Wow! What a discussion we had about Executive Functioning today!
Even if you do not have time today, I am urging you to come back and watch the video at some point. It will completely change the way you think about Executive Functioning. Below the Executive Functioning video with Tera Sumpter, I have links to everything we talked about and resources mentioned in the chat.
Here are the resources we discussed:
- Tera’s online educational network. This is my best resource for learning about EF, EF assessment and EF intervention for parents and professionals. https://community.terasumpter.com/
- Her book, The Seeds of Learning is below.
- Her Instagram account: @terasumpter_slp
- Her Facebook page: Seeds of Learning, LLC
- Her blog: https://terasumpter.com/blog
And here are the other IEP related things we talked about.
And, now, if you prefer, here is the transcript to read.
Lisa Lightner [00:01:38]:
Okay. So showing stream showing stream. Hide. Okay. Welcome, everyone. I’m so glad that you are here today on this we have a Super rainy cold day here in Pennsylvania. Hopefully, it’s better where you are. I am Lisa Leitner.
Lisa Lightner [00:01:52]:
If you haven’t met me, I’m gonna go ahead and we’re gonna start right away. I have one zero 2, and hopefully, we will gather up more people as time goes on. But I wanna be mindful of your time because I know many of you are taking lunch breaks and things like that. With me today is Tera Sumpter from Seeds of Learning.
Anything that we talk about today, I will put links and things in the comments as we’re chatting. But if you follow my page or if you subscribe to my email, you will get an email with All the links and all the things that we talk about today, you’ll get that as a follow-up.
So if we mention a resource of some kind, don’t feel obligated to grab the name of it or whatever. I will send it out.
Lisa Lightner [00:02:34]:
Tara also has a book, about executive functioning. And the reason I invited her here today is and I’m sure many of you have had this kind of phenomenon going on.
And, by the way, give us a like or a follow or or not a like or a follow, a like or a smiley face or something just to let us know that you’re here, make sure that we’re seeing some people. If you wanna tell us where you’re from, that’s great.
But like many of you, I follow a lot of disability and special education and IEP kind of pages. And Tera’s stuff started showing up in my feed. I don’t remember when. And just her memes and her graphics and her quotes and her sayings, and I was just Like, oh my gosh.
Like, this is fantastic. This is great. She really gets it as far as executive functioning. And Especially when we were just chatting earlier today, she said one of the things that she definitely wants to talk about is why are executive functioning interventions so hard to get.
And that right? Like, preaching to the choir. I know you all. That’s why you’re here today because you’re like, why are executive functioning, intervention is so hard to get. So, if you’re new to my page, I’m Lisa Lightner.
I’m an IEP advocate and have been since 2010. And I will let Tera also introduce herself and say hi and anything else she wants to add. So go ahead, Tera.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:04:00]:
Well, I wanna start by saying thank you so much for having me today. I’m honored that you asked me to come on your Facebook page or to have the event. So thank you so much, Lisa. My name is Tera Sumpter.
Like you said, I am a speech language pathologist that specializes in executive function. I won’t take time today to explain how I ended up on that path, but it’s been, we’re pushing couple decades here that I have been, specializing in this area function.
Way before it was cool to talk about it, way before it was a buzzword, I was eyeball deep in all the research, and creating therapy to, to support my students. So I am as Lisa said, I’m an author.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:04:41]:
I’m the author of a book called The Seeds of Learning. It is an integrated cognitive approach to learning, so I’m trying to put together these different pieces and parts to try to help speech language pathologists, but also Teachers and parents understand how these different aspects of cognitive processing work together.
Because what may look like a reading issue, maybe an executive function issue, It may look like a language difference, may look like an executive function need. So a lot of these things are, very intertwined, and it’s important to understand that. I’m also an international speaker, so I present regularly.
I’m actually headed to Michigan on Friday, so Got my bags packed. I’ve got, like, 6 weeks of on the road. So Right.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:05:21]:
Presenting. I do I’m the founder and owner of Seeds of Learning, which is a private practice here in the Cleveland, Ohio area. We have 2 offices outside of Cleveland. And then, last but not least, I run an online educational network for SLPs, parents, educators, and allied professionals. It’s a place to learn.
I would say it’s the best resource that I have. And, Lisa, I’ll give you a link to that too. There’s about 700 professionals from over 20 countries.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:05:48]:
And so it’s a pretty incredible way to learn about executive function and the related cognitive processing together. Okay. That’s a great question. I’m a mom. I have 3 girls. I have 2. Yeah.
Lisa Lightner [00:05:59]:
Yeah. I will send that information out if you’re If you wanna learn more about how to get involved in that, if if you’re like, yes. This is knowledge that I need. So I said just a minute ago that, you know, the reason The reason I invited you here is that so often you post things that I’m like,
Oh my gosh. Yes. You know? And it just really resonates with me and many of the the kids who I’ve advocated for over the years. But something that you said recently about executive functioning was that you said too often and and I’m paraphrasing. Too often parents and educators that we jump to the advanced executive functioning skills and not the beginner executive functioning skills.
So and that we miss out on identifying and teaching the foundational executive functioning skills. Can you elaborate a little bit more on that?
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:06:50]:
Yes. I’d love to. So if I can first start by talking about what is executive function. Executive function. One of my favorite definitions is by Russell Barkley. He is the godfather of executive function ADHD.
His definition is, that executive function is self direction for a future goal. And so when we there are really 2 parts to this definition.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:07:13]:
It’s the self direction which is queuing from the inside out for something that’s going to happen later. So we have to be able to queue from the inside while also being able to have a vision of what’s to come later. And this gets into working memory, which maybe we’ll have the chance to talk about a little bit later.
Something important to remember about executive function is that executive function is the cure. It’s the cure of a doer.
And this is where the system gets really confusing is because We have all of these doer systems, our speech processing, our language processing, our literacy development, right, our writing. All All of these things, these are doers. These are workers in the brain.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:07:58]:
And the executive function system, its job is to cue the doers and how and when and with what kind of intensity. So he’s like the guy behind the curtain sort of pulling the strings.
