or other active behaviors

  • difficulty turn-taking and waiting


Let’s talk strategy!


PAUSE!! 


Teach them to take a breath, pause, process- even just a few seconds before responding. 


Process time is so important for building this skill. 


This is for those that are raising their hands before the question has been asked, or responding before communication is completed. 


I love this traffic light graphic for teaching this concept.  


Taking the time to verbalize the questions and create a plan is incredibly powerful.


For teens, impulsivity can have significant consequences, learning this skill to apply everywhere in their lives is critical.  



VISUAL! 


Provide visual options such as a text, a note, posting on the wall, or writing on the board.  Visually processing can slow down the impulsivity.  Provide clear expectations and reminders.  


It also helps support working memory, planning and organization.  


MONITOR


As parents (and/or teachers) we don’t want to hover!  


That said, for some students it's helpful to have someone nearby. For example, with remote schooling right now, I hear many parents concerned about limited focus and attention, which leads to impulsive behaviors. 


Co-working can be highly supportive.  The student is on the computer doing their classes and the parent is in the same room on the computer doing their work.  


In a classroom students can be strategically placed in the front row and/or they may have an aide or a resource room teacher in the classroom.  


Monitoring isn’t about squashing the behaviors, it’s about redirecting the energy.


POSITIVITY!


When my kids were younger I learned about the importance of focusing on their positive behaviors. Admittedly, this has been one of my biggest struggles. This is where my impulsivity appeared...the negative behaviors always seemed to be illuminated and right in front of my face. 


When we seek, focus and acknowledge the positive behaviors we are also helping build inhibition. 



You are not alone! We get it!

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Is your teen shut down emotionally or maybe incredibly anxious? (Executive Function Series #6)

  Is your teen shut down emotionally or maybe  incredibly anxious?  (Executive Function Series #6)

Emotional regulation is a sensitive topic for me.  


As a pediatric speech language pathologist, I knew about executive function.  I worked with younger kids so I wasn’t as tuned into it for the older kids. I also didn’t fully understand the emotional regulation behavioral component.  


While in the thick of raising my kids I didn’t acknowledge and comprehend how our nervous systems co-regulate.  


Lots of stuff I didn’t know that I didn’t know!


I’ve done the emotional work to release myself from the guilt of not knowing, of not doing better or different.  I chose to educate myself and share with others, so other families might escape the trauma. 


Emotional regulation is when it's difficult to redirect and refocus when there's a lack of emotional control. This is when we see meltdowns, tantrums, cursing, extreme crying or extreme laughter. Typically unpredictable emotional responses that are out of sync with the situation at hand. 


Emotional regulation also involves co-regulation so if a parent is struggling with their own emotional regulation then they feed off of each other. For example,  if Mom is really stressed out then the kid gets really stressed out. These kids are not able to not take in what is happening in their environment.  Basically our nervous systems are bouncing off of each other and it's a chicken and egg thing. 


One way to explain the emotional regulation is polyvagal theory as shown in this image: 


Another take on it is the “window of tolerance” as in this image: 


Five strategies that can be used to support teens at home and at school: 

  1.  Supporting them in being aware of their outbursts and the consequences of having them on their surroundings.

  2.  Being aware of stressful situations at home and/or in school. 

  3.  Clarifying expectations to reduce their feelings of overwhelm.

  4.  Creating a safe and supportive environment that fosters empathy.

  5.  Using scales to help them monitor where they are emotionally or may be heading as    things escalate.  


We can all widen our window of tolerance by practicing mindfulness, increasing happiness, and building resilience.


**so much more on this topic coming soon! 


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