Have you ever seen cartoons where they depict the brain as an office with each employee in charge of different functions? The executive functions of the brain are in charge of networks responsible for time management, emotion regulation, and planning ahead. Teens with executive functioning disorder have bosses in these areas, but they have trouble staying on task. This can create problems at home and in their everyday lives.
What is Executive Functioning Disorder?
Problems with executive functioning are common in teens with anxiety disorders, ADHD and autism. They may be better at some executive functions than others, but they struggle with multitasking and putting things together. While they are often identified in elementary school, the stress of adolescence and increasingly difficult academic coursework, executive functioning problems can escalate in teen years.
Signs of executive functioning problems may include:
- Trouble following directions
- Gets distracted easily
- Gets frustrated easily
- Frequent tantrums over things that seem minor
- Difficulty with flexibility
- Struggles with taking initiative
- Focuses on small details but has trouble seeing the bigger picture
- Has trouble working in groups
- Tends to be impulsive
Be willing to listen. School may be a more obvious area where they are struggling and it is easy to see academic performance in terms of black and white. Do not approach the situation with a “here is what you have done wrong” attitude. Ask how they’re feeling, what they want, and how you can help. Problems with executive functioning are often internalized and affect their self-esteem.
Help them identify their strengths. While their executive functioning skills may affect their performance on some tasks, it is not a reflection of their overall academic abilities or personality. Instead of focusing on limitations, consider what other areas they feel passionate about that make them feel more confident.
Look for additional resources. Collaborate with their teachers and other professionals to come up with individualized plans to help them succeed in school and in relationships. As a parent, you are not expected to know all the answers.
New Focus Academy Can Help
New Focus Academy is a residential treatment center for boys ages 12-18 who struggle with executive functioning and neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism. The program utilizes positive reinforcement to increase the student’s self-esteem and independence. The skills they learn at New Focus will help them learn to have positive social interaction, organization, and improve their self-management skills. We offer individualized classroom instruction in a small and nurturing environment that gives students the opportunity to gain the confidence they need to excel in and out of the classroom.
For more information about executive functioning disorders in teens, call (844) 313-6749 . We can help your family today!