Executive Dysfunction

How to Measure Your Child’s ‘Real Age’

The real age of a child with ADHD is not tied to their birthday or intelligence, but to their emotional maturity and executive functioning skills. Learn how to shift your expectations and strategies based on your child’s ‘real age.’

When kids have ADHD, they tend to be scattered across different developmental areas. In terms of their physical development, a 12-year-old with ADHD, for example, might be right on track for their age. In terms of their expressive language skills and cognitive ability, they could be four years ahead of their same-age peers. But in terms of their executive functioning and emotional maturity, they could be three years behind their chronological age, which is common with children who have ADHD.

In families living with ADHD, parents tend to base their interactions and expectations on their child’s expressive language and cognitive abilities. They tend to think their child can make rational, mature decisions because of their ability to articulate themselves and make a compelling argument. They cannot.

The end result is that parents tend to get sucked into an argument, negotiation, or reasoning vortex because they are mistaking their child’s expressive language and cognitive abilities for maturity, and they are completing overlooking their child’s lagging executive functioning and emotional maturity. When they try to appeal to their child’s intellect, they get sucked into never-ending arguments.

Instead, aim to meet your child where they fall in terms of executive functioning and emotional maturity with the intention of helping them develop those skills that are often lagging in children with ADHD.

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Deficits in Social Maturity and Executive Function: Next Steps


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Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSW is the facilitator of the ADHD Dude Facebook Group and YouTube channel.

Updated on June 14, 2021

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