Smart but Scattered Book Summary - Smart but Scattered Book explained in key points

Smart but Scattered summary

Peg Dawson Richard Guare

Brief summary

Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare offers practical strategies to help children develop essential executive skills like organization, time management, and problem-solving. It provides valuable insights for parents and educators.

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    Smart but Scattered
    Summary of key ideas

    Understanding Executive Skills

    In Smart but Scattered, Peg Dawson and Richard Guare introduce the concept of executive skills, which are the mental processes that help us manage our lives. They explain that these skills are crucial for success in school, work, and life in general. The authors identify eleven key executive skills, including organization, time management, working memory, and emotional control.

    The authors emphasize that executive skills are not fixed traits but can be developed and improved over time. They also stress that these skills are not related to intelligence. A person can be highly intelligent but still struggle with executive skills, leading to the 'smart but scattered' phenomenon.

    Assessing and Understanding Your Child's Executive Skills

    In the next part of Smart but Scattered, Dawson and Guare provide a tool for parents to assess their child's executive skills. They explain that understanding your child's strengths and weaknesses in these areas is crucial for helping them improve. The authors also discuss the role of genetics and environment in shaping a child's executive skills.

    They stress that parents should avoid labeling their children as 'lazy' or 'unmotivated' if they struggle with executive skills. Instead, they should recognize that these children may need extra support and guidance in developing these skills.

    Developing Executive Skills

    After assessing your child's executive skills, Smart but Scattered provides a comprehensive guide to developing these skills. The authors offer practical strategies and activities to help children improve in each of the eleven executive skill areas. For example, to improve organization, they suggest creating a designated study area and using color-coded folders and planners.

    For time management, they recommend using visual schedules and timers. To enhance working memory, they propose memory games and exercises. The authors also stress the importance of setting realistic goals and providing positive reinforcement to encourage progress.

    Supporting Your Child's Executive Skills

    In the final section of Smart but Scattered, Dawson and Guare discuss how parents can support their children in developing their executive skills. They emphasize the importance of creating a supportive environment and maintaining open communication with your child.

    The authors also address the challenges that may arise when implementing these strategies, such as resistance from the child or lack of time. They provide tips for overcoming these obstacles and stress the importance of patience and persistence in the process of skill development.


    In conclusion, Smart but Scattered offers a comprehensive guide for parents to understand, assess, and develop their child's executive skills. The book provides valuable insights into the nature of these skills, practical strategies for improvement, and tips for providing ongoing support. By following the advice in this book, parents can help their 'smart but scattered' children unlock their full potential and succeed in all areas of life.

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    What is Smart but Scattered about?

    Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare is a practical guide for parents and educators to help children who struggle with executive skills. The book provides strategies and tools to improve organization, time management, and planning abilities in children with attention and behavior challenges. With real-life examples and step-by-step solutions, it offers valuable insights for supporting kids in reaching their full potential.

    Smart but Scattered Review

    Smart but Scattered (2009) offers practical strategies for helping children with executive dysfunction improve their organizational and time-management skills. Here are three reasons why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides concrete solutions and step-by-step guidance that parents and educators can implement to support children with executive function deficits.
    • Backed by research and filled with relatable anecdotes, the book offers valuable insights into the underlying causes and effects of executive dysfunction.
    • With its engaging and accessible approach, the authors demystify executive function issues, making it an enlightening and empowering read.

    Who should read Smart but Scattered?

    • Parents and caregivers of children who struggle with executive skills
    • Educators looking for strategies to support students with organization and focus
    • Individuals interested in understanding the psychological and neurological factors behind attention and self-control

    About the Author

    Peg Dawson, EdD, and Richard Guare, PhD, are both renowned psychologists and experts in the field of executive skills. With their extensive experience, they have co-authored several books, including Smart but Scattered. Their work focuses on helping individuals, especially children and adolescents, develop the essential cognitive abilities needed for success in school, work, and life. Through their research and practical strategies, Dawson and Guare have made significant contributions to the understanding and support of individuals with executive function challenges.

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    Smart but Scattered FAQs 

    What is the main message of Smart but Scattered?

    Smart but Scattered teaches us how to support individuals with executive function difficulties to succeed in life.

    How long does it take to read Smart but Scattered?

    The reading time for Smart but Scattered varies depending on the reader. However, you can read the Blinkist summary in just 15 minutes.

    Is Smart but Scattered a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Smart but Scattered is worth reading as it provides practical strategies and insights to help individuals overcome executive function challenges.

    Who is the author of Smart but Scattered?

    The authors of Smart but Scattered are Peg Dawson and Richard Guare.

    What to read after Smart but Scattered?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Smart but Scattered, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susann Jeffers
    • Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
    • Incognito by David Eagleman
    • Quiet by Susan Cain
    • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
    • Happiness by Richard Layard
    • Influence by Robert B. Cialdini