What is Executive Age?
Executive function is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. We use these skills every day to learn, work, and manage daily life. Trouble with executive function can make it hard to focus, follow directions, and handle emotions, among other things. (understood.org)
Let’s discuss Executive Age. It’s something I have just been introduced to in the autism/ADHD FaceBook groups that I frequent. So forgive me if I make a mistake, as I am literally just studying it right now.
Folks compare Executive Age versus Biological Age when describing the catching up that some kiddos have to do. I admit that I have looked at my daughter and said, “You’re 6! This is something that you should be able to do!” Immediately I felt regret, about my tone and for losing my temper. The shame on her face was enough to make me snap back into focus.
It is uniquely DIFFICULT to parent our littles with ADHD. It requires infinite patience and grace, which is humanly impossible. When I am filled with remorse and guilt I never fail to take the opportunity to apologize and own my own crap. My daughters are much closer to me for it, and I feel comforted in knowing they will know how to apologize appropriately in the future. My husband is on the same page, for which I am very fortunate.
The most important part of Executive Age that I want to emphasize in this blog is that it is not a reflection of intellect. Kids who are of a biological age may certainly have the intellectual capacity of their typical peers. However they are just a few levels behind in terms of their ability to learn, work, and manage daily life.
I see this in my daughter. But most significantly, I see this in myself. Introspective introvert that I am, I have always felt just a few steps behind my peers. “Why don’t I get this? Why didn’t I get this when everyone else did? Why am I just getting this now?” These thoughts permeated my mind and contributed to my low self-esteem, low self worth, and self-shaming.
Most noteworthy, I felt this way during undergrad and grad school. I felt intellectually worthy to have my place at the table. But I also felt like a fraud. And then looking back, I always felt “I would have been so much more prepared for undergrad/grad school now. I am just getting this now. Why am I just mastering this now?”
It is important to discuss Executive Functioning and Executive Age, if you feel your child is receptive to these abstract concepts. And if they are not, it is vital as parents and caregivers to know this. To give kids a break, cut them some slack, meet them where they’re at. The anxiety and shame are debilitating. I can speak from experience that I carried the weight and have the scars to prove it. I am only learning and undoing the pain now.
I will not stand for any child or adult to feel the same pain. ADHD is an invisible illness. There is no broken leg to point to. Instead we are met with judgement and shame.
I encourage you to study Executive Functioning. To discuss it with the ADHD folks in your lives. And to use this tool as a resource for healing and not for additional pain.
Resources I recommend and used in this blog:
The above image is an illustration that describes Executive Age versus Biological Age.