Advice from an Executive Functioning Coach
This Facebook Live event was awesome. I am really amazed by the caliber of people I have been able to line up to help our families. This one was with Samantha Curiale-Feinman, MS.Ed., TSHH, Director of New Frontiers Executive Function Coaching. She thoroughly answered viewer questions. You can watch the video below.
To find Samantha or her agency, visit New Frontiers in Learning, Executive Function Coaching or click the image below.
Note, this transcription has not been fully edited yet.
Tips from an Executive Function Coach
LL: Okay. We are live. Good morning everyone. Lisa here with a day in our shoes. Don’t IEP alone. I am starting promptly on time today. Both my guest and I have something and another commitment at 11 o’clock, so we will be ending promptly if not a little bit early. with me today is Samantha Feinman. She is the director of New Frontiers In Learning, which is an organization that provides individual coaching, instruction and support to middle, middle school, high school, college students and adults of all ability levels. her experience includes supporting clients at the secondary and post secondary levels as well as experience working directly with families to assist in the transition and career exploration processes. but why I haven’t heard here today is she is an executive functioning coach and I know that’s always been a hot topic. so well first let’s let you introduce yourself. Samantha.
AF: Hi everybody. Amanda, I’m glad to be here. I am a speech therapist and train special education teacher and have been working in the field of education for quite some time now. elementary school, as well as middle school and at the college level. so, you know, I really went into, looking at executive functioning in particular when I was, faculty at a university in New York city where we were seeing a lot of undergraduate students coming to, the college environment that had the intellectual capacity to do very high level, work academically. But some things were falling through the cracks for them and they were struggling. And so we started to see the same patterns of behavior, time and time again with, these students that, you know, sometimes when they’re in high school and transitioning to college, we look at them and we say their failure to launch, or sometimes they’re, they’re the ones that go to college.
AF: they, they’re unsuccessful for a semester and have to go home or, you know, unsuccessful for a couple semesters and ha have to go home and we’re not quite sure, or they’re not quite sure what, why they’re struggling. or what, you know, what the difficulty is. So, so we started to look at those students in particular and what we found was that they all had the same pattern of, of really demonstrating weaknesses in the areas of executive function. So that’s, you know, where I started to really look at it and, and you know, starting with the college age and then really moving down to high school and middle school and we see many times that students start struggling with these skills as early as upper elementary school and middle school, clerk, you know, so I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to take questions about it and kind of give you some, some, information about things that we see are patterns that, that students are struggling with and how, you know, families, parents, teachers, educators, whomever, can help to develop these skills early on, to, to help create for an independent, learning experience.
LL: Great. I was introduced to the concept of executive functioning skills when I first became an advocate, thankfully. And it wasn’t something I had really thought about. And it’s definitely one of those things where if it’s present, I think you take it for granted if you have decent skills. But when they’re, when they’re absent, you certainly notice them. And then I find that a lot of parents can’t really define that. You know, they, they know what they’re seeing. And then I say, well, is it this is it this is it this And then they’re like, Oh yeah. And I’m like, okay, you have executive functioning issues. Yeah.
AF: And I see, you know, I think, I think part of the issue is that, you know, they’re, they’re really internal cognitive processes. So it’s not something that we see on the outside. And sometimes the behaviors that are exhibited due to executive function, weakness can mask what they, you know, sometimes we’ll see parents as this little thing, you know, my son or daughter is just lazy or they, they’re not motivated to do the work when the reality is that the processes that they’re struggling with our internal and their cognitive. And so it’s very hard for us to see that when, when these processes, especially as parents, if they come naturally to us, or we’ve developed strategies so that we can be successful in these areas, but our children are struggling, it’s hard for us to make that connection that maybe it’s an executive function issue because we can’t see it. And so we have to identify, we have to identify the underlying cause.
LL: Okay. okay. For those of you joining us, if you do have to leave early, I just wanted to, I forgot to say this at the beginning. as always, this will be on the Facebook page forever, under videos. And I also always put it on YouTube for those who are not on Facebook and I will email it out to the list and everywhere else. So we’re getting some, some good mornings. so before we get started for those, I mean, I’m sure there are parents out there who aren’t familiar with the concept of executive functioning, even though it’s kind of a buzzword. I think right now, particularly in the autism and ADHD, ADHD world. why don’t you tell us a little bit about what our executive functioning skills and why are they important
Why are Executive Functioning Skills important?
AF: Sure. Yeah. So you know, the technical definition, is, you know, Executive functioning skills are, they’re kind of an umbrella set of skills or cognitive processes that help one to get from point a to point B. So it helps an individual to monitor and control their thoughts and behaviors and actions and to fuss. And it facilitates goal-directed behavior. So, if you think about it in an analogy, it’s like the CEO of your brain. It’s all of the processes that are happening to help you get from I need to do something or I want to do something to actually getting it done. And there are really two kinds of different categories of executive function skills. There are skills that help to achieve a goal. So these are things like, your ability to plan, your ability to organize your thoughts, prioritize what you have to do when your ability to monitor and check that you’re following through with achieving your goal.
