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Month: July 2020

Promoting your child’s executive functioning is the key to a successful summer.

Promoting your child’s executive functioning is the key to a successful summer.

Congratulations for making it through the most restrictive part of lockdown and for becoming a fully-fledged master of the homeschool-work-homelife juggle. The last few months have been extremely challenging for parents and we anticipate that the summer holidays will be a much-needed break for the whole family.

We now know that children, especially if they have developmental, emotional and/or executive function challenges (including those with ADHD and ADD), benefit from consistent routine and structure even throughout the summer holidays1. Research has indicated that during the summer, without this consistent structure, many children lose the gains they made in strengthening their executive functions over the course of the school year. In some cases, children can actually regress which sets them back when starting back at school, a term known as ‘summer learning loss’2. Supporting their executive functioning development during the summer is one of the ways you can minimise this3.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of maintaining consistent structure and routine can reduce tantrums, anxiety and oppositional behaviour whilst supporting their executive function development4. This is important as executive functions are a strong predictor of school readiness – even more so than entry-level maths, reading and IQ5! So, keeping on track can be rewarding for the whole family and can reduce difficulties in the transition back into a school routine come September.

What are executive functions?

Executive functions is a broad term used to describe the set of cognitive processes required to prepare and execute tasks and goal-directed behaviours5. These include skills such as sustained attention, working memory, organisation, planning and prioritisation – to name a few! As executive functions play a key role in your child’s development and their success into adulthood, it is crucial to support the development of these skills in early years, both during the academic year and in the summer holidays.

Take a look at our resource below which explains some more of the skills that can be affected by executive function challenges. If you would like access to more free resources like this then make sure you become a member of our executive function support groups for parents where we will be providing some valuable resources on activities, tips and advice on how to engage with and support your child’s executive functions over the summer.

Everyone has their own executive function profile which is made up of different strengths and challenges. Take our Executive Function Questionnaire to find out what your executive function strengths and challenges are, what you can work on and how!

As a parent, how can I support my child’s executive functioning?

Plan your summer.

Planning out your summer activities will give you all something to look forward to. For example, use a visual planner and pin it on the wall in a communal family area. We recommend spending some time the evening before discussing and identifying how long these activities will take. This is a simple exercise that can strengthen their time management and planning and prioritisation skills and will set their expectations for the next day. This will also help your children understand and appreciate what you need to do in terms of managing work, home life and family time whilst teaching them about compromising, commitments and supporting their flexibility and metacognition executive functions6.

If you are dreading the thought of planning out over a month of activities then visit the Connections in Mind Pinterest account which is full of executive function boosting activity boards!

Cook.

You don’t need to reproduce school conditions in order to support your child’s executive functioning. Learning to cook is a foundational life skill that can be taught at home and can also be a lot of fun! Selecting a menu, preparing dishes and cleaning up after meals involve important executive function skills such as planning, prioritisation, organisation and goal-directed persistence7. You can also create visual checklists and have your child check off each stage as they prepare and cook the meal.

At the end, we recommend using the  ‘What Went Well’ and ‘Even Better If’ approaches to reflect on the cooking session. This encourages problem-solving, metacognition and will motivate them to improve their culinary skills and continue cooking!

Routines and structure.

Although you might want to offer more flexibility in your routines in comparison to the school year, the more your children stick to a familiar routine the easier it will be for the whole family throughout the summer holidays and in September. The benefits of maintaining these routines and implementing structured activities that encourage creativity can also help teach children about responsibility and support their response inhibition executive function.

Maintaining routines can include consistent times for waking up, getting dressed, eating meals and going to bed.  In fact, research has shown that change in the structure can be difficult and can cause confusion and stress in children4. Of course, it is still important to take some time for spontaneous activities but try and keep to a familiar routine to minimise stress-levels for everyone!

How can Connections in Mind help?

We have recently launched cimlearning.com which is our new online learning platform and is also the home to our Connected Minds Parent course. This course is a self-paced, online development course that gives parents practical strategies to help them build strong, healthy relationships with their children. 

