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Teaching executive skills

Posted by on Oct. 25, 2011 at 10:28 AM
  • 13 Replies

My high school daughter is ADD and her biggest struggle is in learning and applying what are called "executive skills" - organization, planning, responsibility, time management, etc. Academics come easy (she falls into the gifted IQ range), but these other skills have never come to her, despite everything we've done to try to teach her.

Now she has received failing grades in two of her classes and though both teachers tell me that she understands the material, the problem is simply the day-to-day work of getting things done and turned in correctly and on time. Writing the best paper in the world doesn't mean anything if you don't start it until the day it's due and turn it in a week late.

So now I'm considering pulling her out to homeschool her, but I need to make the case for DH that keeping her home is somehow going to teach her those skills so that when we send her to college, she'll be able to succeed.

How can I teach those skills at home when I haven't been able to get her to learn them until now, with the teachers on my side?


Wife, Mom, Author

by on Oct. 25, 2011 at 10:28 AM
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by on Oct. 25, 2011 at 10:58 AM

 hmmm could you give her a list each day of what needs to be done and let her check it off when its done?

i dont know how to teach an add person, so just guessing here!

heres a site for younger kids with add, but there might be some pointers here?  and

by on Oct. 25, 2011 at 12:11 PM

 This is a problem for kids on the Autism spectrum as well & I deal with it everyday with my 18 y/o son that has Autism. You have to try everything like list, schedule, timers, etc..... until you find what works for her.

I would love to tell you that something has worked for my son but alas we are still looking for that magical way for him, but we know what doesn't work & what not to try & that is helpful to know when trying to figure out what will.

by on Oct. 25, 2011 at 12:37 PM

Honestly, this is who she is. She may always struggle with this is some way. And if she is not motivated to change by facing consequences, such as failing, then nothing YOU do will make her motivated. The best thing you can do is provide her with the best learning environment for developing the tools SHE needs to overcome this. And, in my opinion, homeschooling is it. I think she will thrive from homeschooling because she is only competing with herself. And whether she suceeds or not is really up to her, both in her daily work and long term.

by on Oct. 25, 2011 at 1:03 PM
First let me say I can COMPLETELY relate to your daughter. I had the same exact issues in school. I got by on test scores alone- you can't forget to turn in a test!

Oredeb was on the right track about the lists. But don't GIVE them to her- have her make them herself. Coming up with what she needs to do herself and writing it down herself will help it "stick." The other thing that helped me was making schedules. I am completely unable to predict how long any one activity will take- even if I do it everyday. I HAVE to time it and write down the time in order to know how long something takes. When I realized that timing/scheduling helped I spent a week or two timing EVERYTHING and writing down the times (brushing my teeth, doing my hair and make up, showering, eating, driving to school, driving to work, EVERYTHING). Once I knew how long each thing took me, I made the time to plan. Before bed I would right down what I needed to do in the morning in the order that they needed to get done. I'd write down how long each thing took and determined what time I needed to get up. Then I'd pick out an outfit for the next day because that always took the longest. After I became confident with the routine, I didn't have to keep such meticulous schedules- I could make a general list that sat on my night stand and worked for everyday. If something came up that wasn't part of my routine (like needing to pick up a friend before school, or print a paper in the morning, etc) I stuck a post it on my nightstand.

If you want to homeschool, my best advice would be DON'T DO IT FOR HER. Supervise her to keep her on track but DON'T DO IT FOR HER. Taking over would be the biggest disservice you could possibly do for her. The only way she'll grow those executive functioning abilities is if she works on them herself.

The best way to describe it is that people like us don't form linear thoughts, rather we form thought webs. Linear thoughts don't come naturally, but we can find those paths in our minds and the more we travel along them, the clearer they become. It takes work. A lot of work at first. But eventually it will come more and more naturally and she'll be able to find a balance that suits her.

