Executive Functioning

“Stamina” (Part II)

Last week we talked about the idea that “stamina” is not a word  parents reference much to when talking about their concerns (“Stamina” (Part I)

This lack of stamina probably manifests in many different forms, much of which overlaps with some of the concepts of the popular term “executive function disorder.”.

While evaluating children I am always on the lookout for how quickly they may fall to answering “don’t know,” or giving up on a task.

Reading comprehension questions often reveal this style.

With factual questions (e.g., “How many ducks were on the pond?”) these can be quickly answered.  The answer is either known or it is not.  There’s no effort involved.

Inferential reasoning questions are a different matter.  The answer is not readily apparent.  Clues in the text  must be considered requiring a certain amount of what I call, “Hmm, let me think about it,” consideration before answering.

Usually, these are revealed in “Why” type of questions (“Why did the ducks leave the pond?).

Stamina (effort) is  required to answer such questions or complete challenging tasks where solutions are not readily apparent.  One must “tough out” the impulse to shrug and quickly give up.

One piece of advice for parents is to not dive in too quickly to offer help.

You might try and say something like, “You’re a big girl, I bet you can figure it out” may give the right message.  It conveys confidence that the child can figure it out, but that it may take some effort.

This issue of stamina is not just with schoolwork.

For example, I saw a mom readily help her child open  her snack bag while on  a break.  In spite of the fact that the child was perfectly capable of opening her bag, she was getting “help.”

As talked things over with the mom, I gently (I hope) chided her for helping her daughter too quickly.  The mom readily admitted to babying her too much rather than have her  “tough it out.”

I joked with the mom telling her not to worry that I would cure her of that problem quickly.

The mom took the chiding and said she would readily take on the mission and she was ready for the challenge.

Takeaway Point

Don’t be so quick to dive in.’


Copyright, 2022 www.shutdownlearner.com

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:  rselznick615@gmail.com

“Stamina?”

It’s always interesting to me how words or terms come in and out of favor.

When parents come in to talk about their children, “stamina” is a word that I don’t hear mentioned too often.

Parents will make reference to a child having difficulty with “executive functioning,” they rarely know what it means and when I press them a bit to explain further, they look at me a bit quizzically, like why am I asking that?

Take a snippet of a conversation I had recently.

“I think my kid has some type of executive function deficit,” said Martha, parent of a 9-year-old girl in the fourth grade.”

“How do you mean,” I ask.

“I don’t know,” Martha went on.  “The teacher said something about it, even though I wasn’t sure what it meant.  She also said she gives up quickly on tasks, which I see all the time.  I think it’s because all she does for hours each day is swipe on her screens. It’s Tik Tok and YouTube all day and night.”

“So, you’re telling me she can’t tough it out.  She lacks stamina.”

“Yeah, that’s it.  Why can’t people talk like that.  I wish they’d stop using all of the fancy terms – it’s always ‘disorder this’ or ‘disability that.’  No stamina…that’s it.  Is that a brain dysfunction?  My dad used to say I lacked ‘grit.’  Now that’s a word I never hear used anymore.”

Takeaway Point

For the moment, stay away from “brain-disorder” thinking. Reflect on the word “stamina” and whether this is an issue for your child.

(More next week.)


Copyright, 2022 www.shutdownlearner.com

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:  rselznick615@gmail.com

“Executive Functioning” – Are You Too Hot or Too Cold?

For those of you who follow this blog or read my other “stuff,” you know that my overall is to present to parents in down-to-earth, understandable terms, concepts that I think have become unnecessarily complicated.

“Executive Functioning” is a term I hear parents use a great deal, but when I ask them what they are referring to, I usually get a shrug and a look of confusion (even though they are pretty sure their child has it).

When it comes to “executive functioning,” here are few points to keep in mind:

Ship’s Rudder: Think of “executive functioning” like the rudder to a ship helping to steer things along.  For many kids they have firm “rudders” and their boat is well-steered. Tasks get started and finished.  Completing homework is no big deal.

For others, their rudder is quite floppy, which leads to floundering around and not staying on course.  Homework is rarely completed.  Basic tasks like walking the dog or putting things away are an enormous chore.

