In This Episode:
Have you ever noticed a child with dyslexia who is extra disorganized or said they were done doing something you asked and it isn’t at all what you wanted them to do? Well, those are examples of a lack of executive functioning.
This episode dives into executive functioning and how to support executive function skills. Many students with dyslexia have ADHD which often presents with a lot of executive function deficits.
It can take many forms but can be most noticeable with desk/bag/room organization (or lack thereof), and in writing skills.
Listen to this week's episode to learn some strategies to support better executive functioning.
- What is executive functioning?
- How does it affect school and life?
- How to support executive functioning skills
Connect with Lisa Parnello:
- Follow on Instagram @ParnelloEducation
Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
- Understanding Dyslexia and Structured Reading Online Course
Other Resources I Love:
Hello and welcome to Dyslexia Devoted the podcast dedicated to building awareness, understanding and strategies to help those with dyslexia. I'm your host Lisa Parnello, dyslexia therapist and founder of Parnello Education Services. This show features information stories, candid interviews and experiences with dyslexia at all ages. Join me as we dive into today's episode of dyslexia devoted. Hello, and welcome back friends. Have you ever noticed a child with dyslexia who is extra disorganized, or said they were done with something that you asked and it isn't at all what you were hoping for when you see the finished product? Well, those are examples of a lack of executive functioning. Welcome to Episode Nine of dyslexia devoted and today we will be talking about the relationship between dyslexia and executive functioning. If you're interested in anything I mentioned, today's episode, the show notes can be found at Parnello education.com. Forward slash episode nine, I just got back from our annual Wilson Trainer meeting that we finally got to have in person since it's been remote for last couple of years. And it's great to see other trainers who help teachers learn how to teach kids with dyslexia, we get to work together and share ideas. And it just so happened that I had already planned to talk about executive functioning today. That was actually one of the topics that we dove deeper into during our training. So it inspired a few extra ideas for this episode. If you want to be able to collaborate about dyslexia with other parents and educators, the International Dyslexia Association has a conference every November that I've gone to many times, and I always learned something new. And so they have both a live version in San Antonio this year, as well as some virtual options. And if you're a member of Ida, you can also get a discount for those conference tickets. And that's at dyslexia khan.org. Because it's always more helpful if you can meet other families or educators have kids with dyslexia so that you guys can talk about some of the nitty gritty details that maybe some other people just don't quite get. Without further ado, let's get into the topics for today's episode. So we're going to be talking about what is executive functioning? How does it affect school in life? And what can you do to support executive functioning skills? So what is executive functioning anyway, it is related to the process of organization planning, finishing tasks, attention, self monitoring, and regulation and perspective taking. So let's break down each of those things. organization can be a little bit of everything, and you can see it most clearly in their desk, or their locker or their backpack or their bedroom. And do they have organization skills? Is are things in any sort of logical order? Are they just crammed all in there. And that right, there is a pretty obvious sign if a kid is lacking some executive functioning, if you just glance at the way they organize their own stuff, when you're not telling them what to do. It can also be struggling with planning and finishing tasks, and figuring out alright, if this if I have to do this, where do I start? And what should it look like when I'm done. And we'll dive a little deeper into that into our second section today. And then attention, ADHD and dyslexia go pretty hand in hand. And so it's quite common to see students struggle with attention when they have dyslexia. And that heavily relies on their executive function skills. And so we'll go a little deeper into attention and ADHD and dyslexia in another episode, so we won't go too deep on that one today. And then there's self monitoring and regulation, being able to notice their own actions and how they are affecting the plan of what they're supposed to be doing. And being able to regulate themselves to say, Oh, I'm getting distracted, I should go back and finish this other thing that I started. Sometimes that also can be really regulating the emotions too, if they get frustrated with something they might lash out, instead of realizing, Oh, I'm frustrated, I should ask for help. Instead, they just get grouchy and get really upset. And they don't really notice that the reason they're upset is because they can't do this one specific thing. And maybe if they just asked for help on that one specific thing, they wouldn't be so frustrated. It can also come out with perspective taking. So they may not realize the way that they act has an effect on others. For example, if they lash out at you when they are frustrated with something, and they never asked you for help, and then they're mad that you just didn't understand that you should have been helping them all along. And they don't realize your perspective in the situation that they went from zero to 60. And they were totally fine to they were totally angry and you have no idea what happened in between. And they never asked you for help. So you didn't know that they needed help. And they just really struggle with that perspective taking the kids need somebody to remind them that you can't read their mind and that you don't know what they're thinking and what they might need help with if they don't tell you. Okay, so how does that affect a school in life with when we talk about all of these executive functioning skills, it affects it in so many ways. Everything from getting out the door and going to school on time and having everything when they get there and then being able to find it when they need it