AF: So when you have a goal and then there are steps that you take to achieve that goal. And then the other area of skills that fall under executive function are your, the behaviors that guide you to that. So that’s being able to follow directions, being able to control your impulses, being able to focus and persist through activities, being able to pay attention to be patient, and again to just persist. So you have the actions that you need to take in order to get to a goal. And then there are the behaviors that facilitate your, your getting to that goal. So it’s, it’s a, it’s a pretty complex process and you know, it’s really important to understand about that is, you know, one student or one child or one individual may have weaknesses in one area of executive function and then another may have it in another, but, but both of them may be having a hard time handing in their homework.
AF: So you really need to look at exactly what is, what process specific processes are affected and then help to remediate those processes through strategy development. you know, just to give you, like a, a real life example. I always like to use the example when I do talks like this of, you know, how I got to this talk today, right So, so I had the goal of being able to get here with you and to have this conversation with your audience. And so there were a lot of things that had to go work in the background in order to get me from having the goal of participating in this conversation and then actually making it happen. Right So I had to make sure it was in my schedule. I had the time. Correct. You and I had to facilitate, the, the technology necessary in order for me to log on.
AF: I had to get dressed, I had to be there on time. I had to prepare my material in advance of what I wanted to talk about. So, you know, if you have good executive function skills, these things happen spontaneously and automatically and naturally. But for individuals that struggle with executive function skills, some too, they may be late to things a lot. They may not, they may show up, but not know what they need to have in front of them. They may, you know, not be prepared for their audience. they may forget, or they may not follow through. They may say they’re going to be there and then not know how to get on the technology. So, you know, there’s, there again, that’s like a real-life example how this plays out and, and it’s, it’s not, it’s not something necessarily we see on the outside, but it’s, you know, it, we, we see that it’s a concern through the lack of follow-through when it comes to goal-directed behavior.
LL: Yeah. I used to teach an adult vocational program and one of my students, she had some issues. The director of the school came to me and they had real serious concerns because she was showing up, and this was a place that we opened every day at seven, but she was showing up at five o’clock every day and just hanging out in the parking lot. And, you know, we’re in a day and an age where people don’t like people hanging out in a parking lot. Well, it came to pass after talking with her that it was her lack of executive functioning skills. That that was literally the only way she could get to school on time was to be at least an hour or two early. She was completely incapable of planning out the drive and planning out her morning to arrive at, you know, like a reasonable or quote-unquote normal time. She couldn’t do it. So in order to not be late, she had to be two hours early.
AF: And so it’s interesting, you know, so I think it brings up two good points. Number one, you know, executive functioning skills are really universal. So these are skills that you use not only for academics but it also for employment. You use them for social opportunities, you use them for independent living. So, you know, if you have a tough time with executive function, it’s going to bleed into your academics, your career, your social life, et cetera. And we’re going to see it become an issue in all these areas. And then when you know that that specific example of time management is so, you know, it’s something we see all the time. Time management is really being able to connect one’s actions to a clock or calendar, right And so, sometimes we overestimate or underestimate. We’ve had a lot of, you know, we, we’ve had, we’ve had a similar, but like the opposite end of that with, with a lot of the college students that we work with, you know, they’ll say, I have a nine o’clock class and we’ll say, okay, what time are you going to get up
AF: And they say 8:55. And we’re like, you know, you have to kind of back into that, how are you, you know, how much time do you need to actually get out of bed Do your morning routine, get dressed, have something to eat, pack your bag, walk across campus. You know, that it’s unrealistic to think that all of that can happen in five minutes. But if individuals have a difficult time with time management, they may not make that connection between what the goal is and then how much in real-time it’s going to take on a clock or on a calendar for that to actually get done. Same thing with longterm assignments. Right Like it looks like procrastination. Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow, I’ll do it tomorrow, I’ll do it tomorrow. When in reality, many times the individuals don’t realize that you’re not going to be able to get it done overnight because they’re not making the connection between how much time you really need and getting that whatever that thing is done
LL: Right. Or the ability to stop and restart a project in the middle of, you know, a lot of people have to, when they start something, they have to complete it. They cannot pause midway, put it away, get it out the next day. So Judy left us a comment, more so than a question, but it’s great cause it brings me to the next question I wanted to ask you. And she said she’s tired of her IEP team saying organizational skills don’t get learned until about 20 years of old, 20 years old. What age should we see You know, halfway decent enough skills showing up? You know, because we talked about interrupting impulse control. Obviously that’s not a coddler skill.
