Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning by Joyce Cooper-Kahn, Ph.D. & Laurie Dietzel, Ph.D.

review by Kathy Kuhl

Many of us dread that our children are too often Late, Lost, and Unprepared. Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Laurie Dietzel have crafted a short, helpful guide for parents on to how to teach chronically disorganized children to be organized. This is not a study skills book. They do not assume you just tell the child what do do and he or she will do it. These authors know real life with very disorganized children.

And what is executive functioning in the second half of the title? Simply put, it is the organizational skills that get us through life: managing our work, time, and stuff. People often pick up these skills as they grow: how to organize work in a notebook, plan to finish schoolwork in time for soccer practice, and show up at practice with cleats, shin guards, water bottle, and so on.

The book is well-organized, just as we want our children to be. Every chapter is short and easy to follow. My only objection to its layout is that the font is a bit small for some of us. But the graphics are good and the bulleted lists are easy to follow. Part I, What You Need to Know, explains the basics in seven short chapters. It begins by covering what executive functions are, how they develop, how to tell when they aren’t, what it’s like for a child with these problems, and how it affects the family. Then the authors turn to how we determine what the problem is. This includes a helpful chapter on whether and how to have the child assessed, and another excellent chapter on the difference between attention deficit disorder, executive function problems, and learning disabilities. The authors make it clear that all folks with attention deficit disorder have troubles with organization (executive function), but not everyone with executive function difficulties has attention deficit disorder. Every chapter in this section begins with a box outlining the chapter, and subheads make it easy to find the section you need.


Part II, What You Can Do About It, forms the bulk of the book, and it is well organized as well. These chapters begin with a short definition of the key concept of each chapter. Topics are:

  • How to Help: An Overview
  • Behavior Change in a Nutshell
  • If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try a Few More Times Then…Change Your Expectations!*
  • Helping Children Control Impulses
  • Helping Children Shift Gears
  • Helping Children Get started on Homework and Other Tasks**
  • Helping Children Handle Working Memory Issues
  • Helping Children Plan and Organize
  • Helping Children Monitor Their Behavior
  • Concluding Thoughts

*This chapter is one of my favorites: a great discussion on how hard to push and how to tell when the bar is too high.
**Though this chapter says “homework,” the content throughout is easily adaptable for homeschoolers.

Authors Joyce Cooper-Kahn and Laurie Dietzel are a pair of mothers in Maryland who are also clinical psychologists. They share from their experiences living with and assisting children who did not pick up these executive functions easily. Though both are Ph.D.s, they have not written an academic work.

Late, Lost, and Unprepared is a clear, practical guide. As Kathleen Nadeau says, it is “so useful a book for parents and professionals that it’s a wonder no one thought of it sooner.”

Once again, I’ve found a book I wish had been written while I was homeschooling. Don’t miss it.

Click here to learn more or to purchase Late Lost and Unprepared on Amazon. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.