Late Maturing of the Rudder: For many of the students of concern (especially the boys), there is a late maturing of the “rudder.” Effectively, these children are not on the same timetable of school.

 Be careful with comparing your child to the average or the “norm,” as your child may be outside of the norm with the various executive functioning skills, such as task initiation and sustained effort.

The Goldilocks Rule and the 10% Standard: One of the toughest questions parents grapple with is how much they should be involved on a day-to-day basis.

Many parents that I meet (ok, the moms) are very involved with the child’s school work.  As the mom does everything she can to get the child to do their work, the child is ignoring it all while they are on TikTok, Youtube or whatever.

When it comes to parent involvement, I like parents to be thinking of the “10% solution,” which means that the parent should be approximately 10% or so involved.

The “Goldilocks Standard” is also something I mention when considering their involvement.

That is, if you are in too deep (i.e., the soup is too hot) then the kid will not be taking sufficient personal responsibility for things like homework.  Why worry about work if the parent is doing most of the worrying, anyway?.

On the other hand, if you are not involved  (i.e., the soup is too cold) with a weak-rudder type of child, then the child will flounder.

Takeaway Point

Try and find the sweet-spot of parental involvement – not too hot, not too cold, but just right and you will be on the path to helping move things forward.


Copyright, 2022 www.shutdownlearner.com (revised from 8/20/21)

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:  rselznick615@gmail.com

“P.A.D. – ‘Pain Avoidance Disorder’ & the Reality of School”

In the landscape of modern childhood there is something that I have come to call, “P.A.D.” or “Pain Avoidance Disorder.”

For children showing P.A.D., basic tasks/chores asked of them are viewed as enormous impositions and they will go to great lengths to sidestep the perceived discomfort.

Take, Callie a 9-year-old who begged her mother for two years to get a dog.

After about three months of having the dog, the novelty wore off and asking Callie to take the dog out for a walk upset her, as it interrupted her ongoing TikTok viewing.

“How could her mother dare interrupt her pleasure on TikTok?  Didn’t she know it was important,” was Callie’s thought process.

P.A.D. style children also have the notion that school should be fun most of the time.

While school has its fun, inevitably there will be hard work and periods of boredom.  As 11-year old Peter protests to his mother while playing Fortnite,  “School is so boring – I hate the work.  It’s just not fun.”

So, Peter largely avoids completing school work.

Similarly, 14-year-old Kyle offers a litany of complaints about the horrors of school, complaining that school is boring and not fun.

During a session  Kyle continues his complaining about the intensive boredom.

After a few minutes of listening to the complaining, I joke back at him and respond, “Wait! Stop.  I can’t listen anymore.  When was school ever fun? Since at least the year 1650 school’s always been a pain in the rear end (said differently), so why should it be any different now?”

I ask Kyle to translate to see if he understood what I said. “School sucks and it always sucked, Kyle translates.” “Brilliant analysis,” I tell him.

While laughing, he continues to tell me the horror of his teachers and why his classes are so terrible, trying to convince me that his problems are due to the teachers and the way they run their classes.

I continue poking fun at Kyle explaining to him about the law of averages regarding how many teachers out of five or six are going to be fun and entertaining.

I do my best to bring a dose of reality to his head, but it’s not making too much of a dent.

Takeaway Point

P.A.D. can run very deep especially when pleasure is at their fingertips throughout the day.  There’s a built-in reality to school and school work that needs to be understood to help these kids work through their issues.


Copyright, 2021 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:  rselznick615@gmail.com.

 

Executive Functioning & the Goldilocks Standard

My overall mission on www.shutdownlearner.com is to present to parents in down-to-earth, understandable terms, concepts that I think have become unnecessarily complicated.

“Executive Functioning” is a term I hear parents use a great deal, but when I ask them what they are referring to, I usually get a shrug and a look of confusion (even though they are pretty sure their child has it).

When it comes to “executive functioning,” here are few points to keep in mind:

Ship’s Rudder: Think of “executive functioning” like the rudder to a ship helping to steer things along.  For many kids they have firm “rudders” and their boat is well-steered. Tasks get started and finished.  Completing homework is no big deal.

