Book review – offers techniques to handle weak executive functions

In “No mind left Behind : Understanding and Fostering Executive Control”, using case studies and anecdotes, Clinical psychologist Dr. Cox presents a plan for parents to help children master the “eight essential cognitive skills” that are critical for “success in life and in work”, these are:

  • Taking initiative
  • Screening out distractions
  • Organizing
  • Thinking flexibly
  • Planning,
  • Regulating emotions
  • Self-monitoring
  • Using memory effectively.

The book addresses neuro-typical, as well as neuro-diverse children and includes practical suggestions for parents and educators. He devotes a chapter to each skill, explaining clearly what it is, how adults can recognize their child’s ability in each and helpful strategies for developing improvements. There is help and insight in this book for ADHD for sure but Cox fails to appreciate that these “skills” come at a price of lost creativity, humour, enterprise and adventure – his expectations for children seem extremely high.

With his exclusive “success focus” he misses out on the idea wellbeing, of childhood being more than training for work but about fun, self-discovery and play. I found that his talk of “skills” to be learnt (when chemical differences define behavioural choices) to be naive and a lack of focus on working with the person and their innate personality traits misses much of the point, that rather than denying the shortcoming and trying to fix it, it is often better to work around the issue than tackle it head on.