So he’s not the one actually doing the work, but the one facilitating it and orchestrating it, conducting it, if we think about it in those terms. So Oftentimes, when people think about the executive function system, what they think about are skills like Organization, planning, prioritizing.
Right? Those tend to be the skills. And those executive function skills, they’re important ones, but they are some of our highest level executive function skills. So I organize our executive function skills. I like to think of it in terms of a plant.
Executive Functioning Growth and Skills represented by a Plant
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:08:51]:
Right? Seems to be common theme in my professional life that I like to think of things in terms of growth and and planting. And so, I’ve broken the skills into roots, stems and flowers.
And this prioritizing and organ an organization, these types of skills are the flowers that we see bloom on the plant if there is a strong healthy root system and a strong healthy stem to the plant. Right? But the the flowers are what bring the bright color and catch people’s attention when they walk by, which is why those are the ones that are identified so frequently and not really the root system.
So, if we think about the root system, we’re really looking at, skills such as perception. How well do we perceive our environment? Are we aware of the people and the objects and the items in my environment, and am I aware of myself? Am I aware of my own thoughts, my own actions, my own perception. So that’s our most basic level of our root system is that perception, our awareness. And then after that, we’re gonna be talking about attention.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:10:07]:
Right? What is our attention capacity look like? Another really important part of our root system is our working memory. This is our verbal working memory and our nonverbal working memory.
And working memory, in short, people who know me, I’ve seen a couple of names pop up here who I know. Hello to my friends. Or, you know, people who are familiar with my work, that working memory is one of my favorite topics. It’s such a fascinating, fascinating system,
But it’s it’s holding on to information in the short term so that we can operate on it, and it really only lasts a handful of seconds. So it’s very, very short term processing, but that becomes a real big need for a lot of our students’ working memory because they can’t hold on to the information long enough to be able to operate on it. So they appear forgetful.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:10:54]:
Right? Things like that. Or they need things to be repeated or, and unfortunately, they end up, You know, becoming labeled as behavior problems or lazy or they’re just not trying hard enough because they don’t have the underlying skill.
And then the last really big root system skill is inhibition. So inhibition is our ability to, restrain ourselves, to hold ourselves back from an impulse. Right?
And when I talk about the ways that we can support think you’ll ask me a little bit later about ways that we can support, some of these skills, that becomes a really important one, especially when it comes to inhibition because our kiddos who struggle with inhibition need support, and they often get discipline and punishment because they seem to be The distractible, impulsive, right, types of kiddos. So we tend to go behavior approach for them, which is often Not the best.
Lisa Lightner [00:11:55]:
Alright. And that’s where I usually get called in because the child is being punished for literally being punished for a lack of skills.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:12:03]:
Lisa Lightner [00:12:03]:
You know, and you can’t I always say, you can’t reward and punish a set of skills into a child.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:12:11]:
Right. Yes. They love that.
Recognize signs of Executive Functioning Struggles
Lisa Lightner [00:12:13]:
So okay. So for the parents who are checking in today and they’ve They’ve been told, you know, or maybe they haven’t been told, but maybe they recognize, like so, you know, because like you said, the the flower things that we recognize is the messy locker, the messy desk, The lost homework assignments, the, they’re just forgetting to hand in.
I have a lot of kids who do the homework and never hand it in, or they forget to bring it home or, You know, we could go on and on and on with our examples, and then, of course, the lack of impulse control, and being impulsive and those kinds of thing. So for the parents who are watching and saying, like, yes. I know my my child is struggling with executive functioning.
Like, where do I start? What’s the 1st step either, you know, privately or with the school? And I you know, we I can talk about submitting letters for evaluations. But where would you recommend that they begin or how?
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:13:06]:
Yeah. I mean, my favorite place for families to go first is to a well respected neuropsychologist. That would be my favorite place to start. They tend to do the broadest type of evaluations, that are really going to capture Sure.
A lot of the executive function system. I think it’s important to remember that, all you know, there are good and bad professionals in every profession. So it becomes really important for parents to do their homework and to talk to other families and talk to other professionals to get a good referral, before you because a neuropsych evaluation is very time consuming. It’s very expensive.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:13:49]:
So you wanna make sure that, you know, you have somebody who’s very well recommended. So I would go that route for sure. That’s my my because, again, they get into working memory well, typically, and a lot of those components of the executive function system more so than just, a scale, you know, a rating scale, which is how a lot of the executive function assessment is done.
With that being said, it’s really important to remember that the best assessment for executive function is a dynamic assessment. And what dynamic assessment is is dynamic assessment is looking at performance or looking at observation across different domains.
So meaning, when I do an assessment, I’m looking at how they’re processing through you know, in the speech domain, the language domain, the literacy domain, the math domain. You know, we’re looking at it across, and I’m trying to create Connections, patterns of processing. I call it pop.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:14:54]:
That we’re looking for, “pop.” Patterns of processing across these domains, And then we also wanna look for patterns across settings. So we’re looking at you know, we’re trying to connect dots between school or maybe specific teachers. We may find that a student is much more successful in 1 classroom than another for lots of reasons.
Right? And all of that is gonna give us lots of good Observational dynamic assessment. I’ve already named dropped Russell Barkley, who if people are dealing with ADHD, he’s a name you should know.
He has A 1000000 and one resources out there in the way of books that are phenomenal. But he has gone to his one of his most recent, heavy, more research based books.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:15:38]:
He’s gone as far to say that standardized assessment of executive function is not only the worst way to assess it, it’s actually negligent. So we need to start looking beyond standardized assessment.
Lisa Lightner [00:15:55]:
So, let me just interrupt you for one second because I know the schools kind of rely on the brief. Yeah. Which is I know it’s something something something executive functioning. A brief reading is it rating something? I don’t know.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:16:09]:
Yeah. I don’t know exactly
Lisa Lightner [00:16:10]:
what it’s doing. Yeah. It’s something ratings
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:16:11]:
I don’t use it myself. Yeah.