AF: It’s great, it’s a really great, great question. And I would say you know by if we look at the structure of school and we use the expectations of what the public school system requirements of our students, I always say by middle school students should have a sense of how to organize themselves because that’s what the expectation is of school. If you think about the transition from elementary school and middle school, elementary school, the students primarily are with the same teacher all day every day. They don’t have a locker, they’re not shifting from class to class. The teacher gets to know them very well and they get to know their teacher very well and the teacher has the ability to help structure their time and give them a lot of support when it comes to organization. But when they transitioned to middle school or junior high school, the students tend to have four or five, six teachers, all that have different systems and routines. They’re teaching different areas of content. They have textbooks they have to be responsible for. They have to shift from room to room in a certain amount of time. They have to get to the buses on time. You know, this year I have a 12-year-old and a nine-year-old, and this year I actually saw first hand what the requirements were when, when, when a student goes from elementary school to middle school and it’s a big deal. It really, it’s a big shift. So I think by middle school especially, you know, we start to see students that have executive function challenges. We start to see that they’re starting to forget their homework. They can’t get to class on time. They, they miss the bus many times after school. they forget materials that they’re supposed to bring home. They have a hard time navigating the online platforms to get their schoolwork done. So, so the, so I would say by middle school it’s kind of, it’s really essential that the students are able to organize
At a minimum, the requirements for various classes in, various disciplines for various teachers. So they should be able to say, you know, and, and it, it, listen, the transition from elementary school to middle school can be difficult. And so it may not happen immediately. It may take a couple of weeks, it may take a couple of months, it may take a whole school year, but they should if they transitioned successfully with
AF: Proper executive function skills, they should be able to say, for math, I have to do this and bring this home and put it in their backpack. you know, and of course, there are always times that you’re going to forget things. We all forget sometimes, but, but consistently they should be able to know what they need to do for all of their different classes pretty independently and know how to use the online systems and keep track of, of what has been handed in and,
Can Executive Function Skills be taught?
LL: Okay. okay. So as an IEP advocate, one of my kind of standard philosophies has been that if a child or student lacks a skill, you either teach them the skill or you accommodate for them not having the skill. And of course, you can accommodate while teaching as well. cause you know, it’s my firm belief that you can’t punish ETF skills into a child. You know, and that’s what happens is that you didn’t bring your homework, you didn’t bring your homework, you know, and then you have lots of kids failing classes for the mere fact that they don’t ever hand in homework. can eff skills be taught if there is a deficit in, in, you know, in the brain, so to speak? And, yeah, so let’s, let’s start with that. Cause that’s what that’s, then I’ll get to some of the reader questions cause that’s kind of along the ways that it’s going.
AF: Sure. Absolutely. So, so yes, and, and to the extent that they can be taught, it’s individualized, from person to person. Right. So, but yes. So, and I love that idea of bringing up skill development, right. And, and remediation versus accommodation. Because, you know, in my experience, I think sometimes we focus too much on remediation or too much on accommodation and not enough between the balance of those two things. And really for students that demonstrate executive function weakness, we need to embed both of those things. We need to help remediate the executive function deficits that they’re displaying, but at the same time, they need to be able to access the curriculum and demonstrate knowledge while they’re learning those skills. And that’s where accommodations are incredibly important. In terms of teaching executive functioning skills, yet they can be to it. Just like reading can be taught just like writing, but it’s not necessarily the focus of the school.
AF: The focus of the school is content, right, and school is very content-driven. So sometimes we need to teach these skills. In smaller groups, you will see it, you know, maybe happening in the resource room or maybe through, you know, additional school time after school. and sometimes in the classroom as well. But you know, it’s really about externalizing those metacognitive processes and making it relevant to the students and their, and their systems that they’re using. If it’s not coming naturally to them, they need to learn just like they learn other things directly through direct instruction, through modeling and through practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. So the first thing you do is you identify what, you know, what is the issue My son or daughter is not handing in homework. Okay, why are they not handing in homework Because they don’t know where to find the assignment.
AF: Is it because they wait till the last minute Is it because they do half of it and then forget to do the rest So identifying what executive function skills are having they’re struggling with and then teach externalizing those processes and helping them to develop those so that they can then internalize them. So you’re really, you’re, you’re it, we, we, we call it cognitive modeling, right So you’re thinking about, and I can give you, an example, my daughter who is now, you know, just like all of our children are participating in online learning and she, has six to seven online classes a day following a schedule for you have to be online for math at nine, you have to be on for social studies at 10, but it changes from day to day. So, I could very easily say to her, I could go on her, on her, on her, platform.