For others, their rudder is quite floppy, which leads to floundering around and not staying on course.  Homework is rarely completed.  Basic tasks like walking the dog or putting things away are an enormous chore.

Late Maturing of the Rudder: For many of the students of concern (especially the boys), there is a late maturing of the “rudder.” Effectively, these children are not on the same timetable of school.

 Be careful with comparing your child to the average or the “norm,” as your child may be outside of the norm with the various executive functioning skills, such as task initiation and sustained effort.

The Goldilocks Rule and the 10% Standard: One of the toughest questions parents grapple with is how much they should be involved on a day-to-day basis.

Many parents that I meet (ok, the moms) are very involved with the child’s school work.  As the mom does everything she can to get the child to do their work, the child is ignoring it all while they are on TikTok, Youtube or whatever.

When it comes to parent involvement, I like parents to be thinking of the “10% solution,” which means that the parent should be approximately 10% or so involved.

The “Goldilocks Standard” is also something I mention when considering their involvement.

That is, if you are in too deep (i.e., the soup is too hot) then the kid will not be taking sufficient personal responsibility for things like homework.  Why worry about work if the parent is doing most of the worrying, anyway?.

On the other hand, if you are not involved  (i.e., the soup is too cold) with a weak-rudder type of child, then the child will flounder.

Takeaway Point

Try and find the sweet-spot of parental involvement – not too hot, not too cold, but just right and you will be on the path to helping move things forward.


Copyright, 2021 www.shutdownlearner.com  Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick. 

Not in the South Jersey area?  For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com.

Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up: My interview with Dr. Ellen Braaten

Processing speed isn’t a one-dimensional concept. It’s not just about how fast received, or how fast we write or how fast we can process what we’ve heard. It’s really a combination of all those factors. In fact, processing speed deficits can be observed in visual processing, verbal processing and motor speed. Problems in one or more of these areas can manifest and problems with academic fluency and general difficulties….In every day life there is a cost to processing everything more slowly.
My interview with Dr. Braaten will take place over two sessions. Within the first, she will discuss some of the more common variables with processing speed weaknesses and in the second, she will discuss different aspects of how parents and teachers can approach children with processing speed weaknesses.

Part I Dr. Ellen Braaten author of “Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up” discusses many of the signs and symptoms of children with “processing speed” or sluggish cognitive tempo. Dr. Braaten highlights the many factors that can affect processing speed and what to watch for at home and in the classroom

Part I

[podcast_episode episode=”5422″ content=”player”]

Part II

[podcast_episode episode=”5436″ content=”player”]

“What’s the Ratio?”

In the consulting done with parents regarding their children’s school issues, I often talk about the “ratio,” that is the percentage of parent involvement with homework and other school work.

Even though it goes counter to the approach often adopted by parents, I find myself governed by the basic principle, “Do not do for others what they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves.”

Using that as a guiding principle, the ratio I typically recommend is about 80 – 20.

In other words, a child should be able to manage about 80% of their school work on their own, with a relatively small percentage of parent involvement or support.

Of course, there will be exceptions and you will need to go task-by-task to determine whether what is being asked of the child is in their legitimate range of capability.

But, far too quickly without letting the child work through his/her own difficulty, the parent attempts to rescue the child from feeling a sense of challenge or discomfort with the work.

Let’s take young Maria, age 9, a fourth grader.  Complaining to her mom on a near daily basis that she, “hates homework, because it’s so boring,” Maria does anything to avoid doing her work.  Rolling around in the chair, flopping on the floor and sobbing hysterically, are common occurences.

While her mother is kicking out all kinds of energy to get the work done, Maria will pull out her phone (yes, she has a phone at age 9) playing games that she has installed there, as her mother has apoplectic fits.

After a great deal of arguing and tense back and forth, Maria’s work gets completed (largely by her mother) and Maria goes off to play games on her phone and iPad (the other device she got for the holidays).

Takeaway Point

Write down 80:20 and keep it visible in every room of the house as a reminder.

Remember, it’s called “homework.”  It’s not called “homeplay.”