Lisa Lightner [00:16:12]:
Conditioning, because I know it’s it’s a it’s a a numerical assessment so much. And you’re saying that that’s not
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:16:21]:
That is what the biggest researchers are saying in the field of executive function. Yeah. The biggest researchers in the field are making it very loud and known very clearly that standardized assessment is the worst way to assess executive function.
And the reason why this is is, again, because of the nature of what executive function that system does. It regulates something else, And what we’re assessing is the something else. So we’re looking at how well they can, you know, pay attention to a paragraph.
Well, now we’re assessing a paragraph and their ability to read or look at the paragraph, or we’re looking at their speech, or we’re looking at language. They’re having to read something.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:17:04]:
So so we’re always assessing the cure in conjunction with the doer. So we can never get a clear picture of just the cure by itself because the cure doesn’t function by itself. It is queuing something else, another processing component.
So to take one standardized measure and say, This is the child’s EF profile is negligent because we have to try to find patterns across domains, across settings that bypass that look at all the different doers to find the consistency of how the fewer functions across all these domains.
That makes sense?
Lisa Lightner [00:17:44]:
It does. Okay. It does. To yeah. It does. I mean, to me, I don’t you You know, a beginner parent who’s new to this and has, a little kid that has just been diagnosed with ADHD, you know, they may not be there yet, which is why I will keep this on my website until it’s outdated, which 10 or 20 years, it may be. Who knows? Yeah. So It does make sense.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:18:08]:
Oh, can I can I interrupt you real quick? Meredith asked, can I get a link to a resource for that? It would Berkeley talks about in his book executive functions. He has a sub it’s I think he published in I don’t remember, but it’s called executive functions It’s by Russell Barkley.
It’s a phenomenal book. It’s heavy. It’s a research based book, but it’s it’s a good one.
Lisa Lightner [00:18:27]:
Okay. And and I will look that up, and send that out with, You know, like and I will also send out I have a little bit of information. It’s it’s a pretty high level view of of what a neuropsych is.
But I do also have information on my site about how to ask for an IEE, which is an independent education evaluation. Because When you hear neuropsych, you’re just like, great.
Let me just ask for an IEE. Let me let’s put the brakes on that because, a couple of things. You have to have You have to have demonstrated proof that your child needs an IEE, first of all.
Second of all, if a school is going to deny you an IEE, they are legally required to file for due process, and a lot of parents aren’t always ready for that. And they get that notice in the mail, and they’re like, what? What? And, what was my third thing? Oh, you only get 1 IEE per issue.
So if you ask for an IEE for executive functioning and the school says, okay. Yeah. We’ll go ahead and do that, and you go out and get it and you’re not thrilled with it, that’s it.
You don’t get to ask for another IEE for executive functioning. So you don’t wanna waste it, so to speak. You wanna make sure that you’re very well thought out in requesting it, having the data that your child needs.
Because I know at least around here in Philadelphia, you’re looking at 5 to $7000 for a good neuropsych. So, you know, so and schools shouldn’t just hand them out to anyone who asks for them either. You know, they can’t just be doing that. So you have to be really well thought out, but but it’s an option.
Thank you for putting somebody public or posted the book link. Claire is asking, what would you suggest I’m on a brief is all that is used when trying to get EF looked at?
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:20:12]:
Yeah. That’s a really good question. I saw that on there. I was hoping you would, Pull that one out. I would definitely be looking at lots of different settings and trying to, yourself, pull part, what are, what’s the connecting thread of difficulty that you’re seeing? So, you know, you can think in terms of, are we having trouble perceiving information in all of these settings for all of these domains.
Are we having trouble attending, in all of these settings and domains? What about inhibition? What about working memory? Trying to look through the system, and maybe it’s self monitoring. Are we having trouble monitoring our own actions, our own thoughts, our own emotions, perceptions, whatever, that may be, and trying to find the thread in lots of settings. So you’re gonna be wanting to pull in a lot of team members.
Teachers and people outside of school should be involved in assessing children’s EF
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:20:57]:
Right? The teachers need to be a part of this. The people who see our children outside of school need to become a part of this because EF is a real it’s such a broad, broad processing system. It’s, really that conductor of of all that we consciously learn. And so, it’s not gonna one test is very unlikely to capture that.
You know, looking at observation, again, across settings becomes really, really important. I do have a resource in my online educational network that’s about a 45 page observational assessment tool that members have access to that helps, like, guide from a dynamic perspective what are what are the questions I’m asking myself as I process through an assessment with the child for all different skills.
But really pulling and looking across settings, looking across domains, what is the common thread? Right? That’s that really needs to be the goal. Have a good assessment.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:21:54]:
Something else I wanted to mention too, and then I’ll be quiet for a second. I that I forgot to say earlier when you when I was talking about what is executive and I think it’s so important for parents to know that executive function regulates our thoughts, our emotions, our perceptions and our actions.
And the reason why this is so important is because kiddos will come to me with lots of diagnosis. These. Right? They had ADD, ADHD, ASD, ODD, OCD. Right? They have all of these diagnoses, and the parents feel overwhelmed. Like, there’s all these things wrong. Right? The common thread here is dysregulation, typically.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:22:41]:
Right? The common thread here is that there’s dysregulation around our emotions. And so that’s gonna bring with it a set of diagnosis from a psychologist. Or if we have, you know, Dysregulation of our actions, then that’s gonna bring with it its own set of diagnoses because different professionals target these areas differently, thoughts, perceptions, reactions, emotions.
Right? And so it’s important to remember that our kids don’t have these all of these isolated diagnoses. The brain doesn’t work that way. The brain is the fascinating interconnected system, And we’re just humans trying to explain it to the best of our ability, which most of the time isn’t that fantastic. You know, we’re trying. But all of these things are related and we have to figure out why.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:23:31]:
Usually, there’s some, something going on within that EF system.
Lisa Lightner [00:23:35]:
That’s so as you’re talking, you’re, like, basically making me wanna blow up about a 3rd of my blog
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:23:39]:
and, like, start over.