AF: I can find out when her classes are and I can say, make sure you’re on the computer at nine for math, making sure you’re on the computer at 10 for social studies. But I don’t, I want her to learn how to organize and manage her own time. So you say things like, do you have class tomorrow Yes. Well, how do you know you have class tomorrow So that you’re guiding them in the direction of going through the cognitive processes to figure out, my goal is to know what classes I have tomorrow and when they are, and I have to use my cognitive processes to figure out when those classes are. So, so this is where that coaching model comes in. So you’re asking, when are your classes, how do you, where do you find that information now that you have that information, how are you going to remember it
Most Common Executive Functioning Issues
AF: And teaching, you know, the three in my professional experience, the three big executive functions, challenges that we see as students get older are the ability to plan, the ability to organize, and the ability to manage their time. And so, you know, you’re teaching and coaching through demonstrating these cognitive skills. How to get to the answer of how do you plan, how do you create both a longterm roadmap, right Of what you need to do and how do you create a daily to-do list to figure out what you need short to do short term. So this is the big picture and this is what’s right in front of me. How do you organize and manage your materials How are you going to remember where things are How are you, where are you going to store information that you have to then efficiently and easily come back to And then how are you going to utilize time to complete those actions in an efficient manner. So you’re doing all of this through modeling and, and allowing and guiding.
LL The kids through practicing those things. Is that helpful Yeah. And I think I partially answered Wendy’s question, which was what do you recommend for secondary students who can not keep track of their assignments during distance learning. But I, so I think you’ve put, you’ve already answered that. but I would add to that. So what if you pose these questions? So let’s say Wendy says, you know, does all these things with her son, and I’m assuming it’s a son or daughter and the child, the student cannot come up with solutions.
AF: Yeah. And so you’re backing into it, right You don’t want to give them the solution, but you also, but you also, it’s, you know, we, we call it in educational term scaffolding. You want to be able to find the place where you can get them to the answer without making it so challenging that they don’t know. So you can back yourself into it. If they don’t have an answer, you can give them options of different things. The most important thing is, especially with planning and organization, is that the students need to buy into using it, and then they need to connect using it to better performance. So, you know, it’s not enough to say, write down all of your assignments. and you know, create a, to-do list. You have to, you, you have to help the students see why that’s important, how it’s in help, how it’s helpful and how it leads to a positive end result because you participated in those behaviors.
Gather Student Input
AF: so, you know, I think, you know, many times we aren’t necessarily making that connection between, if I do this, then I do this. If I, you know, if I create a longterm roadmap of the assignment that I need to get done, then I won’t get, I won’t, I won’t get overwhelmed by too many things at the last minute. That’s a hard thing for kids that have executive function difficulties to see. You have to bring that to the forefront and show them and then when they do plan and they do, there are positive results of it. You have to really clearly identify because you did this, we got to this end result. It’s very easy for our, our, our students to, get a poor result and say I’m stupid. I can’t do this. That’s why I got there. You know, that’s what they gravitate towards. So we want to move them towards. But if you change your actions and you change your behaviors, this is not internal. This is something you can change with practice and, and, and support.
LL: Okay. okay. Cause he questions, and I know that you work privately as a private EF coach?
LL:Like parents just hire you to be almost like hiring a counselor, I guess, or another therapist of sorts. but it’s what, what interesting or I shouldn’t say just interesting. What, what effective measures have you seen on an IEP to address these issues
AF: That’s a good question. you know, I, I think I, you know, because we do it more privately, we’re able to kind of assess the client’s needs, individually. But, you know, again, like I think the most important part in the process is not to, not to just say that, you know, Johnny will improve organizational behaviors, but really giving concrete strategies of how organization is going to, how, how Johnny’s going to improve his organizational skills. So, you know, is it going to be teaching a, you know, teaching teaching how to use digital files. Is it going to be teaching how to use a binder with different color-coded sections Is it going to be teaching using different notebooks, but giving really concrete examples of how organization, how planning is going to be, taught. And, and, and you know, and, and making, making it a little bit more discreet rather than general.
Most Impactful EF Skill for Parents to Teach
LL: Okay. so George Ann’s question, and it’s funny cause I was just going to ask you this because I have clients in a local school district and what districts around here do is there’s a time period each day. I want to say it starts around fourth grade that the classes kind of break up and we call it when for what I need. And basically the classes break up into differentiated instruction based on that child’s need. So if you need math help, then you get it then and the gifted kids go to gifted enrichment or whatever. but I do know that a couple of local districts have a wind session, that is ESL stuff. They just say, well, you can do the wind executive functioning. but how do you know in Georgia and says, you know, but yeah, they have enough classes but she sees no evidence of topics or skills being taught. So what would you say is the single most impactful skill related to EDF that parents can teach?
AF: Well, it’s also incredibly important. But you know, first and foremost, I think, from teaching executive Function skills, we always, we always want to do it under with the understanding that it has to be relevant to the students. Real-life systems. Okay. So teaching executive functioning skills in a vacuum is going to be very difficult. You can teach organizational skills, this is what organization is, but if they can’t connect it to organizing their coursework, then it’s, they may not generalize that on their own and they may not see the relevance or the, they may not get their motivation to actually follow through with executive function skills or with executive function strategies. Right. So I would say, you know, you owe like the first, first and foremost, you just want to make sure that you’re, you’re, you’re making it relevant to their lives. Giving specific concrete examples of how they can use it and how it would be advantageous to use and make sure they buy into taking the chance of trying and following through, with these strategies.
