Written by Lynda Hansen, Utah Parent Center Parent Consultant (retired 2018)

I just read a book I have in my library: Late, Lost, and Unprepared  A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning by Joyce Cooper-Kahn, Ph.D. and Laurie Dietzel, Ph.D. , 2008 Woodbine House, USA

The chapters were short but full of practical and hands-on information that parents (and teachers) can use in helping children who have difficulty with executive functioning skills. The messy backpack and locker, the finished but not returned homework, tardiness, inability to plan and initiate tasks are just a few of the symptoms of executive functioning deficits.

The book was divided into two sections:

What You Need to Know

  • What is Executive Functioning?
  • Development of the Executive Functions
  • The Child’s Experience of Executive Weaknesses
  • Impact on the Family
  • Assessment : Figuring Out What’s Wrong
  • AD/HD, Learning Disabilities, and other Conditions Associated with Executive Dysfunction

What You Can Do About It

  • How to Help–an Overview
  • Behavior Change in a Nutshell
  • If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try a Few More Times Then . . .Change Your Expectations!
  • Helping Children Control Impulses
  • Helping Children Shift Gears
  • Helping Children Get Started on Homework and Other Tasks
  • Helping Children Handle Working Memory Issues
  • Helping Children Plan and Organize
  • Helping Children Monitor Their Behavior

How many times have parents been told that using accommodations is coddling the child? In this book the authors emphasize that children with these difficulties are simply unable to perform at the same level as typical peers and expecting them to do can lead to frustration and finally giving up.  They point out these students often start to behave as indifferent, unmotivated and bored to compensate for their failings. The authors also point out often these children are delayed in the development of executive functioning skills, but as they age and with the right supports, they will become better at dealing with the problems.  Fading supports as the child improves is part of the process. They warn setting the bar too high or too low can a have detrimental impact on a child.

They also note: “If a child or adolescent has AD/HD, he experiences some executive function weaknesses. Although each person has a different profile of strengths and weaknesses, delays or deficits in executive functioning are always present in people with AD/HD.”  But executive functioning deficits are also associated with other conditions such as learning disabilities and autism.

“Don’t assume that a child knows how to organize a backpack, notebook, or locker,” they note. Helping a child/adolescent requires time, routine, and teaching and re-teaching of skills. The same goes for impulsive behaviors which often limits children in social situations. Often a child has no idea what they have done wrong or why someone is bothered by their behavior. They suggest using both external structure and feedback when working on improving this.

The book gives many practical ideas for parents to employ, but they also note that there is no one size fits all answer.  They urge parents to be willing to change strategies if something doesn’t work. The authors note that some parents have executive functioning deficits as well, so they may need to ask for help from an outside source such as a psychologist or other professional to help them find strategies that work.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a better understanding of the child/adolescent with executive functioning deficits.