And, yes, it can be very, very boring.


Copyright, 2021 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com.

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to https://shutdownlearner.com.

“But, I Have ‘FOMO'”

Mitchell, a 16 year old boy I work with was recently found by his parents to be using their credit card, let’s just say, a bit inappropriately.

In other words, he took their card without asking for permission, deciding he wanted to buy a video game to play with his friends.

Mitchell’s parents were rightfully upset about it.

When I asked Mitchell,  what was behind his thought process over the inappropriate use of the credit card, in sheepish tones, he said to me, “I don’t know…I guess I’m impulsive…I think I have ‘FOMO.’  Do you know what that is?  I think I was afraid of missing out with my friends.”  (“FOMO,” by the way is a slang term for “Fear of Missing Out.”)

I stared back at him in bemused bewilderment, letting some seconds go by.

Then in a teasing and somewhat mocking style, without skipping a beat I responded astonishingly,  “FOMO!!!!!,” I nearly shouted.  “Impulsive!!!!!  Don’t hand me that utter horse sh-t.!!!!!  Please stop blowing smoke up my ass!  (Yes, that’s what I said.)  And where did you get that word, ‘impulsive’?  Where’d you come up with that?  Do you know what impulsive means?”

Laughing, but somewhat stunned by my reaction, Mitchell mutters, “What do you mean I don’t have FOMO?”

I joke back, “You don’t have FOMO – you have a very different disorder.”

Now I have piqued Mitchell’s attention.  “Really?” he says curiously.  “What disorder do I have?”

“You have a bad case of  “IWWIWD,” I say, waiting for him to respond back.

“I never heard of that disorder.  What is that?  Is it related to ADD?” asks Mitchell, in tones showing deep sincerity to show me he really cares (not really).

“No.  It has nothing to do with ADD,” I tell him.

I continue.  “IWWIWD is a disorder plaguing many American kids.  The disorder leads them to do stupid things like take their parents’ credit card.   IWWIWD  is “I Want What I Want  Disorder.”    To be more accurate it’s I Want What I Want When I Want It Disorder.”  It’s shortened a bit to IWWIWD.  You can look it up in the psychology books,” I joke with him.

Falling out of his chair, laughing at what I’ve said to him, his reaction tells me I’ve hit him squarely between the eyes.  He knows I’ve nailed it.

Mitchell knows he has a bad case of IWWIWD.

Takeaway Point

Don’t let the smoke take over your thinking.


Copyright, 2020 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email:rselznick615@gmail.com.

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to https://shutdownlearner.com.

“What’s the Ratio?”

One of the biggest challenges in this business of struggling children is deciding what’s the ratio between a legitimate disorder of some kind or another and a child’s choice.

For example, homework or chore avoidance is frequently explained due to a disorder not allowing the child to complete the task.

Parents reveal the ratio as they say things like, “Well, he couldn’t help clean up his room last night because of his ADHD.”

While I am not denying the existence of disorders, I would encourage parents to question their ratios.

Recently, I had a talk with a dad, Gerald,  about his 8 year old daughter, Abbey, a third grader who has becoming increasingly challenging to manage.

As Gerald informed me, Abbey has been very “anxious” to the point where she can’t do things asked of her and that she might need medication.

“How do you know she’s anxious,” I ask him.

“Well, every time we start to do homework she starts crying and having a fit.  We try to find out  what’s wrong, but she will only say things like, ‘I’m scared.’  It’s the same when we want to put her to bed – she starts crying and having a fit.  Even when we ask her to put her clothes away, she starts whimpering on the floor, saying things like ‘I can’t do it.  I’m too scared.”

(At this point in the conversation, if I had a beard, I envision that I’d be stroking it trying to look as thoughtful as possible, as I’d be nodding and saying something like, “Hmmm…hmmm…” in curious and seemingly wise tones.)

I ask, “What do you do when all of this is going on?”

“Well, we comfort her, of course, and we tell her that everything’s going to be all right.  We do what we can to soother her.”

(I do my best not to roll my eyes.)

“Does she show this “anxiety” when she’s in school?”

