Monday, June 19, 2017

executive functioning workbook for teens

Sharon A. Hansen penned a wonderful book for teenagers with executive function weaknesses, The Executive Functioning Workbook for Teens. Although this book will not provide all the tools, especially the motivation, to work on improving weak skills, it is a beginning.

The book opens with a letter to teens, inviting them improve their lives by learning skills they are not strong in. It is a welcoming, non-confrontational start. Then it moves to a brief checklist. As opposed to many other checklists I have seen and used it is brief. This one has four statements in each of 10 areas and youth are asked to circle the ones that describe them, such as I need to have directions repeated and I blurt out answers in class without being called on by the teacher. Then they can target the areas in which they circled 2 or more descriptors. If you were doing this with kids, I can see where it would take some degree of trust  to get accurate responses from them. Following the self-assessment are three activities per area to focus on. Each area of focus begins with a short vignette. These would be useful for getting buy in, a critical component for change. The exercises always begin with examining something not personal to the student- think about the story at the beginning, what might be some people's responses to these things. Then they move to the personal- what about in your life.

One thing that I think the book does not do well is demonstrate how long it can take to learn new skills and make a change. Although the beginning has a line about it takes 28 days to make a habit with a new skill, and for kids with a challenge in an area, it can take three times as long (p. x), it does not revisit that idea. One thing many people with executive function issues have is a lack of persistence. Developing ways to sustain the effort for three months or more is a daunting task and will require reinforcement and reminders. It showcases why even teachers who do a good job with initially teaching and reinforcing executive function skills have students that don't learn the skills- they are not reinforced long enough.

This book is going to be a useful tool to use with students, but the time component is one that I will need to keep in mind.

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