What do ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s, and Many Teens Have in Common?

 In ADHD, Mental Health Therapist, School & Behavior Issues

Do you see your adolescent as disorganized and forgetful of tasks?  What about having a hard time learning to stop himself (impulse control)?  Does she seem to repeat the same mistake?  Well, don’t worry, it only lasts until they are 25 years old!  That is to say, unless…we intervene and help with executive function skills.

What are Executive Function Skills?

What these varied groups of people may have in common is a weak executive function system.  They need learn how to meet and keep friends.  What is executive function?  The set of skills using the front part of our brain, known as the prefrontal cortex, is referred to as executive function (EF).  According to Peg Dawson and Richard Guare (2010), EF is a neuropsychological concept.  For example, high-level cognitive processes involved in tasks of planning and directing activities are considered to be EF skills.  Impulse control, getting started with a task, and staying on task are a few examples of executive function skills.   Getting ready in the morning, completing long-term projects, skills of organizing, and learning to control emotions are other executive function skills that can be taught by a behavioral therapist.

Can These Skills Be Learned?

One of my core beliefs when I was teaching was that anyone can learn whatever they want to learn.  Where there is a will, there is a way.  While there may be a few exceptions in cases of significant learning disabilities, the good news is that these executive function skills can be taught and learned!  Adolescents (and adults) can learn to be flexible.  Many specialty schools include executive function skills in their curriculum beginning in kindergarten.

The Carrot or the Stick?

Some parents have said to me that their child can have the X Box back when all their grades are As and Bs.  As a mental health therapist, I know that such a potential reward may be too far into the future to be effective.  A frustrated child needs to have the opportunity get a reward as soon as possible after successfully completing a small task.  Yes!  Repeatedly giving rewards can be exhausting, but it is only temporary.  In the long run, however, rewards or praise will be able to be given less frequently.  We always want to provide the least amount of support possible, which is a very difficult point to find.

To Schedule Mental Health Therapy

I you feel your child might need help in any of these areas, including ADHD therapy, please contact me at 704-457-1789 to schedule a free, fifteen-minute consultation.   Or email me at jeff@jeffsartofempathy.com.

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