“Executive Functioning + Volunteering”
written by Mary Ulmer-Jones, Pebble Tossers Board of Directors, Associate GC & SVP Bank of America
Shelter in Place provides us the time and energy to focus on meaningful things. It is meaningful to me that Pebble Tossers has given my son a platform to practice executive functioning. Jamie is a junior in high school and was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder in seventh grade. At the time of diagnosis, I didn’t worry too much. But, what I realize now is that I underestimated the impact ADD has on the brain’s ability to utilize executive functioning.
The ability to take an assignment and break it down into orderly, actionable steps is a critical skill that we all need. For instance, if you are planning a dinner party you make a to-do list that flows in a logical order. Upon completing each task, you will then be ready to host a successful dinner party. But, if your executive functioning ability is impaired by ADD, you might get overwhelmed by hosting such an event. You may forget to pick up flowers for the table. Or even worse, you fail to properly sequence the cooking of your side dishes and entrée. Oh Lord, your meal isn’t put on the table until 11 p.m. That is a result of your executive functioning not being fully developed. But, good news, if you practice executive functioning you can develop this skill to its fullest extent.
So, back to Jamie and Pebble Tossers. It took me until this spring to recognize that Pebble Tossers provides me the opportunity to help Jamie practice executive functioning. From the Pebble Tossers website, Jamie chooses the organization he wants to support or the project that he wants to complete. Together we read the service opportunity description. Then we write down and verbally discuss each of the steps Jamie will need to accomplish to complete the service successfully.
For example, Jamie has provided meals to Kate’s Club on a regular basis. Now, let’s practice executive functioning. First, determine the menu. (sandwiches, chips, cookies and fruit) Second, decide how to shop for the items on the menu. (Amazon delivery, Publix, Walmart for paper products) Third, set a timeline for shopping. (Place Amazon order a week or so in advance, go to Publix and Walmart one day after school) Forth, set aside time for preparation of the lunches. (over a two or three-day period assembly line style prep on the dining room table, use the basement fridge to store the sandwiches, use old Amazon boxes to package the lunches for delivery) And, finally, deliver a complete meal on time for as many as one hundred Kate’s Club clients and volunteers. (leave for Kate’s club at 9:30 am Saturday morning so the meals are delivered by 11:00 am.)
So, thank you Pebble Tossers for giving me this opportunity. And, thank you Shelter in Place orders for giving me time to reflect on what is really important.