Executive Functioning Skills Lacking in Schools
Lisa Lightner [00:23:41]:
Right? Because I, you know, no. Because we do focus on things like, emotional regulation. And And when we have these conversations about emotional regulation skills, like EF never really enters the picture For the commoner, not you know? And, I mean, I’m just like a layperson for the most part when it comes to this stuff, like like anyone.
I may have more experience with seeing kids who have these struggles, but that doesn’t make me you know, I’m not a neuroscientist or an EF specialist. So that’s interesting. Okay. So I started doing this in, like, the late 2000 and the early 2010s, And that seems to be when executive functioning kind of popped on.
I’m gonna say for for for the IEP crowd, the parents who were engaged with their IEP and having discussions with other parents and advocates and stuff like that.
It seems like that is when the whole executive functioning entered the picture. And so now here we are 10 or 15 years later, and you’re up here, which is good because, right, that’s where the science and the research and all this stuff needs to be, but schools are definitely still here, and what I’m seeing as an advocate is, Parents and teachers see the flower or, like, you know, the petals falling off the flower as it were, and they say, no.
He can’t he can’t order his homework. He can’t do all these things. And what I see is I see a lot of accommodating of executive functioning skills, but I don’t see a lot of teaching of executive functioning skills. So what do you think as advocates and parents who have kids and and maybe even the parents are struggling with as well? Like, what can we do to begin to close that gap until teachers and schools start to catch up?
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:25:24]:
Yeah. That’s a really, really good question. You know, Executive function right now is something that’s very hard to teach. And I think why is because it takes time for the people on the ground.
Right? And I’m I’m a clinician. I I definitely am a weird clinician and that I live in this world of loving research and creating based off of research. So I’m not your typical clinician,
But I’m still a clinician that works with with clients, and teachers. Right? We are the ones on the ground doing the intervention, doing the teaching.
And the work hasn’t the research hasn’t really gotten to a level of having great intervention systems yet. They they just haven’t. I will tell you that and we were talking about this before we went live. A lot of the presenting that I do and a lot of the trainings that I do are with school districts.
And they are trying as fast as they can, as hard as they can to try to learn what they need to to support their EF students in the classroom and in intervention settings. But we can only move so quickly. Right? And, but they really are trying. What I’m seeing school districts do is just incredible, keeps me inspired, keeps me hopeful.
Right? They really, really are trying. But it’s there just isn’t a whole lot of information out there quite yet. Well, I will say in terms of the intervention that is Typically done it is typically very tool focused, so it’s what I call tool focused intervention.
So We’ll see the recommendations of planners or to do lists or timers or things like that. And it’s important to remember that those are tools that can be used effectively if There is an executive function system that can use them. An adequate executive function system had to use
Lisa Lightner [00:27:23]:
Well, and that’s what I you know, I see all these, like, assignment books and then, you know, this, you know, this accommodation that the student’s supposed to go at 2:30 every day and check-in with the teacher.
I’m like, first of all, the kid loses the assignment book, And then, b, he forgets to check-in with the teacher at the end of the day. So what what are we doing? What are we doing?
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:27:41]:
That’s right. That’s exact that’s exactly right. So the tools again, I always say, like, what are tools? You know, a screwdriver, a hammer, right, a nail. All of these things are types of tools, but they don’t work if I don’t have a functioning arm in order to use them. Right? It’s the same thing with the executive function system.
So I think we need to start changing the conversation around what does EF Intervention look like. And I will tell you that’s a very complicated topic. I have, you know, my educational network.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:28:09]:
I have 7 modules that explains this at the very how we do intervention is very, very detailed because it’s such a broad scope of of practice. I will go into some specific things today that the parents can do for sure. And I’m working on my 2nd book right now, which is the EF Intervention. It’s the intervention that of Scaffolding cognition. Right? So hopefully that’s done soon.
So but I wanna answer your question about accommodations because I think accommodations definitely serve a purpose.
And think of it in terms of, if I broke my leg And I would go to physical therapy. Right? But I would also have crutches, and the crutches would serve as my accommodation.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:28:57]:
They would be my support while I’m going to therapy to rebuild the strength. And so it’s like a teeter totter. I would hope that with accommodations, as we get cognitively stronger, The need for the accommodations would drop.
That’s always my goal. Because if we’re always needing a lot of accommodations, then we’re never going to be string independence. Right? So we need to be working towards strengthening cognition and their ability to be independent while while decreasing the amount of accommodations.
But if we have a kiddo who is really struggling, right, then he’s gotta we gotta come in with a lot of accommodations to provide the support while we’re also working over here to strengthen the cognition. Okay.
Lisa Lightner [00:29:49]:
Okay. Okay. Let me get because the questions are starting to speaking of scaffolding. Why is e f not on a spectrum like everything else? Not all e f issues for all kids are the same. Some do improve.
Lisa Lightner [00:30:12]:
you’re you’re actually one of this one of the few, SLPs I’ve met. I think in schools, it often falls to either the special ed teacher or the OT. You’re one of the few SLPs I know who does this. I don’t know. Elaborate on that a little bit. Or About, Well, about about this of the her the whole suggestion Spectrum and then who should address it? PT, OT, speech? Yeah.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:30:39]:
That’s a that’s a good question. So the first part of that is is it on a spectrum? Absolutely. Everything every type of skill is on a spectrum of I can’t do it at all or I can do it completely independently, and we fall somewhere in there. The the what gets complicated with executive function is that there’s so many skills at different functioning levels And then those skills regulate other skills.
So working memory really impacts how we develop speech and language and literacy. And planning and self monitoring and organization is really important when it comes to math along with working memory.
So there are you know, It’s it’s a it’s very complicated. It’s not an easy picture like some other types of learning can be a little bit simpler, I feel like.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:31:23]:
As for I think one of the comments in there was talking about or who who’s whose realm is it.
Lisa Lightner [00:31:29]:
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:31:30]:
I would say EF needs to be in everyone’s realm because, again, what does it regulate? Everything. Everything. Everything. So Anyone who works with children and provides intervention or is teaching them needs to have an understanding of executive function. And it doesn’t just it’s not just 1 person.