This course uses a neuroscientific approach which provides the foundation for parents to manage their children’s behaviour with more confidence. Parents will gain a better understanding of how supporting their child’s cognitive functioning will increase their child’s future success in school and in life. Hear from the course facilitator Imogen Moore Shelley in her informative video.

Who are Connections in Mind?

At Connections in Mind, we are a team dedicated and caring executive function and ADHD coaching experts. Through our coaching programmes for young children and teenagers, our coaches combine their expertise and knowledge acquired through experience and education with strategies based on the latest empirical research to create bespoke coaching programmes tailored to individual client needs.

What can Connections in Mind offer?

Whether your child or teen is struggling with organisation, time-management or emotional control, they can work one to one with one of our amazing coaches to address their executive function challenges and develop new strategies so that they can flourish personally and academically. Watch our video for Executive Function Adventures (for younger children) or find out a bit more about our Coaching for independent Learning programme (12 years+).

Book a free 30 minute consultation call

Seeking additional support can also reduce tensions in relationships and create a happier and calmer household. If you would like some more information about the Connected Minds Parent Course or would like to discuss the range of bespoke coaching programmes we have to offer for your child or teen, book a free consultation call with Sarah, one of our executive function coaching experts today. You can watch our client testimonials here.

By Rebecca Tyler, Connections in Mind

References

1Arlinghause, K. R., & Jognston, C. A. (2019). The importance of creating habits and routine. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 13 (2), 142-144.

2McEachin, A., & Atteberry, A. (2017). The impact of summer learning loss on measures on school performance. Education Finance and Policy, 12 (4), 468-491. 

3Finch, J. E. (2019). Do schools promote executive functions? Differential working memory growth across school-year and summer months. AERA Open. https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858419848443

4Harris, A. N et al. (2013). Child routines and parental adjustment as correlates of internalizing and externalizing symptoms in children diagnosed with ADHD. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 45, 243-253. 

5Diamond, A. (2013). Executive FunctionsAnnual Review of Psychology, 64, 135-168.

6Gauvain, M., & Huard, R. D. (1999). Family interaction, parenting style, and the development of planning: A longitudinal analysis using archival data. Journal of Family Psychology, 13 (1), 75-92.

7Doherty, T. A., Barker, L. A., Denniss, R., Jalil, A., & Beer, M. D. (2015). The cooking task: making a meal of executive functions. Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00022

The ADHD Brain: How to get the most out of your teen

The ADHD Brain: How to get the most out of your teen

Being a parent to a teen with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be an extremely rewarding experience; their boundless energy, personalities, creativity and the drive of their hyperfocus which can be a powerful advantage if channelled in an effective way.

However, as we all know, teen years are a really challenging time of life with lots of hormonal changes and life transitions. Forming self-identity, planning for the future and moving towards a more independent life are just some of those bigger transitions. For teens with ADHD, these changes and transitions can seem overwhelming with greater highs and lows in comparison to their peers1

ADHD and executive functions

It is well understood that ADHD symptoms are strongly related to deficits in executive function skills2. These executive functions are a set of mental skills in the brain that enable us to manage our thoughts, behaviours and emotions. For teens with ADHD, this means that they can find it difficult to regulate their behaviour, take on responsibility, set and achieve goals and function independently. Understanding what is going on in your teen’s brain can help you identify their executive function challenges so that you can support them in their journey through adolescence towards happiness and success.   

What are executive functions?

Executive functions are a set of mental processes that help us with daily skills such as prioritising, filtering out distractions and controlling our impulses and emotions. Residing in one of the most evolved brain regions known as the prefrontal cortex in the frontal lobe, these skills work together to control all of our thoughts, emotions and behaviour3. Our executive functions include skills like working memory, organisation, time-management and goal-directed thoughts. 

If you want to find out what your executive function strengths and challenges are, then take our Executive Function questionnaire.

Do ADHD symptoms present in the same way during childhood and adolescence?

During the teen years some of the symptoms and associated behaviours of ADHD, particularly those related to hyperactivity, can become more subtle4. However, the other pronounced symptoms such as impulsivity and inattention can mean that teens find it difficult to cope with frustration and progress academically. Other common challenges include emotion management and working memory which can lead to problems with social relationships, home life and decreased confidence and self-esteem5,6.

