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Newsletter: How can I know for sure my child's executive function skills will improve? (March 29, 2024)

This week I had an epiphany.

I was speaking to a concerned parent about his child's executive function skills.

He was very interested in executive function coaching but was worried about the financial commitment and wanted to be sure the cost would provide him with a solid return on his investment.

He had so many great questions about our coaching process, which he admitted having taken from my guide to EF coaching.

As we neared the end of our call, I could tell he wanted me to promise our services would ensure his daughter would stop:

  • ...refusing to write down assignments in a planner

  • ...telling the father that she would talk to the teachers in class

  • ...saying the missing assignments were a "teacher error" and that they were already turned in

  • ...and more.

The only guarantees an EF coach can make

Throughout the conversation, I reiterated my core beliefs about EF coaching and what it offers:

  • An opportunity to invest in your child's planning, proactive communication, and prioritization skills

  • Support from an experienced educator who can provide you with unbiased and objective opinions about what your student is entitled to in their public school experience (and what you cannot expect)

  • A pathway to noticing and celebrating progress over perfection

Yet, I could tell this concerned father wanted more. He reframed his request for a guarantee in different ways:

What can you guarantee will happen through the process?

What happens if we are 60 days in and I’m not seeing exactly what I want?

How important are MY goals in the process? Can you ensure me MY goals will be met?

And then it hit me!

The only way to guarantee that your child develops executive function skills is to continually invest in executive function skills.

It's all about the commitment 💡

Let me explain.

How to continually invest in executive function skills

There are many ways you can invest in executive function skill development without spending a dollar. You're doing one right now.

You could also:

  • Watch YouTube videos on the subject by leading authorities like Dr. Russell Barkley, Dr. Peg Dawson, and Seth Perler.

  • Check out books from the library on the subject like How to ADHD and Extra Focus.

  • Attend a free or low-cost webinar through ADDitude or CHADD's websites.

These are all great "micro-commitments" you can make to invest in executive function skills for yourself and your family.

If you want to deepen your commitment, you could attend an intensive workshop run by a leading authority on executive function skills like Sarah Ward, Crista Hopp, or Dr. Lara Honos-Webb.

This would guarantee progress in the development of executive function skills in your family dynamic (to some extent).

And while there are a million other ways to "show up" and work on executive function skills, probably the most intensive commitment you can make, is to hire a trained and experienced executive function coach to work with your family and student to support the development of EF skills.

This will guarantee forward momentum OR clarity in determining that another pathway is needed (should EF coaching not resolve your dilemma).

But getting value from any of these commitments requires a mindset shift.

Why executive function coaching won't work for many parents

The itch that an executive function coach can never scratch is one felt by a parent who is perpetually dissatisfied with their child's performance.

Unfortunately, many parents live in a state of "lack," rather than one of abundance. It's not their fault.

The external world is designed to focus on lack, rather than "enough" or abundance. For example, in one of the most well-known descriptions of modern society's fixation on consumption, Paul Mazur of Lehman Brothers, back in 1927, wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture."

Naturally, this cultural inclination has impacted the way we live and parent, and from my vantage point, the idea that kids are "flawed" and need to be "fixed" runs rampant.

But how would you feel if someone in your family tried to find a coach that would "fix" your issues? Would you be on board with this arrangement?

I think you might not be...

How to make a mindset shift to improve EF skills

There is a simple and quick way to resolve this issue and it starts with you.

When you look at your child do you marvel at the extraordinary significance of you playing a key role in creating someone that lives, breathes, and makes their own decisions?

Or do you look at them and only see someone who cannot meet your parental expectations and must be "fixed"?

Your children are not your children.    

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.    

They come through you but not from you,    

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,    

For they have their own thoughts.    

You may house their bodies but not their souls,    

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.    

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.    

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

Next time you think about enrolling your child in something they "need," consider what level of commitment you are willing to make, first.

Perhaps, ask yourselves these questions:

Am I willing to be coached on how I can adjust to support my child's EF skills?

Am I willing to set aside 45 minutes a week to invest in developing my executive function skills so I can show up with more, skill, will, and patience?

Am I willing to be an engaged partner in whatever process I am considering for my child?

If your answer is "yes" to each of these questions, you are a good candidate for asking your child to commit to the process of EF coaching.

If your answer was "no" to any of those, this may be a good opportunity to reflect on your level of commitment before you require someone else's.

About the author

Sean G. McCormick is a former public school special education teacher who founded Executive Function Specialists to ensure all students with ADHD and Autism have access to high-quality online executive function coaching services. 

With this mission in mind, he then founded the Executive Function Coaching Academy which trains schools, educators, and individuals to learn the key approaches to improve executive function skills for students.

He is also the co-founder of UpSkill Specialists, a business with a mission to provide adults with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder, access to high-quality executive function coaching services that can be accessed through Self-Determination funding.

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About 👋

EFS started with one teacher deciding that kids with ADHD needed better access to quality executive function coaching services. Since then, we have grown to a team of specialists working both private students and public schools to enhance executive function skills for all students. 

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