Dec 042017
  • Are you frequently late for meetings or appointments in spite of your best intentions?

  • Have you ever waited for someone who never seems to be on time?

  • Whether you spend time waiting for someone who is always late or you’re the person who can’t be on time, the result is frustration on both sides.

People who can never manage to be on time rarely plan to be late.  Most people who are chronically late have difficulty in time management: one could say their clocks are broken.

Children rely on parents and teachers to keep them on time.  This scaffolding sometimes extends into the teenage years.  As adults, personal management of one’s time is an assumed skill.  However, as with organization and prioritization, time management for some individuals remains a struggle, sometimes a lifetime challenge.
Time management is an important skill within the larger domain of executive function skills.  Executive functioning represents a set of processes that govern how one manages oneself and one’s resources to achieve a goal. These cognitive, behavioral skills impact on mental control and self-regulation. 
Individuals who find it hard to organize themselves often have trouble managing their time.  From small things, forgetting keys or a wallet, paying bills on time, to completing a task like finishing a report, these behaviors fall into the larger skill set of executive functioning.  For some people, the difficulty of managing one’s time is closely linked to other important skills like prioritization and self regulation.
The person who has a problem with timeliness may often be challenged by predicting the amount of time he or she needs, usually underestimating or failing to anticipate obstacles that will make them late.  Lack of focusing and remaining on task can further sabotage the goal of being on time.
To further complicate matters, prioritizing, the ability to evaluate goals or tasks and decide on the order to accomplish these tasks can also make someone misjudge time.  The person who gets side-tracked because of poor prioritizing may find it necessary to spend more time finishing a task, underestimate the time he or she needs, and arrive late.  If this scenario sounds like a domino effect, in many cases, that’s the way it happens.
  •  Is this a hopeless chain of events?

The “broken clock,” effective time management, can be improved by developing a set of executive function skills that include: organization and planning, prioritization, focus, and self regulation.  While these skills are closely linked, fortunately some people have difficulties in some areas, but not all.  

Working with a professional who can unravel your problems in executive functioning and develop the necessary skills can lead to better time management and self regulation: fixing the broken clock.


Check back soon for more articles on executive functioning, communications, speech pathology and writing.

Oct 252017
  • How many adults say they don’t enjoy reading?

  • How many kids say they don’t enjoy reading?

Isn’t it curious that few adults will admit to not enjoying reading, yet more than 50% of the students I see from elementary through college age will acknowledge that they don’t read for pleasure.  What accounts for the difference?

In the adult world reading is acknowledged as a skill that “smart” people possess, a tool for success in many areas.  As an adult, to say that you don’t like to read may diminish the respect you receive from other people.  Adults are expected to read newspapers, magazines, books, whether in paper form or in recent years, online.

But how many adults who claim to enjoy reading are embarrassed to admit that they only read by necessity, deriving little pleasure in the process?  More people than will admit gain their news information from TV or online browsing and only read — in the sense of books — in limited amounts, perhaps a beach read on vacation.

I suspect that all those children and adolescents who say they don’t enjoy reading will not become readers in adulthood.  As adults it becomes the little secret they keep hidden because “smart” people,  of course, find pleasure in reading, in being lost in a book of fiction or non-fiction.

  • Why do some children and adolescents find little enjoyment in reading?

The process of reading, understanding the code of letters representing sounds, is a complex, difficult skill that takes years to master.  At the word level, a lack of word attack skills and diminished vocabulary impede comprehension.  At the sentence level, the more sophisticated and complex the writing, the more difficult comprehension becomes.  

Becoming a fluent reader requires patience and practice, two features that students may not possess. Some schools do not emphasize guided reading in class and independent reading at home after the first few grades, at least not enough to create a habit of reading.  In some households, parents don’t read much at home so the critical models of reading as a pleasurable activity are missing.

  • Do electronics interfere with the development of reading as a pleasurable habit?

I’m sorry to say that the internet, video games and social media take up so much attention during students’ waking hours that settling down with a book seems like a waste of time.  The immediacy of social interaction with a computer or smart phone trumps the patience required to focus on a book — and the pleasure derived from losing oneself in a book seems to have little value.