AF: you know, like I said before, planning, organization, and time management are my top three. it’s, it’s hard for me to pick one. but those are your real top three, I would say. You know, they all lead to independence. If you can’t get somewhere on time, you’re not going to be able to hold down a job. You’re not going to do well in your classes, right. If you can’t organize your material, you’re not going to be able to find things to study. You’re not going to be able to find your homework assignment and, and you know, and planning, you know, I guess if I had to pick one, I would say planning is, you know, planning is essential because it’s what helps you execute. Right So, you know, being able to, to look at the big picture and a lot of students, you know, particularly with learning differences, ADHD, you know, in particular, sometimes they’re just looking at what’s right in front of them and they’re not looking at the big picture.
AF: And so if you don’t look at the big picture and you don’t plan in advance of what needs to happen to get to the end goal, it can affect motivation, it can affect, you know, your ability to get things done on time. So, you know, planning kind of seeps into organization, time management. So I would say, you know, being able to look at the big picture by planning out a big roadmap of everything that needs to get done. And then what do I need to do today to get to that end result is probably, you know, I would say what you want
LL: Start with. Okay. And a couple of questions about getting these things on IEP and just for the record, this is for the viewers. there are certain concepts. I would say the executive functioning is definitely one of them. social skills and SEL learning I would say is another. There are certain concepts that I feel that schools, some schools are trying and some are doing a better job than others. But if there, if you have the means to handle it privately, I would absolutely recommend that you handle it privately. Because if your school isn’t already offering it or if it’s a fight to get it, chances are it’s not going to be done well. And I’m not saying let the schools off the hook for the responsibilities, but at the same time, at some point you have to take what I call the ‘path of least resistance.’
LL: And if it’s not a financial hardship, which I certainly acknowledged, there are so many people unemployed right now, but if it’s not a financial hardship and you can handle these things on your own privately, you know, for a few sessions or few, you know, whatever it takes, I would recommend doing that. That being said, Robert and Georganne both are asking us, like how do we write this up in the IEP and present levels, goals and you know, Georgia and asks, how do we get school districts to explicitly teach something, of course, anything, any goal listed on IEP has to be in present levels, identified as an area of need. What are some of the evaluations or assessments that you do for executive functioning
Assessments for Executive Functioning
AF: Yeah, I mean, you know, we as an organization we, we assess it more informally, kind of looking at, well, you know, for us it’s more important to see where are, where are our clients specifically struggling, struggling in their day to day and to help to remediate those skills. But, you know, on a psychoeducational you should, or a neuropsychological, you should see things, specific to executive function skill. you know, there are, there are questionnaires, like the brief, that are very common. And so, you know, different schools use different things. I think what parents can advocate for the most is that they have a clear idea and sense through formal assessment or a questionnaire how their children are currently functioning in terms of, of executive function skills development at a developmentally appropriate level. So, you know, so I think, you know, the first step is to request from the school executive executive function skill scores. And it can be done through the brief and there are others and, and some of them, I think the, I think the, the whisk and the waste, I think they have also, broken down sub-scores for executive functioning as well in certain areas. But, but just asking a requesting for, you know, an understanding of the current levels of performance, and age appropriateness of executive function skills can really be helpful.
LL: And what’s your experience been or what examples do you have of families who have been successfully demonstrating to their IEP team that this is a true EF issue and not ill will, you know, not the child doesn’t want to, the child’s not motivated, you know, then it’s the child truly wants to hand in their homework, but they just lose it every day. You know, they just, they lose their, and then I say, well, we’re going to give them, I can’t even tell you how many IEP meetings I’ve had. And I said, well, we’re going to give them accommodation of having, a booklet. It’s a check-in booklet that they have to check-in at the end of each day with their assignments and then they lose the booklet. You know, I’m like, well, you’re just giving one more thing to lose, you know, it’s not going to work. But, so what, what areas or what, what ways have you been successful seeing success in that?
AF: Well, I, you know, I think it, this is the most difficult part because again, like these skills can be masked in behaviors that can, they can, you know, they can look like being lazy or not caring about school or not being motivated. But you know, if you put yourself in the shoes of a, of a student that is struggling with these things, of course, they’re not going to be motivated. They don’t know why they’re missing their homework. They don’t know why. They can’t remember to hand it in every day. They don’t recognize that, oh, I don’t have a system. So, you know, that’s my issue here. What’s happening is they’re seeing everybody else, they’re perceiving everybody else’s, being able to do something and they can’t see it. And so, you know, it will 100% affect motivation. It will 100% affect your avoidance, want to be involved in academics and it, you know, it can get as serious as things like school refusal.