We need to understand you know, an SLP executive function is critical to speech and language development. And so e SLPs need to have an understanding of that, how executive function regulates or or relates to executive blah. I’ll say that again.
Understanding Executive Function is Crucial in Education
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:32:10]:
Words are hard. Right? So SLPs need to understand how executive function relates to speech and language development. A literacy teacher or a literacy specialist and and our early elementary teachers need to understand the role that executive function plays in literacy development because it’s massive.
Right? Our math teachers need to know that executive function is More is the most critical cognitive component in math, and we have lots of research that shows that Math requires more executive function than any other subject. So we could look at, you know, example after for example.
And, of course, our psychologists who work in counselors, our social workers, people who work with the emotional sides of things. They need to understand executive function because They have to know how it relates to emotional regulation. So I think everyone should know about it and know how it integrates into the the what they specialize in.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:33:11]:
Which is why in my online educational community, we have all kinds of professionals. I mean, there’s and parents. I mean, there’s teachers to SLPs, to OTs, to social workers, to school psychologists. I mean, you name it. Yeah. It’s fantastic.
Lisa Lightner [00:33:27]:
Okay. I’m gonna read Sherry’s question, and then I will answer it from an IEP perspective before you, answer it. And she says, so if we are in a meeting
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:33:39]:
Oh. Oh, was I scrolling down? Was I oh.
Lisa Lightner [00:33:44]:
No. I just thought that I heard, like, a weird noise. Maybe I
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:33:46]:
Lisa Lightner [00:33:47]:
Okay. So if we are in a meeting to determine what assessments should be done and they mentioned the brief, Is there a name of a different one to request or just say that isn’t enough? She said, I hope that makes sense. Yes. It makes sense. So let me just tell you, Sherry, from an IEP perspective.
You’ve probably heard this phrase before. Schools are required to to evaluate in every area of suspected disability. If they don’t suspect it, you have to bring it to their attention so that they do suspect it.
I never recommend that a parent, request specific assessments for the following reasons. One is that you don’t know if they even have anyone on staff who, you know, per the assessment protocols, you know, can even give that assessment.
Second, if the assessment doesn’t go the way you hope it will go, you’ve kind of started to close the door on that IEE. The reason being you ask for a brief, they do the brief, the brief says your child has no executive functioning issues.
When you go to request that neuropsych, they’re gonna say what? She asked us to the brief. We did the brief. And that kind of closes the door. Whereas, if you say, I see my son struggling with executive functioning: He does this. He does this. He does this. He does this.
And, again, just bring those areas of suspicion to them, and let them decide what assessments they’re going to provide. And are there I mean, what what are some other ones? I don’t wanna say necessarily you wanna wanna ask for it. Now if you wanna ask for it, that’s up to you as a parent. But what are some other ones that parents should be aware of or look for.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:35:30]:
My mine is a guide for how to organize observation Because that’s the best assessment measure for executive function. If we’re if we’re looking at standardized assessment time and time again, it’ll be
It’ll be really you know, it it could be very difficult because special especially our twice exceptional kiddos. These kiddos in particular fall through the cracks because what we test are the doers, and their doers may be off the charts high. Right? They’re really, really strong.
And so the read that we get on these kiddos is really strong. And then when they can’t get their homework done and get it turned in on time, or or stay organized. They’re all everything’s crumpled in their backpack or their locker’s a mess. Right? Then everyone just says, like, well, I don’t know.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:36:18]:
They should be able to get it together. They’re a super smart kid. But but they’re you know, we have to be able to Look at the patterns. Again, I keep coming at this idea because it is patterns. It’s not one assessment tool.
It’s what are the observational dynamic patterns that we’re seeing in this child’s life, and that’s that’s gonna be hard, I think, for a school. I I hope schools can broaden How they see executive function that that it has to reach beyond the school because what’s happening at home, what’s happening in other settings, That’s where that’s where, like, a psychologist or neuropsychologist can be helpful.
I would recommend SLPs, but there aren’t many of us that do this.
So, hopefully, I’m changing that. I’m working hard to change that.
Evidence-Based EF Practices for Schools
Lisa Lightner [00:37:06]:
Okay. So you you bring up some good points because IEPs, you know and if if we’re talking a lot about school based skills and executive functioning as it relates to school because that is where kids spend the most of their time, and it’s where I think the most is demanded from them to perform or produce.
IEPs, of course, become a really litigious area. It’s very data driven and it is very case law driven. So schools are going to look for assessments and not necessarily guidance sheets. And they’re gonna look for evidence based practices, and, like, what’s a curriculum?
Like, we need an evidence based curriculum to implement. We can’t just do good ideas. You know? So how how would you say, like, how can we, You know, do this groundswell of getting this this kind of new thinking into practice.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:38:06]:
I think we have to keep asking for it. And I I always believe that education is our best tool. Right? We have to provide education to other people and say, here, I learned this. What do you think? People only know what they know. Right? We can’t get blood from a stone.
So if if they don’t know the intervention now what I would tell you is there are not there are not curriculums out there. Again, We are my team is actively working on that. So check back in a year or so, and I’m hoping that we have something, out there for teachers and for parents, that is something cognitive based scaffolded, obviously, research based, evidence based.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:38:48]:
But in the meantime, we have to look to the researchers and the information that’s coming out there. So Russell, Barkley, Dawson and Gare. They have some really great resources out there. Sarah Ward is another good she’s an a speech language pathologist. Sarah Ward has some great resources.
Obviously, my book can help people see the connections between executive function and other types of learning needs, literacy, language, those types. My online educational community again is the best resource.
I mean, that’s where I’m teaching everyone and training everyone on how to do all of this. So those are really the best resources I think that we have, but there aren’t a whole lot of you know, we can’t say here’s the Here’s the lesson plan yet.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:39:38]:
We’re not as a field, we’re just not there quite yet. Again, a lot of the recommendations tend to be tool based that are out there right now. Yeah. They are. But there are certain things that parents can do. Or did you wanna am I do you wanna No.
