Speaking with Lon Woodbury, May 13, 2014, on "The Woodbury Report" on K4HD.com was Parth Gandhi, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist who specializes in the clinical assessment of adolescents and young adults. Parth explained how Executive Function skills can determine if a young adult will be successfully independent. Executive Function Skills are those essential skills that include self-regulation, competent communication of thoughts to others, accountability, and proper display of overall functioning or having their act together. "When assessing a client," he explained, "we look at many competencies to determine if they are dealing well in situations. Are they functioning well? Are they doing what they say they will? Are they completing tasks?"
An emerging adult is one that has either turned 18 or is an adolescent growing toward adulthood. As a neuropsychologist focusing on assessments, Parth looks at young adults 18 and over who are not functioning well and question why? "I think we have less expectations for young adults now and we've become softer, less willing to let them fail," he said. "Yet, these kids need to learn from failure and they need earlier training from their parents. Kids aren't being challenged and they need those challenges to learn and grow from. When we protect them, we take away their skill building. I think it is a cultural issue and a family issue, but working with your children needs to be strategic. By working with your kids at a younger age, there are developmental expectations to look for and work with them on, one being time management and how to use it to their benefit and organization skills."
"When we conduct an assessment," he continued, "we use a 360° skill rating which includes psychological testing, asking parents and teachers what skills they have learned, what skills they struggle with and gather information from all around the child. History tells a lot, a child's patterns in behaviors and problems that have gone wrong. We are looking for the fatal flaws, or those called pervasive as a clinical term. We look for the specific skills or functions that are not working - we test their memory skills, look at their social history, their family history, cognitive testing, etc. Do they have a hard time with homework? With regulating themselves? Are they impulsive? How do they challenge themselves? Do they give up easily?"
Parth shared that he works on the fatal flaws first and then on the strengths, focusing on what his clients good at. "We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we can learn to use compensation or accommodations to work around the weaknesses." With emerging adults, he recommends they be very specific about their process and for parents to have a dialog with their children asking specific questions, for example, "What do you want to do and what do you need to do to get there?" This age group needs to be able to have a conversation with their boss or peers and to express how they think or feel with another person. Parth also works on impression management, with questions such as "How do you present yourself physically? How do you convey information? Are you kind or augmentative? He also asks how they go about sharing information and get to a specific goal.
"Most importantly," concluded Parth, "they have to do the work. Doing the work includes taking risks, challenging themselves or planning and problem solving. Otherwise, they will learn to deal with life in an inappropriate way."
Parth Gandhi, PhD:
Listen to the full interview here: Executive Functioning in Emerging Adults
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