Why does this happen?

Delayed frontal lobe maturation is common in ADHD which often results in children and adolescents having delayed development in their executive functioning in comparison to their peers6,7. Research has shown that maturation can be delayed by up to 5 years8 meaning that teens with ADHD differ in maturity levels and are often a few years behind in terms of cognitive and emotional development in comparison to their peers. Be mindful of this when you find yourself in conflict with your teen!

Neuroplasticity

As many parts of the adolescent brain are still maturing, your teens brain is at an all important stage of neuroplasticity . Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to structure and organise itself through its environment by forming neural pathways. The stronger the neural  pathway, the stronger the attitude, habit or belief9

The good news is that your teens’ brain has much more plasticity than yours or mine. In fact, during our 20s our brains stop forming natural neural pathways which means that our habits, biases and attitudes are harder to change10. However, your teens brain is primed to change, adapt and respond to their environment through a process of strengthening and accelerating neural pathways between brain regions. So, when you feel particularly challenged by your teen, just remember that they are able to adapt their attitudes and improve their executive functioning because their brains have a high plasticity.

How will this support my teens executive function development?

As executive functions underpin all behaviour, emotions and thoughts, harnessing their executive functions is so important. All you need is the right strategies. That’s why we have created our online Executive Function Support Group for Adults and Parents which is full of executive functions strategies to help your teen, and even yourself, succeed and flourish. We highly recommend watching our short video which explains neuroplasticity in simpler terms. 

How can Connections in Mind help?

At Connections in Mind, we are a team dedicated and caring ADHD and executive function coaching experts. Through our Coaching for Independent Learning programme, our coaches combine their expertise and knowledge acquired through experience and education with strategies based on the latest empirical research to create bespoke coaching programmes tailored to individual client needs. Whether your teen is struggling with organisation, time-management or emotional control, they can work one to one with one of our amazing coaches to address their executive function challenges and develop new strategies so that they can flourish personally and academically. 

Book a free 30 minute consultation call

Seeking additional support can also reduce tensions in relationships and create a happier and calmer household. To help you understand the coaching process and to find a bespoke programme that works for your teen, or even yourself, book a free consultation call with Sarah, one of our executive function coaching experts today. You can watch our client testimonials here.

By Rebecca Tyler, Connections in Mind

References

1Gotlieb, E. M., & Gotlieb, J. S. (2009). Helping adolescents with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder transition toward adulthood. Adolescent Medicine, 20, 203-222.

2Rapport, M. D., Orban, S. A., Kofler, M. J., & Friedman, L. M. (2013). Do programs designed to train working memory, other executive functions, and attention benefit children with ADHD? A meta-analytic review of cognitive, academic, and behavioural outcomes. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(8), 1237-1252.

3Diamond, A. (2013). Executive FunctionsAnnual Review of Psychology, 64, 135-168.

4Resnick, R, J. (2005). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in teens and adults: They don’t all outgrow itJournal of Clinical Psychology, 61(5), 529-533.

5Rinsky, J. R., & Hinshaw, S. P. (2011). Linkages between childhood executive functioning and adolescent social functioning and psychopathology in girls with ADHD. Child Neuropsychology, 17(4), 368-390.

6Shaw-Zirt, B., Lehane-Popali, L., & Chaplin, W. (2005). Adjustment, social skills, and self-esteem in college students with symptoms of ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 8(3), 109-120.

7Shaw, P., Eckstrand, K., Sharp, W., Blumenthal, J., Lerch, J.P., Greenstein, D., & Clasen, L. (2007). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is characterised by a delay in cortical maturation.

8Kakuszi, B., Szuromi, B., Bitter, I., & Czobor, P. (2020). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: Last in, first out – delayed brain maturation with an accelerated decline? European Neuropsychopharmacology, 34, 65-75.

9Rossignoli-Palomeque, T., Perez-Hernandez, E., & Gonzalez-Marques, J. (2018). Brain training in children and adolescents: Is it scientifically valid? (2018). Frontiers in Psychologyhttps://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00565

10Pauwels, L., Chalavi, S., Swinnen, S. P. (2018). Ageing and brain plasticity. Ageing, (10) 8, 1-2.

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