Lisa Lightner [00:39:55]:
No. Go ahead. I’m just I’m trying to look through the
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:39:59]:
questions. Okay. So there are 4 main things that I’m going to recommend for parents. Okay. So the first one, that tends to be a really great, a need that a lot of our kiddos who have executive function needs, need our support with attention.
And one of the best tools that we can use for supporting their attention is what I call reflexive questioning. And reflexive questioning is giving the child we’re reflecting back to the child, yeah, and giving them the opportunity to self regulate instead of directing them. Again, executive function is building that internal director.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:40:45]:
We’re building the self director inside of the child. So if we tell them what to do, we’re doing the directing for them. Alright. So reflexive questioning allows us to sort of reflect back the issue. So some really quick quick questions for attention.
When we see that the child is not paying attention, we can say, where are your thoughts right now? So I’m meeting the child where they are, which is at the level of the distraction. I’m gonna say, where are your thoughts right now? And I’ll say, is that important right now? Because I wanna know, is is that important? They might say yes. They might say no.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:41:25]:
Right? But we’re gonna see if they can prioritize. Is that important right now? No. Where should our thoughts be right now? Oh, they should be on my homework. You’re right. Can you show me that?
And so what we’ve done is we’ve helped the child self direct. We’ve met them where they are at the level of their distraction and then giving them the tools to route themselves back. So that’s one practice method of self direction. Right? Of them instead of going pay attention.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:41:56]:
Right? Look here. What are you doing? Right? We’re letting their brain practice the self directing, that refocusing of attention, which is really the key to success.
So those questions again, where are your thoughts right now? Is that important right now? Where should our thoughts be right now, and can you show me that? Can we get back there? Okay. So those are just one really, really powerful way that we can meet them where they are with their attention need.
The second thing, that I find a lot of parents struggle with a lot is Children who struggle with initiation, getting started. Right? Okay. So let’s talk about initiation for a second. Initiation fundamentally comes down to a difficulty with planning, And I’m gonna tell you why.
Struggle to Start Due to Planning Weakness and Overwhelm
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:42:51]:
There’s 2 parts to this. Okay? So the first part of this is that They don’t know where to start because they can’t plan out the activity. So they’re faced with the worksheet, Right? And they just don’t know where to start or they’re faced with this big activity and they can’t chunk it out and they can’t plan it.
So they struggle with initiation because they don’t know where to start because there’s a planning weakness or a planning need there. So that’s one aspect of this. The other aspect is that because they might be able to plan, But the plan might not be a good plan for them.
Therefore, they feel overwhelmed. The first step feels too big, and so they’re paralyzed, and they can’t get started.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:43:47]:
I always said that the right plan is the one that works for each individual child. I feel overwhelmed with doing the laundry. Right. I don’t wanna do the laundry. I don’t wanna fold it. I want it to stay there in the bag you know, in the basket. So my plan has to incorporate Small bits, right, with a show on, I’m listening to a podcast, I’m doing something else. O
ur children who are feeling overwhelmed by a task, They may be able to tell you a plan, but then when you say, how does the plan feel to you? They’re gonna say it feels too much.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:44:23]:
It feels too big. So that means it’s not a good plan for them. So we need to go back and revise it. Right? So this idea that that another person can give a plan to a child or chunk out an assignment for a child does not mean that that’s the answer because that method, that chunking, that planning may be still too much for that child. So the way that I do this with my own clients is that we’ll create the plan.
Once the plan is done, I ask them I’ll say, how does this feel to you? And they’ll say, I’m not sure. So I’m gonna say, okay. How does step 1 feel for you? Like, how does that very you know, that step 1 feel? And if they say it feels overwhelming, I know they’re gonna struggle to get started.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:45:07]:
So we’ll revamp it, and we’ll make that step 1 and the step 2 even smaller. So really helping our kids create plans for the what might seem like very mundane tasks and breaking it down and asking them, how does this feel to you?
Does this feel like something that you can do? Can you get started with that first step and see what they think. And if they say no, then you know it’s not a good plan and you’ve gotta revise it.
Lisa Lightner [00:45:34]:
So, I mean, no. That’s just when you tell a child and parent, You know, or you have some old school parents who just think ADHD isn’t even a thing because those those folks still when you say go clean your room and it doesn’t happen, This is why. This
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:45:48]:
is exactly why. Yeah. Yeah. That’s exactly right. Yeah. 1 of my children so I I didn’t tell, but I have 3 daughters. I won’t point out which one. Even though if she listens to this, she’ll know which one it is, but she will listen to this.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:46:00]:
It’s okay. But she yeah. The room is the problem. And so we have to create a plan in very small bites, and it’s 1 area, 1 section of the room at a time. So from here to here, can you clean this? And then once that’s done, Come back to me, and we’ll do something else. Then we’ll come back and have another section. But, yeah, it just becomes too much, too overwhelming at once.
Lisa Lightner [00:46:21]:
When you say yeah. Can you go clean your room? Okay. Sorry to interrupt you. You had 2 more to go, I think.
Develop Nonverbal Working Memory
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:46:26]:
2 more to go. So the next, tip I would give to parents is to foster foresight, and foresight is an aspect of our nonverbal working memory. So our working memory has 2 parts to well, there’s more than 2 parts, but for for the purposes of the conversation, it has 2 main parts.
One of them being our nonverbal working memory, which is essentially what we see happening, what we’re experiencing inside of our mind. So for self direction or a future goal, A child has to be able to pre experience the future goal inside their mind. So if we think about the only moment that physically exists, that we can physically interact with is right now.
Right? Right now is the only moment that we can actually physically interact with. The future and the past are all only live in our mind, In particular, in our nonverbal working memory, sort of this mental map that our brain makes.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:47:38]:
And so half of that part of that not half, but part is our foresight. So it’s that ability to time travel into the future and pre experience something. And this is so, so important because this is what fosters goal setting.
