Dear Parents and Colleagues– I want to share this letter I received from one of our parents who brings her elementary school aged son to us to help with his executive functioning, anxiety and behavior challenges, I think many of you can relate. Dr. Nach, Pres., Support for Students Growth Center
May 5, 2020
Growing up and into my adult life, I took the ability to plan, organize, and execute tasks for granted. This came naturally to me so I assumed that it also came naturally to everyone else. It wasn’t until my son was born that that I began to see things differently. My son is extremely bright, but he has his challenges. As he grew older and school became more difficult, he began to exhibit an increase in non-compliant behavior and have tantrums in school. His teachers and school administrators worked with us to try to determine what was triggering his behaviors and develop strategies to overcome them. The strategies developed helped to improve some of the behaviors but he was still struggling with controlling his outbursts in class. I knew he was able to do the work and began to suspect his behavior was manifesting as a result of anxiety.
The recent school closures due to COVID-19 and working with my son through eLearning was an eye opener. I began to see firsthand how he approached his school work, what triggered his non-compliant behavior, and what his coping mechanisms were. When given an assignment where he was asked to provide answers that required more than a single sentence or where he had to give examples and provide evidence from text he read or different sources, he would stare at the blank sheet of paper in front of him and not know where to begin. I witnessed him grow increasingly frustrated and agitated with himself and the assignment. This would inevitably result in a tantrum. When the tantrum passed and he was ready to return to work, I would sit with him and ask him questions to draw the information out and organize his thoughts. It was apparent that he understood the assignment, had the information needed, and knew what he wanted to say. What he couldn’t do, was get his thoughts out or get them organized. Then it clicked. He wasn’t lazy, bored in class, or a behavior problem. He was frustrated and did not know how to figure out a solution. What I took for granted and came so easily to me was a struggle for my son. I realized that not everyone has strong executive function skills. How could it be expected of him to be able to plan, organize, or structure his thoughts when he has never been taught how to do this? I am grateful for this realization as now I know how to help my son and find resources that will empower him.