Executive Function Coaching Saves Lives

Here’s is a recent report from Executive Function Coach and Trainer Erin Wilson:

“It was a Friday–I had just gotten home from school, the Seattle summer had started early, and I was exhausted. I was getting a popsicle out of the freezer and beginning to settle down when my phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize, but I had broken the rule of not giving my phone number out to students; so, student was my guess. I thought about ignoring it—Oh, come on! It’s Friday evening!—but I hit the green button anyway.

“It was one of my 17-year-old students who immediately started apologizing for bothering me, and talking of hanging up, but I kept him on the line. ‘No, I’m here. What’s going on?’ I asked.”

‘Well, I am on the Aurora Bridge and getting ready to jump, but I knew you would be mad at me if I didn’t talk to you before I jumped.’

‘Oh, gosh, Malcolm. Yes, indeed. Thank you for calling. I am here. Let’s figure this out together.’

A conversation ensued, at the end of which they agreed to go for milkshakes. She drove to the bridge and picked him up. Malcolm is still with us.

As unique as this conversation was, it is also typical. Malcolm meets with Erin once a week for executive function coaching. Erin mostly just asks questions: “What’s going on?” “How was your week?” How are you doing on your goal?” “What is your strategy?” “How is that working for you?” “What did you learn from that?” “What can you do differently?”

As unique as Malcolm’s problem is, it is also typical. So many kids in our schools are problems, or cause problems, feel they have a problem, told they have a problem. What was Malcolm’s problem? Was it dyslexia or ADHD? Was he a victim of high stress in the home or the neighborhood? Was he being bullied? Was it “Executive Function Disorder?” Suggest your favorite dysfunction.

Notice what bad habits we are in! It doesn’t really matter what “problem” he has or what his “learning difference” is, does it? Whatever the problem, he needs a partner who knows how to strengthen his executive function. Does he need better planning skills? Whatever. Whatever the matter is, he needs practice in owning his own brain, so he can own his own decisions, so he can own his own life.

What saved Malcolm’s life was not Erin’s personality, but a person who was trained to do what few people in schools are in the habit of doing: talking to students as if they are decision makers, as if they want to make a difference, as if they are leading their own lives. Each of us needs another person who acts as if the only thing that matters right now is the choices I make, and knows how to help me figure out the good ones.

Is any work in a school more important than this? How many “at risk” kids would be “at risk” if school were a place for learning to think? What would happen to our graduation rates if school focused everyone on maximizing internally motivated decision-making?


About the Author

Rick Ackerly is a nationally recognized educator, speaker and leadership coach with more than 40 years of experience in schools, 35 as head of school. He is the author of The Genius in Every Child: Encouraging Character, Curiosity and Creativity in Children. His blog is www.geniusinchildren.org.

Parenting Children with ADHD: 10 Lessons That Medicine Cannot Teach

Over the past 30 years, Dr. Monastra has treated more than 15,000 clients who have ADHD. In this important book he shares the knowledge he has gained. Engaging and straightforward, the book is directed at parents of children who have, or might have, ADHD. In a conversational style, Monastra offers a series of sequential lessons, beginning with the causes of ADHD and the most common medical treatments. He discusses all the relevant issues for parents, including psychological treatment, diet, educational laws, and practical coping strategies for both parents and children.

Dr. Monastra’s research examining the neurophysiological characteristics of children and teens with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as his treatment studies investigating the role of parenting style, school intervention, nutrition, and electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback in the overall care of patients with ADHD, is internationally recognized and has led to several scientific awards, including the President’s Award..

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What If? – I have ADHD but I don’t let it stand in my way

That phrase, spoken more than fifteen years ago by my then-ten-year-old son, still brings tears to my eyes. He wrote this to his teacher on the first day of fifth grade. She had given him a “get to know you questionnaire.” This was his answer to her final question, which asked the students if there was anything else she should know about them.

If only we could freeze those moments. I would love to say that he continues to feel that way all the time but that is not our reality. Having children with ADHD and other executive function-challenges can be compared to life on a roller coaster. As a retired teacher, guidance counselor, and now an ADHD/EF coach, I feel that my experiences have prepared me for the next stage of parenting. But it is not easy. I have come to realize that it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Most parents, after their child is diagnosed, feel that they need to solve the problem. They want to help their children overcome their disability and protect them from the world.   Frequently, we feel that we did something wrong, that we must fix the situation or find a magical answer. I was no exception. After researching this topic for many years and filling several rooms with books on ADHD, EF and positive psychology, I have come to the realization that the best gift we can give is to accept them for who they are.

We do not need to give up future plans for our children but we do need to accept them as they exist. We can be aware of their weaknesses and help them develop their strengths. As parents, we need to help them recognize that as they approach life differently, they can achieve their goals.