If you have any specific questions or just want to vent (or even if she wants to talk to someone who truly knows what it's like) feel free to pm me. I also wrote a journal awhile back about my journey with EF issues, as well as what it's been like seeing the same characteristic in my own daughter.
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by on Oct. 25, 2011 at 1:14 PM

I know what she's going through, too, because I lack a bunch of these skills myself. It took years for me to learn to keep up with things that other people just do because that's the order you do things in. I just don't want for her to struggle for decades to figure it out like I had to.

Honestly, part of my struggle here is that because I'm the same way she is, the idea of homeschooling - especially for a college track where things have to be done and recorded and organized and tracked - is terrifying. What if *I'm* part of the problem, rather than able to help her find a solution?

I just got an e-mail from her Geometry teacher that she doesn't take notes and rarely does the assignments. But she was getting a B until the last assignment she didn't turn in. I have to say, the school is not the problem. They've been great about communicating with me and trying to get everyone on the same page. It's simply that because she can't seem to keep up with the daily tasks and see the big picture, Claire is the square peg.

I just want to give her the chance to succeed, rather than watching her fail over and over because she doesn't have a set of skills that everyone else seems to have.

by on Oct. 25, 2011 at 1:46 PM
That fear of being inadequate and falling behind organizationally is a huge part of why I chose to unschool. There's only a certain amount of planning/organization I can achieve while maintaining my sanity (admittedly, that amount was much high before I had kids). I would say it's certainly something to look into, but it's not for all families. Depending on her personality and your family dynamic, public school might be a better fit. If you tend to be at odds with each other, or butt heads homeschooling could end up doing more harm than good. Either way, it might be helpful to talk to another adult she looks up to- someone she respects and wants to make proud. They could help provide support, as well as hold her accountable in a loving way.

If she doesn't *want* to make any changes though, don't stress yourself over it (easier said than done, I know). But it's the type of thing she has to WANT in order for it to work. My mom is one of those people who never had a problem with the way she is (her ADD is pretty severe though. I know she noticed the issues it causes, but I don't know she has the focus to really come up with any solutions.). Honestly, seeing her not care about those issues made me want to deal with my own so much more. I saw that other people were frustrated by her constant tardiness, I saw people hesitate to depend on her for help if their was a deadline involved because they weren't sure she could pull it off. I did NOT want people to feel like that about me. I wanted to be dependable and helpful, rather than a hindrance.

If she does want to try to make improvements, then do what you can to help facilitate those changes, but encourage her to explore on her own. She knows how her mind works better than anyone- she'll be able to figure out what will and won't work with her. If she decides to walk that path, it might be helpful to see you working on it yourself- kinda like a workout buddy. Lol!

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by on Oct. 26, 2011 at 10:08 AM

Songbird, thank you so much for your posts. I've been thinking a lot about it and for now, I think we'll stick with keeping her in school and I'll just have to be better about making sure she has the lists, planners, tools, etc that she can use to stay on track.

I do believe she WANTS to succeed, she just doesn't see how the big picture works, or how to get to the goal line. The goals are too far in the future to be important today, but she also doesn't get how you *have* to take those small, linear steps to get there. As you mentioned, she doesn't do linear. :)

Her Honors class teachers are great about putting up the homework and class schedules on their websites, so I can keep track and help DD to keep on top of the daily work. It's as much work for me as it is for her, so we're both striving. But we'll make it.

Again, thank you so much for sharing your experience, thoughts and encouragement!

by on Oct. 26, 2011 at 10:30 AM

 thank you moms, ive learned a lot about add from your posts! thanks very informative,

by on Oct. 26, 2011 at 9:05 PM
I'm so happy to be able to help! Like I said, feel free to pm me if you have anymore questions or even if you just need to vent.
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by on Oct. 27, 2011 at 9:14 PM

I am waiting for a book to arrive in the mail called Driven to Distraction.  It is concerning adult add, and was recommended to me by my counselor.  I am finally getting the diagnosis I need so i haven't read it yet, but she said it is very good, and it may help your daughter as she is older. 

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