AF: So, you know, assessments are, are, are a good start. but you know, don’t forget to motivation what motivate all motivation is, is your, your, your desire, your level of desire to act on something. Right Well, if you’re, if you’re consistently demonstrating behaviors of being unsuccessful in something, well you’re not going to be motivated to want to continue to do that. So yeah, I always tell parents, take yourself out of it for a second. I don’t, I’ve never met a student that has said to me, my goal in life is to be unsuccessful in school. So I’m going to try as hard as I can to be unsuccessful that it doesn’t happen. Right So there’s a reason why they’re being unsuccessful and the older they get and the longer they persist with these struggles, the more they’re going to develop learned helplessness, where it’s just going to be, I’m just going to give up.
AF: I’m not going to be successful with this. So why am I going to bother to try So I think we need to reframe how we, how we identify and define those skills though those behaviors when we see them. When we see a student that appears to be unmotivated, when we see a student who doesn’t want to go to school, when we see a student that, and especially, you know, adolescent adolescence and young adulthood, they don’t, your social status developmentally at that age is so incredibly important. They don’t want to look different from their peers, but they, you know, are struggling at a different level. So they’re going to do everything they can to avoid looking like they don’t know what they’re doing in class. That information, what we do with it, we can say the student is lazy or they don’t care about school or they just don’t care.
AF: Or we can say, why Why are, why are they forgetting their homework every day? And if you try something and it doesn’t work, it does. It was the wrong thing. You try something else. you know, it kind of goes into this is, it’s, it’s an emotional connection that you have with your kids, right And so sometimes the parents aren’t the best person to kind of figure this out with because you have an emotional connection to your kids. So it’s like, we want to do this right We want to hold on to our kids. We want to protect them. We want to help them. We want, we don’t want them to be uncomfortable. And so, you know, sometimes it’s, it’s easier to just have somebody from an outside perspective identify with the students that, what they’re struggling with and how they can move forward from it.
AF: We’ve had lots of clients that come to the office and the parents, especially in middle school parents are like, oh, I can’t get them to do any homework at home. That is a fight. Every day. There are tantrums every day. We can’t, I can’t handle this anymore. And they come in and they sit with our coaches and there’s no, there’s not that emotional struggle. And so they’re able to figure it out. So if it constantly is an emotional battle, you may want to consider having a friend or a mentor, you know, an old, you know, somebody close to your family but not necessarily a parent helping the students to work on these things. And I’m also would like to add for parents that, I interviewed a former teacher, this was several months ago, but she said something kind of pivotal related to this that
LL: No teacher gives homework assignments with the intent of the entire family ending up in tears or with the intent of stealing your family time every evening. Or you know, that’s the goal of giving homework is not so that you have a screaming match in your kitchen every day. So, you know, if that is happening because teachers only see the finished product too. So I find it, you know, I always tell parents that if, if it took a lot of struggles and a lot of tears, you need to write that on the assignment cause all teachers see is the finished assignment. And if you don’t speak up, they assume that while the child did the assignment right. So. Okay. So, any, just to finish off the IEP question also with anything, you know, that you asked for follow up with pwn if they’re declining your request, they need to provide that to you on a pwn. can this, can eff disorder, can that cause or mimic anxiety disorder
AF: Oh, such a good question. It’s like one of those things that we’re always struggling with in the field is like, you know, the chicken and the egg, you know, is there an anxiety disorder that you know, then affects academics or is the challenges that that academics affected, you know, the end result anxiety. And, and I would say it’s definitely intertwined and complex. And if you look at, again, if you just use, ADHD as an example, the percentages, of comorbidity between ADHD and, and a diagnosis of anxiety is way higher than it is just ADHD, ADHD alone. Again, put yourself in the perspective, right One, one may occur and you know, anxiety may occur and that impedes the ability, to get the academics done or to follow efficient executive function processes or executive function processes. May have devastated and not being able to keep up with your peers and do what you need to do to be successful in school can then cause anxiety. So I think it could go either way. And, and, and I will say, I don’t know which comes first and I don’t, I don’t know if anybody knows the answer to that, but I do know that the instance is in the percentages of those two coming together are very, very common.
LL: Okay. Yeah. We had the, I just had, last week we talked about, I was talking with the clinical psychologist about OCD and anxiety and you know, these things just rarely travel alone is correct. What I say, you know, they, they rarely travel alone. It’s okay.