It is also critical for inhibition. So If I’m going to inhibit myself from eating the cake right now, I have to see into the future that there’s this goal of being healthier. Right? And so I have to focus.
I have to see that goal in order to Rein myself in now. That is the foresight.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:48:24]:
It is it’s a really important skill that we need to help students foster our own kids Foster. So things like, what do you see yourself doing? Right? So I love again, all these are flex of questions. So It’s, I say, alright.
I want you to go put your shoes on and get your coat on, and don’t just leave it there. Tell me, look inside your imagination. Can you see yourself? Show me. Point to where you see yourself going. Where do you see yourself going 1st? Where do you see yourself going 2nd? Maybe we walk it together and pre experience it first, and then we say go.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:49:01]:
So we’re fostering that foresight. This foresight also is critical for resiliency. Fostering resilience in children. Because if I know that there’s an I can preexperience that this will end or that there could be another outcome.
It gives me the Umph, to keep going, for lack of a better word. Right? So, again, all of these is this ability to foster, What do we see happen next? What does that goal look like? When you say that you want to, Go over to your friend’s house. What does that look like?
What do you see yourself doing over there with your friend? Oh, whenever you’re talking about that future or if it’s, say, related to homework, And we have trouble with turning the homework in. Tell me, now that you’ve completed it, now what do you see yourself doing with it.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:49:58]:
Because our children who do the homework, but they don’t turn it in, their homework plan stops after the completion of the homework. I did it. It’s done. Right? No. There’s the and here’s where it becomes really tricky for these kiddos is because their homework plan has to stand over a long period of time.
Right? So their plan has to stand from the now into this future time, and they have to be able to hold on to all this. This requires that a bit nonverbal working memory foresight. Right? So the homework ends and we have to say, okay.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:50:35]:
Now what do you see yourself doing with this homework? K. I want you to see yourself in the morning. Where when you walk into the school, what where do you see yourself going? Where do you see yourself going first? Where do you see yourself putting that homework? And really walk through. Maybe they doodle it. Their drawers, have them doodle.
Here, I’m at the locker, then here’s me taking out my paper, But they need to preexperience these things. Our kiddos who struggle with inhibition and this planning, they’re not seeing themselves moving through the world. They’re pinging from one stimulus to another, and we have to help them develop what do you see coming.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:51:14]:
These are the types of skills that really foster our resilience and our self determination. And one of my favorite neuroscientists, his name is Lawrence Steinberg. He’s written a He’s a he studies the adolescent brain, but he’s written a phenomenal book.
Hold on. It just, The Age of Opportunity. I think anyone who works with kids should read it or has children. It’s phenomenal. It’s not just about adolescents.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:51:44]:
It’s a phenomenal book. The Age of Opportunity by Lawrence Steinberg. And he talks about how there’d been so many studies done that look at future success, and they look at, When we talk about success, not just career or professional, but also personal success, family fulfillment, happiness levels, all of that in adults.
And there are 2 skills that predict those future outcomes Time and time again, and they are resilience and self determination. And both of these are fostered through the foresight and our executive function system. Okay. The last thing that I have to recommend for parents is a super easy one. Hopefully, it’ll take me a second to tell you.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:52:33]:
Protein. Protein, protein, protein. Protein at every meal, protein at every snack. Protein is brain food that endures. It lasts in the brain, so it, like, extends and gives some life to, what the brain needs. So protein protein protein. Yeah. Okay.
Lisa Lightner [00:52:53]:
Alright. Let me, because we’re wrap we’re getting close to an hour, so I don’t wanna use any more of your time. Beth, hopefully, we just went over a couple of thing or not we, but Tara just went over a couple of things. And then this will be when I download this video, I do have a service that transcribes it.
So then I have to edit it and all that, but I will pull out and extract of what she said so that you have it, better or, you know, you you don’t have to go through all of it or watch it all again. I will put that there. DC asks, any resources or research you recommend for learning more about the connection of executive functioning to literacy and math?
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:53:38]:
My online educational community.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:53:46]:
We’re trying to think of other resources that that make those connections, that talk about those connections. And this Just research studies. I do have, we can go through questions, but I did wanna talk about some school to dos. Okay.
Things that when, when we work with school districts for our clients, there are things that I would love for schools to be able to implement even though I know that they’re gonna struggle to be able to do the, you know, therapy percent per se. But things that would that I get really excited about when schools are on board to do. Can I can I list those off? Yep. Okay.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:54:24]:
Number 1, I want schools to recognize an executive function need. And I want them to be able to say, this is executive function. It is not a behavior problem That needs behavior modification or, discipline.
Okay. So that’s number 1. And parents, we can help with this because We can obviously advocate. We’re the huge advocates. We get exhausted from advocating, but we have to, and we’re amazing.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:54:50]:
So but be real specific. I would outline these EF needs for your school, And be really specific in what they look like in the classroom if you can. So for example, if you say to a teacher, my child has an inhibition need, And in the classroom, what you’re going to see is that they yell out and they touch other kids. Right? They’re not a bad kid. They’re not being disruptive. Right?
They’re they’re not trying to be disruptive, but but be real specific so that the teacher and the school knows what to look for and that this is what inhibition looks like or a difficulty with inhibition looks like in your child. So number 1. Number 2, put the hard classes first in the day.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:55:34]:
Executive function is not, is not infinite. We do not have an infinite capacity. We have a finite capacity, and many of our kiddos use their up all their EF capacity before they’ve even gotten out the door in the morning. So, I can tell you halfway through the day, most kids are done.
They have no more executive function capacity left. So it’s why on a Friday, you come home from work, and someone goes, hey, what are we having for dinner? And you’re like, Because you have no capacity left. You have no executive function left to make that decision. Okay.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:56:07]:
So hard classes go first in the day. Do not take away recess. Do not take away recess. Do not. It is a right. It is not something that can be leveraged. Movement is essential. It is essential to the brain’s ability to recharge.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:56:29]:
Okay? So we have to allow the kids to move. Alright, we have to remove temptations from these kiddos. So if there’s something that is distracting, if there is something that the child is having trouble inhibiting. Right? A big one for kids now is computers, and they’re all learning on computers in the classroom.