The dad explains that pre-COVID and even with partial school attendance under the current conditions that Abbey has never shown any of her anxiety in school or in social situations.  It’s only at home.

Not being able to hold back further, I dive in.

“Look, Gerald.  What is the one thing that kids are driven by?  What is it that they want above all else?”

Gerald looks at me like I am a bit off center and he’s not really sure how to respond.  He says, “Well, they want to be loved, of course.”

In somewhat teasing tones, I respond, “Gerald…Gerald… I know they want to be loved. But, beyond being loved, what drives them?”

Gerald doesn’t know.

I say, “OK.  I will tell you.  It’s simple.  It’s one word… Pleasure!!!!  They want to have pleasure.  That’s it. Putting your clothes away and doing homework does  not give pleasure.”

When asked what about his ratio of Abbey’s anxiety to avoidance, Gerald admitted that he saw it as about 80% due to anxiety vs. avoidance.

If Abbey showed even a hint of anxiety in school, I might agree with him, but since she showed no anxiety anywhere else other than at home, I had a different ratio.

Looking at Gerald squarely, I offered a different perspective.

“Gerald, my ratio is pretty lopsided too….except mine is going 90/10.  That is 90% of the behavior you are seeing is Abbey’s attempt to avoid momentary pain (i.e.,  homework, putting clothes away) for pleasure.”

Takeaway Point

Gerald has been an all too willing fish, biting the bait whenever Abbey puts it on the hook.

Check out your ratios.

Maybe they are not what you think.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.


Copyright, 2020 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com

 

The Frustration of Nonchalance

Synonyms for “nonchalance:”   apathy, complacence indifference, unconcern, torpor

Antonyms for “nonchalance:”  concerned, interested, motivated

A parent came to talk to me about her 13 year old son, Aaron.  Previously “diagnosed” with ADHD of the inattentive variety, various stimulant medications have been tried with him without much benefit.

“Look,” the mom said, “I don’t really know if he’s ADD, the doctor spent about 15 minutes with us. I do know he’s nonchalant.  It’s like he’s just indifferent and it’s driving me up the wall.”

(Wow…  “nonchalant”….that’s a word I don’t hear very often, certainly not used in clinical terms or descriptions.  It’s funny how words fall out of favor.)

Upon meeting Aaron, I know exactly what the mom is saying.  It was a very long hour trying to find out what his point of view was on the topic.  It’s not easy to talk to someone who shows, indifference, apathy unconcern and torpor (i.e., nonchalance).

Essentially, Aaron had little to say with a fair amount of shrugging.

“All he cares about is his Xbox,” his mom almost shouted in the session.

The mom’s frustration brought to mind a famous short story I had read many years ago by Herman Melville, called  “Bartleby, the Scrivener.”  (“Scrivener,” talk about a dated word.)

As I recall, Bartleby was the 19th century version of a paralegal working in a law office.  Whenever he was asked to do something by his office superior, Bartleby had a standard response – “I would prefer not to.”  Bartley basically did nothing and just stared out the window ignoring his boss with nonchalant indifference.

This, “I’d prefer not to,” position made Bartleby’s boss bonkers.

A mom of a 17 year old I am working with asked her son to stop what he was doing for about an hour to help pull weeds in preparation of some landscaping.

Now, of course, the 17 year old felt he  couldn’t help because he was engaged in a very important activity  (that he had been doing for the previous nine hours ) “Grand Theft Auto”  on his Xbox and he basically told her, “No, I’d prefer not to.”

With his stance her anger thermometer rapidly rose.

Psychologists and other behavioral types will have all kinds of systems to try and get the motivation going in the right direction, but it’s a tough battle.

If you have a Bartleby type my best advice is to try and side-step the control battles  that inevitably ensue, as challenging as this may be may be.

While not getting into a control battle, you could also say to your 17 year old Bartleby in very direct tones,  “Look, you either pull the weeds or I am going to lock your Xbox away in a our safe until you have done what I asked  to my satisfaction.  It’s your choice.”

Takeaway Point  

Go buy a safe if you don’t have one.

They come in handy when you need them.


Copyright, 2020 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to https://shutdownlearner.com.

 

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