This article brings up a tricky, but valid point. People with ADHD and Executive Function Disorder (or Executive Dysfunction) struggle with some of the same issues. Both have trouble staying on task. Both have trouble organizing, prioritizing, planning and working memory. Both have trouble following through and completing a task. According to the examples in the article, the child with ADHD can improve by taking medication, whereas the child with EF cannot. The child with EFD might also have a learning disability, in which case working with a learning specialist will solve the problems.
In my experience, it is rarely so simple! First of all, finding the right medication and the right dosage takes a lot of patience and a lot of trial and error. If the medication does not work, that does NOT mean that it’s not ADHD. Some people with ADHD also have a learning difference, and that is ok. Some people with EFD might not have a learning difference. Yes, it is important to get a complete evaluation, so that you can address all of the factors that get in the way of success. But unfortunately, there is not one perfect solution for every diagnosis. Whether it’s ADHD or EFD, you will need some coaching to improve those skills. Some of my clients take medication and some don’t. It makes no difference. You have pills AND skills. Some of my younger clients also need a learning specialist to help with certain types of academic assignments.
I think it can get messy and students can get mixed messages when they continue to get so much assistance as they grow into the high school years. There is a difference between a learning specialist and a tutor. There is also a difference between a tutor and a homework helper. A learning specialist will help a student who struggles with conditions like dyslexia, dysgraphia, reading comprehension, processing, and so forth. A tutor will help in a specific subject matter and explain the content or recommend how to better study the content. A tutor is ideal when a student struggles in one subject area, or has missed a lot of class. Finally, a homework helper is basically a “shadow” or a partner. It is someone who sits next to the student to ensure that the work gets done. This is ideal for younger students that need help staying on track when no parent can be home to supervise homework. None of these support people should be actually doing the work! The student should be doing it, of course, and staying in touch with the teacher. We have many dedicated teachers that provide extra help outside of school hours. A good support person will also be in direct contact with the teacher or the school. Parents should carefully assess what their child needs to help him or her succeed on their own in the long run. The goal is for them to learn the skills as soon as possible so that they will no longer need the support person. You do not want a high school student that has relied on a homework helper for so many years that she cannot imagine doing it alone.
Finally, once you have addressed any learning differences or academic gaps, work with a coach to develop executive function skills. These are the skills that you will need to succeed in life, beyond the education years. Those that master executive function skills early, develop self reliance, resilience and the confidence to face any situation thrown their way.
Mind Coach NOLA is the leader in ADHD and Executive Function life coaching in New Orleans and the entire Louisiana area.