Executive Dysfunction – Dad and Buried

Executive Dysfunction – Dad and Buried

Last week, I cleaned out my 11yo’s backpack.

Hold me.

The experience has me shook, and not just in the typical “middle-schoolers are disgusting” way (though he definitely is.) It’s actually got me worried about his future.

When Detective Munch was diagnosed with ADHD, @momandburied and I were introduced to so-called “executive functions,” i.e., adaptable thinking, planning, self-monitoring, self-control, working memory, time management, and organization.

We learned that ADHD interferes with those skills, which are essential to the everyday self-regulation most of us take for granted. Unfortunately, we clearly haven’t learned how to teach them.

This photo shows just a few of the papers I found crumpled up, folded, and covered in crumbs inside his bag: homework, in-class worksheets, even timely information he was supposed to relay to us. (This was our first time seeing them, of course!)

That wasn’t even close to everything. Before I took the photo, I’d already thrown out a ton, dumped 6 months’ worth of nasty snack residue, and put any remaining essentials into his binder.

Yes, he has a binder. We bought him one in September because binders are basic back-to-school gear – and because we know being well-organized is both paramount and problematic for an ADHD kid.

We should have known that a binder wasn’t going to solve things, just like repeatedly reminding him to complete his morning tasks doesn’t get us out the door any faster, and how scolding him for forgetting to do those things doesn’t help either. We need new tools.

He was diagnosed with ADHD four years ago (listen to my wife and I discuss the road to that diagnosis on my podcast) and there are still a lot of things we are struggling to manage. I often find myself worrying more about the emotional aspects (anxiety, low self-esteem) than the well-known concentration/hyperactivity factors – and then I open his backpack.

The scary part is: it’s only going to get harder.

As he progresses through school, having his shit together will be even more important. Eventually he’ll have to handle it all – his schedule, his schoolwork – on his own. Which makes it all the more important that we help him learn these skills now.

I think I’ll start by making him clean his own backpack.

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