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Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary "Executive Skills" Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential
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Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary "Executive Skills" Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,967 ratings  ·  192 reviews
There's nothing more frustrating than watching your bright, talented son or daughter struggle with everyday tasks like finishing homework, putting away toys, or following instructions at school. Your "smart but scattered" 4- to 13-year-old might also have trouble coping with disappointment or managing anger. Drs. Peg Dawson and Richard Guare have great news: there's a lot ...more
Hardcover, 314 pages
Published January 1st 2009 by The Guilford Press
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Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kim by: Diane Hinves
I initially thought this book would be helpful in parenting kids with ADHD but it is really an excellent resource for parents of typically developing children as well as those with deficits in their executive functioning skills. I really should buy it as a reference. After reading it I finally understood something our psychologist had tried to explain to me previously - that attention and emotional regulation are linked. You use the same part of the brain for each of these skills so when you wor ...more
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm still not sure I agree with the premise that school age children with executive skills deficits can really master them with just the proper training. Seems to me you can improve on some behaviors outwardly, but that personality and maturity level account for a lot more of what executive skills your child has mastered and can master.
That said, this book provided some interesting insights and some very good ideas for how to help most kids get back on track. For certain behaviors, the improvem
Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Parenting is a project, and you're just not given all the skills you need to do the job. Complicating that? The fact that as those kids get older, they start needing help developing some particularly sophisticated (executive) skills. What's worse? We're not all rocking five-star perfection ourselves in the executive skills department as adults. Also: it's really (REALLY) hard to know sometimes just how well-developed these skills should be at any given time, or how to help coach them to have tho ...more
Lubinka Dimitrova
As a typical parent of a teen, I try to get any help available so that my kids and I can survive this period relatively unscathed. And I, as many parents surely believe, seem to find greater potential in my kids than their achievements have to show so far (by that I don't mean that they should play the violin and fluently speak five languages for me to judge their performance adequate, but simply that they could for example do their homework more efficiently and have better grades with less effo ...more
Jennifer Hughes
At what point do you take something off your "currently reading" list and mark it "read"? I finally decided to after not picking this up for over a year! My pediatrician highly recommended it, but it wasn't as helpful to me as I'd hoped.

I'm pretty organized and logical myself, but *I* felt scattered as I read this book. Don't get me wrong, it has a lot of great elements. I just think many of us parents with ADHD kids already feel pretty overwhelmed with the daily issues we have to deal with. A b
Apr 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents of most kids, but especially those who are "scattered" or emotionally sensitive
I didn't actually finish reading through all the techniques and examples at the end of the book, but I did read most of them. I'm going to call this one finished and use it as a reference as I need to.

This book really opened my eyes about how to deal with my daughter, who is NOT ADHD. I realized that I had been setting unrealistic expectations for her. Unfortunately, we have similar weaknesses, which makes me a sometimes ineffective coach. However, even realizing that has helped us find coping a
Sherry Elmer
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very helpful book in re-framing what I think I see and hear from my child. That is, it encouraged me to set aside the motives I often assume are behind many of my child's behaviors and see that maybe most of those behaviors are something entirely different than what I had judged them to be..

This is really a book I need to buy instead of checking it out from the library, so I can write in it and make more prolonged use of a lot of the information. The book offers “tests” to analyze what are the s
Jason Griggs
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
I would recommend this book for all parents. The scope is much broader than the title and blurb imply. The book covers ages 4-14 and covers many different situations, such as behavior during play dates, getting along with siblings, overcoming anxieties, getting dressed independently, time management for long-term projects, and many more. The strategies are not just for children with an attention deficit.

I already owned the Audible version of this book, but I purchased the softcover version too f
Nov 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Got this book to help my son with his organizational skills. The best part of the book for me was that the author broke apart the executive functioning skills into deeper categories; time management, working memory, emotional control, these were just a few of them. There were checklists to determine which of the categories you (or your child) were weakest or strongest for you.
It seemed that my son had 3 categories that were the weakest: I plan on working on those more.

Some of the ideas and strat
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
How is it that all the good parenting books have to point out all that dysfunctional with the parents first!!??!! After I fix all my executive function weakness maybe I can be a more perfect parent-bah hahaha. Actually it's pretty good, lots of examples and strategies, helps break down the different exec functions and how they help and hinder and how to strengthen the weak ones.
Nov 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: career
This book is geared primarily toward parents rather than teachers. I would love to see the authors write a teacher version of this that focuses on school situations. The concepts are transferable, of course, but it would be beneficial to discuss academic issues in terms of executive functioning. A worthwhile read for parents and teachers.

Mar 20, 2015 added it
I listened to this and now my husband is reading it. I think this might be a book worth owning.
I may need to acquire my own copy of this for the quick reference and worksheets. Definitely going on my "recommended to all parents" list. Section on "when to get outside help" was good but I wish more of that had been incorporated into the rest of the text. A few examples are a bit dated after only 10 years (IM, myspace, etc.). More to add after I look over my notes.
Amber K.
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a must-have if you work with children! There are so many practical tips for teaching children of all ages pre-school and up executive functioning skills.
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adhd-etc
Useful tips. Hear to read through as it can all be a bit monotonous and a flood of information, but I know i will probably turn to it many times.
Nov 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: parenting
The main idea of the book is that children who don't turn in assignments, don't clean their rooms, lose their belongings, etc., often do so because they suffer from executive skills deficits. Consequently, telling them to try harder, yelling at them, punishing them, and so on simply won't work: the children don't have the skills to do what you're asking. You need to solve the problem by teaching the skills instead of just getting mad about the symptoms of the problem.

