Lecture on “executive function” draws 125 attendees

Posted Feb 16 2012

Monday night’s Parents’ Association presentation by Georgia Bozeday, director of educational services at the Rush NeuroBehavioral Center, drew a record crowd. Here are some highlights and additional reading:

Ms. Bozeday addressed the role of “executive function” in relation to a child’s confidence and academic success. Executive function is the broad term used to describe an array of skills (that may or may not come naturally to any given person) including: time management skills, focusing and maintaining attention, organizational processes, self-regulation, problem solving, and others.

Members of the PA summarized some of the key points made by Ms. Bozeday:

  • Organization translates to less anxiety. This includes organized lockers, backpacks, and desks. Mastery of executive function skills is a better predictor of success in school than IQ. Organizational tools include color-coding, bullet points and categories, and all things that help the brain discover relationships.
  • Put away the distractions—cell phones, iPods, anything that will keep students from concentrating solely on their work. There is evidence that increased media use reinforces immediate rewards, breadth over depth, and has resulted in an overall decrease in our attention span.
  • Despite the fact that we perceive ourselves to be more efficient with these tools, we are actually less productive, as the brain cannot process two things at the same time. (And this in a world where the average person checks his email/text messages every 20-30 seconds.) And 72 percent of kids ages 13–18 reported sleeping with their cell phones and being awakened by late-night text messages. Continuously being awakened prevents the brain from going into REM stage, which is critical to feeling rested and for the development of the brain.
  • Creativity and ingenuity require uninterrupted time to think, explore, and problem-solve. (Being bored can turn out to be a good thing!)
  • Planning is essential. Effectively use the week-at-a-glance planner by listing the date homework is given and the date it is due (if not next day) and prioritizing homework by urgency and importance.

Parent Barbara Kern who helped organize the event in her role as co-chair of LD@Lab and PA co-president-elect, says, “The message I walked away with was that teaching a child to be organized and thoughtful is how they plan short and long term tasks; [even simple ones] will help ensure success later in life.” She plans to implement some of the suggestions at home for both her children and herself, “I already changed my Outlook calendar to a weekly view, not daily.”

For additional reading, Ms. Bozeday recommends:

  • The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr
  • Mindset, The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck
  • Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn, by Larry D. Rosen

More information can be found at the RNBC website and in reports from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds, also offers interesting insights.

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