AF: No, and I think, and I think just, just one more piece on that is I think that it, you know, there’s a place for therapeutic services and there’s a place for executive function coaching. And so, you know, if, if this, if children are, are having a difficult time, a challenging time with both of those things, you know, those are two different things there. They’re definitely interrelated, but they may need support in both of those things. You know, they may need support in terms of developing coping mechanisms and coping strategies with a therapist, a therapist. But then they also may need to learn how to break down assignments into smaller pieces, which, which could work with an executive functioning coach. So, you know, you just have to, every, every individual is different. Okay. So a few questions about if a child has identified executive functioning issues and they’re going to be addressed, who does typically do this Some schools are saying the OT does it, some teachers, SLPs, what is your experience or where does a person find an executive functioning coach
LL: I just want to add for the listeners, if you weren’t here in the beginning or the Watchers viewers, she’s already outside of New York city. So I think in your more densely populated areas it’s going to be more accessible. But go ahead. Sure. So, so, you know, in terms of of who’s going to do it, just in broad strokes when we’re talking about the schools, the people that are going to do it are going to be the people that have the capacity to individualize instruction or strategy development in some capacity for the students. So all of those people that you mentioned, all of those, they’re there. Their goals as professionals is to help to accommodate and remediate whatever the students are struggling with maybe in different areas. But there’s overlap, right So there’s overlap between OT and speech and special education. and so who, whomever the people are on the students at educational team that are responsible for individualizing their experience.
AF: Those are the people that I would rely on the special education teachers during resource room or in consultation with the classroom teacher. the speech therapist who have a, a really deep understanding of language and the rules of language. These are people that can be very, very, helpful even, you know, the school psychologist or the social worker in, in, in the school may be able to help with. Again, it’s about individual looking at the individual and finding out exactly what they’re struggling with. in terms of finding an executive function coach, you know, for us it’s interesting. We were doing a lot of virtual services as a company. We have about 60 coaches that work, with our organization. And, we were doing a lot of virtual, coaching prior to the pandemic and, but we were also doing a lot of in person.
AF: It was actually an easy transition for us to go from, input from in-person to virtual because we are already doing virtual. So in terms of finding somebody privately, you sometimes you can find people in the ground on the ground, in, in your area. but also there’s, you know, companies out there like ours that do a lot of virtual work. So we’re able to work with students in California, Florida, wherever, you know, we have, we have, we have coaches all throughout the country, but also a big team of people that can work with kids no matter where they are.
LL: Okay. great. And I will send out, like I said, I’ll send out the video and the link and everything. afterwards the email lists will be on the Facebook page. It’ll be everywhere. So you’ll have her contact information if you’re interested in reaching out. okay. I’m going to wrap up with one last question. Somebody asks about assessments, which Wendy we already touched on. So hopefully you heard that. If not, you’ll have to go back. but one last question and then we’ll sign off. And that is, can you talk a little bit about goal setting and self-advocacy?
AF: I’ve seen kids who, students who struggle with setting goals and self-advocating. Sure. So, so, you know, setting goals is, it’s important to, I think setting goals sometimes when it’s difficult, it, it, it goes hand in hand with that, that motivational piece. Okay. So, if a goal is too big and it’s hard for a student to get to the end zone without, you know, the right levels of support in between, then they might give up. so go. So the actual act of goal setting is, is a skill that sometimes we have to, we have to teach. But then the second step to that is, well, how do we get there Right So if the goal is to complete the semester, well there are lots of things that have to happen to get from wanting to complete the semester to actually making it happen. And so goal setting is half of the process. The second half of the process is then breaking down all the things that need to happen then in order to get to that end result.
AF: And then building in, some sort of a, of a motivational, system to, to get students from, I have to do these 20 things to get to my end goal because, you know, we tend to when it comes to motivation, we tend to be really motivated to do something in the beginning, but then we start to lose stamina cause it takes too long to get to the end result. So the students need to see this is the end goal, but these are the small steps to get there. Again, a lot of times they’re just seeing what’s right in front of them rather than the bigger picture. So identifying the bigger picture and then the small steps to get there is really, really important. This is where self-advocacy and help seeking seals kind of come in to play because if you’re struggling with getting to that end result, you need to be able to identify when you hit a roadblock, identify where you can go to receive help to get over that issue and then follow through with whatever strategies and supports are available to you to keep you going.
AF: So this is, this is like that persistence piece of an of, of, and building frustration tolerance that is all part of executive function skills. So, you know, getting yourself to the, to the end zone is, is a big part of, of goal setting and, and goal completion. and so, you know, when it comes to self-advocacy, students need to know who they are as a learner. We’ve had lots of clients that come to us in their late teens, early twenties, who have never gone over their neuro-psychological report before. So they don’t have a sense of why they’re struggling, what they’re good at, what they’re not good at. Again, you know, that self-awareness piece, that metacognitive piece, if it’s not coming naturally to them, then they’re not identifying. They need a note-taker in class because their processing is slow or they have, you know, an issue with attending to a task unless that information is reviewed with them.
AF: And a lot of times people are hesitant to review that information because they don’t want the students to feel bad. But I will tell you in my professional experience, it’s a relief and it’s such a relief to them when they hear, I’m struggling because this is happening. They’re like, Oh. Then they, then they finally have an answer for why they look different from other people. So the first step in self-advocacy is really learning who, identifying who you are as a learner. Owning it, right Owning it and saying, okay, this is who I am. Everybody’s different. Everybody has different weaknesses. Everybody has different strengths and, and, and then knowing how to identify when that’s becoming an obstacle in your environment. So that, and then knowing where to go to ask for help. Again, adolescents and young adults, they don’t gravitate towards asking for help, right They want to do things on their own.
