To Be Able to Execute Planful Behavior: Part 1

How to understand what it means to become organized

This writing is the first in a series of writings that is going to focus on executive behavior. This is the kind of behavior we would all like to see in our children; and ourselves, to have a goal, to plan towards it, to complete it in a timely manner without undue frustration or emotional upheaval. The ability to plan activity in a step sequence requires both motor and cognitive functions. While the mind sweeps forward to set a step-by-step action in place, the body keeps up with the know-how of what a step sequence would feel like.

We assume she sees what we see, but for her the next step in planning is a big black hole where all the ideas are floating away, not gaining solid ground to enter into the functional process.

Let’s start with considering the ability to initiate a task. We frequently observe Sally being slow to “get going” on projects and we have to either repeat an instruction or encourage and sometimes think that she may have an attention difficulty causing her to be distracted from starting a task. But Task Initiation requires the ability to begin a task without undue procrastination, in a timely fashion, which implies that she would have an innate sense of timing in place to respond adequately. Each new task will bring the challenge of the “new and novel”, which would be difficult for her as she struggles with motor planning deficits and would have to reorganize all her systems to accommodate this new learning. As she struggles with developmental delay, she has also learned to anticipate when tasks will be too hard, just by looking at the proposed activity and will want to avoid based on memory alone.


The act of planning itself involves the ability to manage current or future tasks by setting goals and developing appropriate steps ahead of time. Again, being able to understand a step sequence and time lapsing are crucial skills for delivering this skill. It provides Sally with the ability to create a road-map to reach a goal or to complete a task. We assume she sees what we see, but for her the next step in planning is a big black hole where all the ideas are floating away, not gaining solid ground to enter into the functional process. Planning also involves being able to make decisions about what is important to focus on and what is not important. This requires of the brain to really need inter-hemispheric organization, because she cannot become so immersed in the detail that she forgets the “whole” of the idea she was planning towards.

The process of organizing the materials needed for a task can influence the planning potential. This requires the ability to establish and maintain a system for arranging or keeping track of important items. Systems are tough for Sally. Once she is in the moment putting a structure together, she can perhaps follow her own strategy, but a week later the same system appears to be non-existent as it never related to the level of integration required to make it permanent. Structure is important for her, but she frequently requires consistent supervision in order to maintain the structure. Once routine is established and have been repeated several times, she can learn to rely and cope with the structure in place, but the skill is not generalized over into new and novel other areas she encounters in every day life, unless someone imposes another structure to organize by. When Sally is left to her own devices, she is not able to keep track of information or materials.
Next time we will cover the concept of time and having goal persistent behavior. Stay with me as I uncover more ground as to what executive behavior really asks of anyone and in the final writings of this topic, we will cover what can be done about it. Sufficient to say at this time that you can accommodate for Sally’s difficulties, but you can also remediate, so she does not have to look back again. Executive difficulties causes great performance anxiety in children and school becomes a mass of information that cannot be structured or contained even while students like Sally have sufficient intelligence. It is not about being smarter, but having the necessary building blocks that would support Sally in automaticity and self-sufficiency.

Stay Tuned!

Maude

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