But if they’re going over to YouTube or they’re going over to this and they’re going over to this, they’re having trouble inhibiting that. Right? So we have to take away the distraction because every time so let’s say that we have a kiddo who struggles with inhibition, and he’s sitting there on his computer, supposed to be doing whatever he’s supposed to be doing on his computer. And the whole time he’s having to be like, nope. Don’t go on YouTube.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:57:17]:
Nope. Don’t go on YouTube. Nope. Don’t go on YouTube. What’s happening is his brain is using e f capacity to inhibit that. Why why are we forcing his battery to drain To, you know, inhibit that temptation, just take the temptation away.
Figure out what those, those temptations are for the kiddos that they’re having to inhibit and remove Support, like I talked about, support the development of their foresight and of their hindsight. So that’s both parts of nonverbal working memory.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:57:48]:
Foresight, Goal setting and planning, hindsight, self evaluation. How did that work for me? Did that work For me, should I do it differently next time? Let’s come up with a new plan that we’re gonna try next time because it didn’t work great that time. Number 6, bring goals closer to the present moment.
Goals live in the future, and we have to bring them closer to the present moment for so many of our kiddos. Don’t talk about trying to get a’s on tests for with freshmen in high school so that they can go to college in 4 years.
Their brains cognitively cannot see that far into the future. They don’t. They really only see a couple of weeks into the future.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:58:36]:
Right? So getting them if we have these goals that are Far away in the future, we have to bring them very close into the present moment and make them real for them in the present moment.
Last but not least, inputs and output. The brain needs both input, what we call receptive processing, output restive processing in order to learn. So what this means is that we have our routes to come in, watching, Listening, reading are forms of input, but in order to learn and support the EF development, there has to be output of the material. Talking, writing, doodling, acting it out, some form of the information coming out.
This is a huge way that Teachers can support their kids in the classroom. I have a resource for that on my page terra sumpture.com. It’s like a I’ve got suggestions for every subject area, the way that teachers can have input and output for both of those.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [00:59:40]:
You can find more information on that. And we hit 2 o’clock.
Lisa Lightner [00:59:45]:
Let me just ask 1 more, because I think for the most part, we did hit, Yeah. We did hit hit on a lot of them. Since EF has become a buzzword in the past decade or two, A new profession has erupted called an executive functioning coach.
How do you know I mean, and it’s kind of the wild west out there. Yeah. You know? How do you know if you’re getting a good one? Are they even a thing? Are they necessary, vary or is it I don’t know.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [01:00:19]:
Yeah. Are they a thing? Absolutely. Absolutely. Again, it’s just like Anybody any other professional, you have to, you know, talk to other people. You’ve got to vet them. You know, you really have to do your research and find out who’s good. I think what I would be looking for are, you know, is Are the interventions that someone’s using, are they going to be strictly tool based?
Or do we have some sort of scaffolded cognitive intervention to strengthen these areas of processing. So for me, that’s kinda how I decipher between the 2, and, you know, really looking for that.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [01:01:03]:
How are we scaffolding these skills and, how are we it’s just like going to the gym. Right. When I talk about scaffolding, I’m talking about I’m gonna go to the gym. I’m gonna start with 5 pounds lifting 5 pounds you know, 8 reps. And then it’s gonna be £5 of 10 reps and 12 reps, and I’m gonna increase my rate. It’s oh, wait.
It’s the same theory. The brain learns in the same exact way that we scaffold the amount of something and the complexity of the information in order for it to get, replicated and stored.
So is there you know, do we have this scaffolded cognitive nature to the intervention, Or is it all tool based? And some people are fine with tools. Some people you know, sometimes that’s a great method of intervention. It just kinda depends on the individual.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [01:01:53]:
But, yeah, unfortunately, like you said, it is kind of the Wild West And, you know, you just have
Lisa Lightner [01:02:00]:
to Yeah. I mean, I could see a lot of the ones I’ve heard. And, of course, a parent’s going to reach out to me because it’s not going well. Right? Like, if it’s working, they don’t contact me. Right. But a lot of the kind of side by side And, yeah, tool based. Here. Well, let’s put it in a planner, and I’m like, the kid does not need 1 more planner.
Like, they’ve already lost they’ve already lost 7.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [01:02:24]:
There is no magical planner. There is not. I wish there was. I mean, it would make my job way easier if there was a magical planner. But, again, Thinking about tools.
Tools work if we have a functioning EF system to use the tool. Just like a hammer is not gonna work unless I have a functioning arm to use the hammer. So it’s the same the same type of premise.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [01:02:46]:
The tool is just the tool, and they can be very useful. It can be very useful. And I use tools in my intervention with kiddos, but at certain points within the EF development. Right? We get to a certain level, and it’s like, okay.
Maybe we can bring in a clock. And then we’re gonna go up a little bit more. Maybe we can add in A to do list or maybe we can add it. Right? But the and teaching the brain how to use the tool.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [01:03:10]:
But just throwing tools is not gonna be and everyone said that. I think it was Meredith earlier who said, I have Amelia. I can show you my stack of planners.
Lisa Lightner [01:03:19]:
Yeah. Alright. Thank you everyone for coming today. Thank you, Tara, for being here. Like I said, I will download the video, and then I have to transcribe it, and then I have to edit it. So it will take me some time, but I will get it out there, along with all the links of anything that she talked about today, books she recommended, links to her community.
You can, of course, in the meantime, go to terasumter.com, and find probably find all the information there, but I will spoon feed it to you in a day or 2. So thank you so much.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [01:03:49]:
Thank you so much. Thanks everybody for being here. Thanks for having me, Lisa. And I’m the most active on Instagram. So if you go on Instagram, at terasumpter_slp, I post education, just about every day. So it’s all education executive function education. It does. Yeah.
Tera Sumpter, SLP [01:04:10]:
Alright. Alright. Thank you.