But baby boomers had TV to divert them away from reading!  Yes, a TV in nearly every home may have taken time away from reading, but with less than a dozen channels, the diversionary value of television was limited.  Now five hundred or more channels on TV, unlimited videos and social media right on the phone in your hand all provide stiff competition for the printed word in book form.

  • Is there a solution?

Yes, turn off the electronics, walk away from the computer and the television and open a book — hardcover, paperback or e-reader.  What can result?  You can find the lost pleasure you might have forgotten as a child or, gain the reading skills you may not have truly developed in your earlier years.  Even more, you can pass on your pleasure of reading to your children by serving as a role model.

Patience and practice can generate a surprising payoff — finding the lost pleasure of reading even in the electronic age.


Check back soon for more articles on communications, writing, speech pathology and executive function.


Jul 012013

As a speech pathologist I work on improving executive function skills with individuals who have difficulty in organization and focus. With many of my clients who feel they are never on top of the tasks they must complete, I often advise making a “To Do” list, along with other organizational strategies.  Writing a concrete set of goals for a given time period (a week, a day, etc.), generally helps people stay on task and not lose sight of what they must accomplish.  However, along with creating a list like this, the process of prioritizing remains critically important.  This is where many people veer into trouble: the “To Do” list that becomes an even bigger headache.

What does it mean to prioritize?  If you feel overwhelmed by what you need to do for work, family or your personal life, creating a list of what must be accomplished remains one of the best strategies to ensure that you’re productive.  But prioritizing is more than just deciding what should be done and in what order; prioritizing requires time management, a skill that often causes difficulty all by itself.

Overplanning, by not considering what can be accomplished in a given time period, can sabotage anyone’s efforts to become organized and productive.   Writing an unrealistic list of items often becomes one of the most self-defeating activities for someone with executive function problems.  If the “To Do” list becomes a set of dream goals, not realistically attainable, you set in motion an even worse spiral of not getting anything done.

How to deal with this?  I advise long-range and short-range planning: deciding what must be done each day and making that list a “do-able list,” not an impossible dream.  As you take care of it, scratch it off, or if it carries over, put it on the next day’s agenda.  Group these tasks into a realistic time frame: today, tomorrow, next week, or even the month.  If you have long-range goals, leave room in the daily or weekly agenda and slot in time periods to begin working on these longer projects.  But consider how long tasks should take so you don’t push off long projects and end up frantically working on them at the last minute.

I am often asked, “Will this help me multi-task?”  Creating a realistic “To Do” list by prioritizing, setting attainable goals and considering your available time, can make you more efficient and perhaps bring you closer to the 21st century dream of multi-tasking.  Whether or not multi-tasking is attainable or a desirable skill remains a large question, one that I’ll be writing about in the future.


Check back next week for more thoughts on executive function skills, communciations and speech.






May 152013

Everyone has moments of inattention and restlessness, but for some people these exist as a constant situation.  Adults, as well as children and adolsecents, need to monitor their behavior and cue themselves to pay attention, but some people have significantly more difficulty maintaining their focus.

Executive functioning represents a set of processes that govern how one manages oneself, including mental control and self regulation.  The skills necessary for planning and organization, memory, making transitions, setting priorities, and  self cueing begin to develop in childhood.  As the child grows, so do the expectations for self management throughout the teenage years.  Adults are expected to have mastered a degree of mental flexibility, including the ability to set priorities and shift strategies.  But adults who remain disorganized, poorly focused, unaware of how much they miss in the environment, often suffer professionally and personally.

Can individuals who have difficulty with executive functioning become more alert to their behavior and improve these  skills?  Self-monitoring strategies and cueing for attentional gaps can be learned by children and adults.   Luckily, for teenagers and adults, electronic devices and planners can assist in memory and organization.  But these external tools don’t help with focus and attention. While some individuals treat their attentional problems with medication, ultimately the responsibility for executive functioning remains a conscious activity.

A professional who specializes in cognitive training can develop a set of strategies tailored to an individual to improve executive functioning.  It takes active thinking to modify one behavior at all ages.  But it’s a worthwhile effort that can create academic, professional and personal success.


Check back next week for more thoughts on communications and speech.