AF: They’re at a developmental period in their life where they, they’re seeking agency and they don’t, they don’t want any help from anybody, but they need the help. Right And so we need to teach them that it’s okay to receive help. I tell our students all the time that the most successful people in the world don’t do it on their own. They have a team of people that are working to help them every day, all day. And so people that, offer and accept help are the most successful people in our, in our society. And so that, you know, again, it’s just that reframing and rethinking about things, and helping the students to understand who they are and that it’s okay to ask for help. And when do that, you know, we, one of the struggles that we see all the time is when our, when our clients transition, we work with kids as early as middle school, high school and then into college.
AF: And when we see so many of them transitioned to college, there are so many wonderful supports on campus for them. But the kids that need those supports are the ones that don’t ask for it because they, their executive function skills are preventing them from getting themselves from, from this is what I need to actually follow through with it. So, so you know, and I still have the seeds, and help-seeking is really incredibly important. But again, it goes in, I could talk about it for another app, but it, you know, it goes in those, another one of those areas that, is affected by motive, is affected by executive function skills and needs to be directly taught, modeled and practiced. Just like everything else at an early age, have those kids in the IEP meetings as early as possible with an active voice, with an active voice. They need to be able to ask, can you explain this information to me What is this What is my neck You know, it’s hard for kids, but if they start to practice those things at an early age, they’ll get it
LL: More comfortable with it. Right. And I that’s, yeah, we’re so on the same page. One is that I hate when parents hide diagnoses from kids that that’s one of my pet peeves. and I always advise that kids should be participating in their own IEP or five or four meetings from the earliest age possible to the maximum extent possible. And that may not be sitting in on an entire meeting, but they can maybe come in for the first five minutes and say, this is something I’m really struggling with or this is my most important concern today, or something like that. Okay. wrapping up, how young, what age does self-awareness should, should self-awareness be developing?
AF: Well, you know, I think self awareness develops edit at a, a, a very young age. I’m going to say, you know, I’m not a, I’m not an expert in developmental psychology, but just from my experiences, you know, kids at a very young age can start to connect their behaviors to their act, their, their, their behaviors and actions to the consequences. it’s how they, it’s, it’s how they, translate that information. That’s, that, that’s important, right So again, like, you know, I think as early as upper elementary school, we really want to start to pay attention to, how kids are perceiving their efforts and what it turns into and, and how they, how they’re perceiving that. So, I think, I think it’s less of a question of when, but more of a question of, of, of are they perceiving things correctly
AF: Are they making the connection between, if I do this, then it’s going to lead to this result. If I don’t, then it’s going to lead to this result. And that it’s, it’s, it’s more of a, you know, it’s, it’s more about your mindset. It’s more about, how you’re perceiving things that, that, you know, it’s, it’s that fixed versus growth mindset. We can do a whole nother hour on that. Like if I have the ability to change the outcome based on my actions, that’s what we want to strive towards. You know, rather than, no matter how hard I try, I’m never going to be successful. We want the former, right We want to teach them that if, you know, they, we want to teach them, we want to build frustration tolerance, we want to teach, we want to support them, we want to find that good balance between accommodation, remediation and we want to reward them by demonstrating look of what happened, look at these wonderful, this wonderful result after you, you did this.
AF: so, you know, just helping them to, to, to, to make those connections that if they’re at a young age, upper elementary school for sure. Okay, great. Okay, so I had just said that at the, what would agents get aid to start sitting in I always say at the earliest age possible to the maximum extent possible. And I have a blog post on that with a whole bunch of examples because you know, a child can write a letter, a child can, you know, you can create a video on your phone. it doesn’t necessarily mean sitting in on the entire IEP meeting, right. That part for them. So, okay, tomorrow tune in at 10, no noon, noon. Tomorrow is, I have a pediatric neurologist coming on to talk about, she specializes in ADHD, so that’ll be a good followup to this since ADHD or since ESL issues tend to be a hallmark of ADHD. so thank you so much Samantha for explaining all this today. Like I said, I will send out the video to viewers. If you’re just tuning in late, it’s on the Facebook page. If you want to rewatch it, I will send out her contact information and how to contact her and her agency. And yes, Aloha. Robert. Robert got up at 4:00 AM in Hawaii to watch this. So, I would say I feel bad for you for getting up at 4:00 AM, but you live in Hawaii, so, so I don’t feel bad for you.
LL: if, if ever I was going to be quarantined and you know, I can’t be, I am very jealous of the people quarantined in Hawaii, so, okay. Thank you so much.
AF: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.