Unfortunately, the authors f
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
The insights in this book were really helpful. I always find I can be more encouraged when I have a framework to think about a difficulty. I daresay any teacher or parent of a school age child would benefit from reading about these differing developmental skills. I find it interesting that all of the reviews I have read all say something like 'great read: haven't implemented the strategies yet' I'm feeling overwhelmed at this point by the detail involved in addressing improvement in each skill. ...more
Sally Kilpatrick
I confessed that I skimmed the last few pages. This probably means that I need to work on my Sustained Attention in addition to Task Initiation and Time Management. Going to keep this one on the shelf as a reference because there are a couple of charts that I can use. It also never hurts to get the psychological basis behind a problem. Oh, and I may come back to the section on 504 plans and IEPs.

On the whole, the book was a bit overwhelming for me--so I guess I need to keep working on my Executi
I want to have children with terrible executive skills, just so I can use this book, it's that awesome.

Actually, it would be incredibly useful to anyone, even for adults trying to diagnose what they are missing.

There is even a section full of 'ready made plans for teaching various routines'. With checklists, step by step algorithms, and lots of adaptability. It's nice to have a book that has all that stuff, rather than being something like "theory of organization and parenting". Instead, it's li
Kara Beal
Dec 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I had heard wonderful things about this book. Unfortunately, I found it underwhelming. My expectations were too high, I expect. The author makes very cogent and straightforward recommendations for parents to help guide their children in how the children can learn to manage the tasks in their lives (such as homework and chores). Everything Ms. Dawson recommends is logical and I believe her methods work. I just think they are extremely obvious.
Trying to Have it Y'all Blog
Not just for kids with ADHD. There's some good information. A lot of good old fashioned common sense stuff. The true test is to see if I can integrate it into our routine
Kari Byrd Toth
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-it-already
hands down the best parenting book I've ever read. realistic approach to teaching kids and preparing them for the future. everyone should read. what a great resource!!
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is fantastic. Very, very informative and helpful. I will say that it is a bit of a heavy read and I would have NEVER gotten through it without the audio as some of the sections feel a little like a textbook. But all of the content is so powerful in becoming a more attentive and forward focused parent that it is totally worth it. The book focuses on the executive functioning skills that we all develop from infancy through adulthood (think frontal lobe brain development) and how these sk ...more
Tracy S
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-print
Not all parents will need a book like this. Many of you might have had parents who taught you these skills so you know how to teach them to your kids, or maybe your kids aren't, you know, so "scattered." Amazon recommended this book to me and the title sounded a lot like my 7-year-old, so I bought the hard copy (don't buy in Kindle version because there are a lot of worksheets and quizzes you'll want to have in print).

One of my favorite things about this book is that it begins with a quiz to as
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, parenting
Star rating is arbitrary for now, as I haven't actually tried any of this yet to see how it works for our family. But some of the takeaways that seem valuable that I'm planning to implement:

* Rather than focusing so much on trying to find a system that works, I should be considering what skill I'm trying to teach each child. For instance, getting the kids to clean up their toys causes tons of drama in my house, but all three of them struggle for different reasons - one has a hard time with task
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book drove me crazy! I was so frustrated with the lack of citations. The authors clearly know their material and most of their interventions appear to be based on a behavioral foundation, but they never cited those foundations. Occasionally they'd write something like, "leading researchers say..." but never say who those researchers were! The book was recommended by a professional organization for professional educators in Kansas. I greatly respect those folks, so I though maybe I was being ...more
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
It was recommended to one of my friends by her child's teacher in the gifted program, so I shied away from it for quite some time because I thought it was geared toward gifted kids. I wish I had checked it out earlier - I can see why it was helpful for gifted kids, but it's really for all children who need help with skills like: organization, task initiation, time management, emotional control, working memory, and more.

The book explains what these executive skills entail and describes scenarios
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Lots of what is in this book I already knew, vaguely, and some of it I had already put into practise. However, it was helpful to get a more in depth look at different areas of executive functioning and understand the why and how of it a it better. There were also a few useful tips and interesting perspectives in there that might change how we see some of the difficulties kids have in these areas. The questionnaires, checklists and sample plans were fantastic concrete examples of how it might loo ...more
Daniel Lee
Sep 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
I read it cover to cover and feel bad that my wife spent our money to buy this. There were no answers to the problems with my young child in this book. If you think gold stars, sticker charts and dog biscuits can solve children’s problems, then you need a reality check. Dog biscuits work on dogs, and I have extensive experience training dogs professionally for the past decade. This book uses the same psychological techniques and terminology as dog training, with the hope that our children will f ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was interesting to me on both a personal and professional level. I appreciated how the authors broke down the various skill sets, and also provided us with simple ways to identify our children's and our own strengths and weaknesses, and where they might be the same or different. It helps to have the awareness of where each person in the situation (parent AND child) might be coming from so that rather than blowing up about it, we can take a step back and reassess what needs to be done to mak ...more
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Peg Dawson, Ed.D., received her doctorate in school/child clinical psychology from the University of Virginia. She worked as a school psychologist for 16 years in Maine and New Hampshire, and, for the past 18 years has worked at the Center for Learning and Attention Disorders in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where she
specializes in the assessments of children and adults with learning and attention di

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“The idea is that there are three opportunities to take measures to elicit or change the behavior as desired: by changing what comes before it (the external factors, or environment), by aiming directly at the behavior itself (through teaching), and by imposing consequences (incentives or penalties).” 0 likes
“The more discrete the skills are, the easier it is to develop operational definitions of them. When the skills can be operationalized, it’s easier to create interventions to improve those operations. For” 0 likes
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