Executive Functioning – Larry and the Leak

Larry and the Leaky Faucet

It seems like the faucet in the kitchen sink has been dripping since the beginning of time. The continuous drip-drip-drip can be heard at all hours, day and night. There is a rust stain in the bottom of the sink that has defied all efforts at bleaching and scrubbing. Worse still, Larry’s wife has been after him to do something about it, with daily remarks, pleas, reminders, even sticky notes on the wall by the sink.

One Friday, Larry decides it is time to do something about it. He is going to do whatever it takes over the weekend to get it done, no matter how long it takes. How hard can it be?

What might have been: Larry might have considered the project in advance. What steps would have to be taken? In what order should they happen? What materials and tools would be needed? What skills and know-how would it take? How much time would the job require? And most importantly, what could go wrong?

What actually happened:

Larry got up early on Saturday morning and put on his home repair clothes. He found and watched a 5-minute YouTube how-to video and went out to the garage for tools. This took some time, because Larry couldn’t find the wrenches he was looking for and had to root through a number of boxes and bins and piles strewn across the garage floor.

More time passed because Larry had a talk with a neighbor he thought had borrowed one of his tools, watched another how-to video, and made two trips to Home Depot, with stops for coffee along the way.

Then, there were a number of distractors that briefly drew him away from his task. But he persisted intermittently, and five hours later he was finished: the faucet handle was broken, the drain junction under the sink was separated, and there was water spraying from both the top and bottom of where the faucet handle used to be. His wife quietly let him know that this was not the result she was hoping for.

Commentary: The story might sound amusing, unless you are Larry’s wife. This story illustrates two points. First, those who live with and depend upon adults with poor executive functioning skills become exasperated over time, leading to relationship problems that may require therapeutic attention. Second, Larry’s decision to finally act on the problem is commendable, and watching how-to videos can sometimes be a good idea. Attempting to get the right tools was a good thought. However, he failed in all of the elements of effective planning and execution: regulate and anticipate situations, delineate larger tasks into smaller parts, and self-monitor performance while holding an overall goal in memory. Most notably absent was the single note of quiet introspection before starting the job: “Can I really do this?”

Difficulty with executive functioning is not necessarily considered a disability, yet it comprises a weakness in a key set of mental skills that assists with connecting past experiences with present actions. People use executive functions to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to/remembering details, and managing time and space.

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Executive Functioning in AdultsExecutive Functioning in Adults is a 3-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that provides strategies to help adults overcome executive functioning deficits.

As human beings, we have a built-in capacity to accomplish goals and meet challenges through the use of high-level cognitive functions called “executive functioning” skills. These are the skills that help us to decide which activities and tasks we will pay attention to and which ones we will choose to ignore or postpone.

Executive skills allow us to organize our thinking and behavior over extended periods of time and override immediate demands in favor of longer-term goals. These skills are critical in planning and organizing activities, sustaining attention, and persisting until a task is completed. Individuals who do not have well developed executive functioning skills tend to have difficulty starting and attending to tasks, redirecting themselves when a plan is not working, and exercising emotional control and flexibility. This course offers a wide variety of strategies to help adults overcome such difficulties and function more effectively. Course #31-08 | 2018 | 61 pages | 20 posttest questions

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Our online courses provide instant access to the course materials and CE test. Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more. Have a question? Contact us. We’re here to help!

Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).

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