Ludo, now aged 17, started out with an executive function skills coach when he was 14. He has recently come and completed an internship with The Connections in Mind Foundation because he’s exploring studying Developmental Psychology at university. He has been reflecting during this placement on his own experience with executive function coaching.
I was diagnosed with ADHD in Year 9 but that still did not qualify me for student support at my school. I struggled with tasks/work and being able to sit still in class. I would get in trouble often and told off for supposedly being disruptive on purpose. I started taking medication twice a day every day of the week that would assist me in staying more focused. Unfortunately, it did not help me with my executive functioning skills.
Why are executive functions?
Executive functions are a set of cognitive processes that are vital to enable cognitive control of behaviour. Some of these EF skills include organisation, flexibility, emotional control, and metacognition, to name a few. Executive functions assist us in setting goals and working towards achieving them. Executive functions are what is necessary to get a task completed, as we balance demands and desires, or wants and needs.
I was struggling with getting homework done, delivering projects on time, and preparing for tests and exams. My mother knew that in the US there were executive function coaches and she started researching if they existed in the UK, which is how we came across Connections in Mind (CiM). I started receiving coaching in October of 2015, while i was in Year 10. I initially was in touch with my coach ones a day, at least five days a week. However, I was struggling to establish a relationship with my coach, she was a lot older than me and I found it hard to relate to her. After a few months, I decided to change coach to find someone I could better connect with. I started working with a younger executive function coach who is a specialist at working with kids with ADHD. I felt immediately connected with the new coach and worked well with him from the start.
How my sessions worked
We started by analysing my executive function skills, and where I was strong versus where I needed more support. By working with Richard on a daily basis I began to internalise the skills I needed to become a more efficient and effective student. I have become a lot better at my emotional control above everything else. I have become less thin-skinned and more confident. My metacognition has reached new heights too, allowing me to reflect on where I’ve improved and what work I’ve done over the last few years. Although coaching means working with someone, a coach, I know it has made me a far more independent person and young adult.
The purpose of coaching is to work one-on-one but also to work independently from that person over time which gives you the ability to be a more independent person in general. Coaching has of course strengthened my executive function skills too. I am a lot more organised: I have a system for properly recording my homework for example. My goal setting has become a strength of mine, and I am more able to set myself plans and goals to reach, short and long term, and then tackle them in the appropriate manner.
I found doing externally motivating tasks hard to start, hence my struggle with task initiation. Over time, I have come up with methods to transition those externally motivating tasks into internally motivating tasks in order to make them pass through the reward centre of the brain, the nucleus accumbens, rather than bypass it like an externally motivating task usually would.
How coaching has helped me
Without coaching, I would be in a totally different position. I began seeing my coach once a night, five nights a week for a short session and one longer session. Now, I see him once a week and we are working to stretch that to once every several weeks starting the new school year, proving my growing independence from him.
I hope that this upcoming school year I will be able to be even more independent and tackle everything on my own. Although I will occasionally check in with my coach in order to update him with how things are going, I am confident that I have a grip on this upcoming school year on my own. I look forward to seeing how I push myself and continue to grow. I am excited to see how I will continue to build upon and improve my executive function skills as I make the final push for university and a transition into the next big step in my life. Although I have struggled with my executive function skills all my life I am proud to say that I am starting to overcome and beat this key challenge with my life.
By Ludovico De Giorgi
How can Connections in Mind help you?
At Connections in Mind, we are a team of dedicated and caring executive function coaching experts. Our coaches combine their skills acquired through experience and education to create bespoke coaching programmes tailored to individual client needs. Our client-led approach to coaching means that you will be provided with the support and strategies you need to improve specific self-regulatory and executive functions skills so that you can reach your personal and professional goals.
Book a free 30 minute consultation call
If you would like some more information about our range of bespoke coaching programmes and to find out how we can help you or your child more specifically, book a free consultation call with Sarah, one of our executive function coaching experts today. You can read a testimonial from one of our adult clients below.