I’ve been thinking a lot about brains lately.
It’s a side effect of having a child with brain issues.
I’ve begun to wonder if the primary focus of brain training should primarily be to train the executive function.
Because if you’ve got that you can overcome pretty much any handicap.
Barbara Arrowsmith-Young is a good example of this. She was born with brain asymmetry — very disabled in some regards, very able in others. And one of the ways in which she was ‘able’ was in her executive function. So, she was still able to get a post-graduate degree despite the fact that she had to read and re-read material many times because one of her dysfunctions made finding main points difficult. Her memory was excellent though. So, my bet is that she essentially memorized everything in order to pass her examinations. She then went on to invent a whole new way of dealing with learning disabilities by curing herself (and continues to help thousands of kids with learning disabilities through her Arrowsmith Program).
But what would have happened to her had her executive function been the part of her brain that was on the disabled side of her brain equation?
Similarly, I find that when my kids WANT to do something, they can get good at it. But if I have to be their outside executive function and do all the planning, scheduling, marshalling resources, focusing attention, nagging, monitoring and policing, well, I’m just driving everyone (myself included) crazy and we’re not making much headway.
Example: for years, I’ve been nagging my two older kids to read. I’ve read to them, we’ve sat down to read through children’s classic literature together, I’ve bought them beautiful editions of books, I’ve refused to let them see the movie versions until they read the book. All for naught. Because it was all about my agenda. But once they decided there were books they wanted to read, then I didn’t have to nag once. They went and did it, forsaking television, their homework, even bugging their baby brother. They got involved in the magic of that storybook world.
Leading me to my ultimate parent realization…
It’s much easier to be a good parent when your kids WANT to do something.
The trick is in getting to the wanting.
Which leads me back to my original thought. Don’t we need to train the executive function of the brain first? Because if my kids WANT to solve their brain puzzles, then there will be no stopping them. And they would also then have the brainpower to strategize, to work through the hard places, to keep focusing on achieving that goal. They wouldn’t be doing because “Mom said I had to.”
Fast ForWord is another example of this. My daughter loved doing it because she was actually quite good at it. The programme is motivating with all the reward pellets it hands out. So, as a result she moved it through it at a really good clip. My son on the other hand didn’t like doing it, so it became a battle of wills to get him on that computer. So, he moved through it at about half the rate at which my daughter moved through it. There were still good results, but if he had been self-motivating, he would have done better.
My daughter desperately wants to be on stage. But because her executive function is impaired, she can only see the final goal–being in that spotlight in that fantastic costume with the audience applauding wildly. She doesn’t want to believe me when I tell her that we need to get her to dance class, to singing class, to acting class, that she will need to PRACTICE. And so, I’m left again being her executive function. Enter Mama Rose. “Baby, I’m going to make us a star!” Because that’s what it’s going to look like to the world. That I’m pushing her for my own reasons and not hers.
I wish it wasn’t named Executive Function now that I’ve repeated it about fourteen times. It irritates me that we have to understand our entire world through the lens of business. Especially since business has not turned out to be such a stellar example to follow of late. My brain is looking for a bailout too.
But then, I’ve been a tad irritable lately.
I can see this trail of thought is going to turn out to be a series, because I have lots more yarn to untangle on this one.
Enough for today though.
Has anyone out there in the internets ever come across Executive Function brain training?