Those diagnosed with ADHD and EF challenges must learn to adapt to our competitive society and to appreciate themselves. We also must help professionals, family members and others to refrain from squeezing our square pegs into round holes. What if, instead, we delighted in their differences? As their parents and coaches, we have the power to concentrate on their strengths, provide support when needed, and most importantly, not allow them to use their diagnosis as a crutch.

If these children are brought up to recognize their gifts, just imagine what they could accomplish. If we help them recognize their situation as an opportunity to develop strategies that will allow them succeed, they will become stronger and more adaptable.

I can only imagine the number of negative verbal and non-verbal messages that these individuals receive on a daily basis. What if they could depend on their families to be supportive and their homes to be an oasis of positive reinforcement? What if they could trust our verbal and non-verbal communication would instill a sense of well being, rather than a source of shame and inadequacy?

What if we were able to accept the fact that we, as parents, do not have the power to fix our children or find a magic answer?

What if we concentrated on what we can control, and helped our children realize that they are creative, resourceful and whole? What if we helped them recognize that life is not black or white? What if we helped our children realize that because of their differences, not in spite of them, they have much to offer?

What if every individual diagnosed with ADHD and executive-functioning challenges could say: “I have ADHD but I don’t let it stand in my way.”

Written by: Cheryl Breining, LMSW, M.Ed, MS, ACC, CPCC, Edge Coach, Certified Life and Parenting Coach, The Life Coaching Corner Inc., Contact her atwww.thelifecoachingcorner.com.

Stop Underestimating Start Believing| Edge Coaching

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Ever wonder what it’s like to have the benefit of and ADHD coach?  Five students who are receiving Edge ADHD coaching recently shared what they like about it with us. Here are 5 great reasons to get an ADHD coach:

 Focus on what you need to do

“Making lists for weekly work and accomplishment really helped me focus on what I needed to do.  It made my exhibitions much better.  When I break down what I need to do each week, it makes it easier to think about each task and get it done quicker.”

–Jordan T.

Find your own answers

“[Recently my coach and I] had a talk about my personal life and really being truthful about what it came down to.  I made a goal for school because my attendance was bad.  So we made up this thing where I would text [my coach or teacher] when I came to school.  And, so, I’ve been texting her, letting her know.

“It gave me this push to start improving.  I loved seeing how my priorities all fell together, so while I was improving on one priority; it makes all the other priorities better too.  I loved the support and direction coaching gives me. You see, all of these goals kinda come down to my self-image… they reflect how I feel about myself. Jaymi didn’t give me answers.  She made me ask questions.  She made me get my own answers.”

–Alicia B.

Take ownership

“Coaching taught me that you have to take ownership of your work.  I couldn’t just tell Jaymi that I didn’t get something done.  She would then ask me, “why didn’t you get it done?” and then I would have to think about the ways that I think about myself.   She told me that I’m well-equipped to get the things done that I need to get done.  But it’s the personal qualities- time management, caring about myself, that allowed me to get done what I needed to get done.  Jaymi taught me that personal qualities are things I can build and develop about myself. “

— Stephen D.

Figure out your priorities

My coach really helped me figure out my priorities.  Each week, we make lists of tasks and named the positives and negatives of each task.  That helped me figure out what was important to me.  I love coaching!

— Kymberly G.

Organize your schedule

My coach helped me organize my academic schedule. Before I took coaching I was very disorganized and had no motivation. But my coach helped me gain confidence and helped me to become a better student who works harder and more focused than I did before.

— Rozzland K.

ADHD: a mental health risk?

“We have trivialized this condition.”

The latest research on ADHD reveals that it is a chronic health problem with almost 30% of children with ADHD still have symptoms as adults and have a much higher risk of mental health problems.

Are you surprised? This study, recently published in the Pediatrics journal stands out because it’s the largest of its kind and was conducted under the esteemed auspices of Boston Children’s Hospital and the Mayo Clinic. The study tracked 232 people who were born between 1976 and 1982 and were diagnosed with ADHD when they were children.

Other findings

  • Of those who still had ADHD as adults, 81% had at least one other psychiatric disorder.
  • Of those who no longer had ADHD, 47% had at least one psychiatric diagnosis.
  • Children with ADHD were nearly five times more likely to die from suicide than other people in the study group
  • More than 60% of kids with ADHD have a learning disability
  • Most children with ADHD develop at least one additional mental-health problem as children

More astonishing than the statistics was the statement by the study’s lead author William Barbaresi.  (Barbaresi is director of the Developmental Medicine Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.)

“We have to stop trivializing ADHD as just another childhood behavior problem. The nature and duration of this study show we have to recognize it as a chronic serious health problem that deserves a lot more attention than it has received.”

Researchers are using this study to call attention to difficulties parents face in finding treatment for their children. For example when a child is diagnosed with diabetes, insurance companies have authorized preventative evaluations for co-existing conditions such as kidney or eye problems.  When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, insurance companies will not authorize additional mental health assessments until the problem has already occurred.

Do you believe ADHD is a mental health issue? How do you feel when you see ADHD coupled with mental illness?  Sound off in the comments below.