when they get there. Maybe they pack their lunch. But did they leave it in the car, trying to find all of their things, they'd be like, I don't have my such and such, when they just didn't actually look for where it was, or they thought they put it in one place. But really, they put it in another, helping them organize and create systems for things to make it easier, is really going to be one of the strategies we'll be talking about later. Another big thing is that kids with dyslexia struggle with how to make a plan, especially if there's a really big project. And I say kids, because oftentimes, people who are adults with dyslexia have tend to have outgrown it. So it's not like the kids can't ever get executive functions, they just end up being a little delayed from what you would expect for a kid their age. And as they get better, it tends to improve with age actually. But in the meantime, that can be a really bumpy road as they start to develop that maturity and that ability to make a better plan and learn from their mistakes in order to get better. And so they need help on how to make a plan and how to get started. When they do get started on a project. Often they might get distracted, and they don't finish or they go down a rabbit hole, and they get completely off track of what the original plan was. And you can really often see this and writing where the student gets started on writing. And then all of a sudden, they write all these details. And all of a sudden, by the end, they have this five page story that doesn't talk at all about what the original part of the story was supposed to cover. They don't have the details that were supposed to be in that essay to begin with. And they talked about something completely off track, because they got too excited about a different part of their idea, you can see that they can be really disorganized. So even if they do write what they're supposed to the order and sequence might be all mixed up. And you can see it when they're doing a project, they're gonna say, Oh, what was I supposed to do next. Even if they know all the steps, they can't always remember the order that they came in, and have trouble reorganizing it and getting back on track and doing it in the right order of events that they showed to get it done more efficiently. Another thing that you might notice is that a student gets something done, but it's not at all what you were envisioning. And sometimes I attribute this to the power of dyslexic thinking is they have this amazing creative out of the box thinking. But sometimes that means their answers are not at all what you expected, doesn't always mean they were wrong. But it may not actually be what you wanted, or what you were looking for. That gets us to the greater goal that you were planning on to begin with. And so that part can be another bit of a challenge. When we think about their executive function skills to at the training last week, I loved how simple they phrased it, which is that those who struggle with executive functioning can't see the end product, or how to get there. And so that brings me to my next topic. What can you do to support executive function skills in someone you know, who struggles in order to get them to that finished product? First, you need to show them what finished looks like? What are you expecting when they're done. And this kind of helps target them, especially if they're doing they're amazing out of the box thinking, they might think of something completely different of what the end product is supposed to look like compared to what you decided the end product should look like when you ask them to do that task. We want to give them an example of what it should look like when it's completed, if at all possible, and show some pictures of what it should look like. Or if it's an essay, show them the structure of an essay and the what a five paragraph essay might look like. Or if it is an organized backpack, show them an example of your bag that's extra organized on what you would do on how to be able to find everything the next day. Show them if you can, if you're giving them a task that you can't really show them what the final product is until they've actually done it, then you should describe it in detail. I want to see this, this and this. So if you're describing a clean backpack, you might say I want to see all of the papers neatly clipped into the binder, I want to see all the pens into N pencils in the pencil pouch, I want to see the lunchbox all cleaned up and all of the yucky food from yesterday should be cleaned up and the empty lunchbox should be on the counter for tomorrow's lunch. I want to be able to see where all the things are in your backpack and be able to find them quickly. And tomorrow, we're going to make sure we put everything in the exact same place so that we know where to find it tomorrow, we want to make sure that we describe in detail what that finished item should look like when you're asked him to do a task and create some sort of plan as to what it should be when they're finished. If you can, you could also try to help identify a clear beginning and end. Start by emptying your backpack, then organize your things and then put it all back neatly in your backpack by the end. So I was able to give a beginning, a middle and an end to that task. And effectively creating a structure in as many ways that you can create structure as possible, the better life will be. It creates predictability, and predictability limits mistakes and forgetfulness becomes ingrained. I always do it this way I start with this I start with that. And then I go here. And I especially do this when I'm teaching a kid to read if I'm doing a letter that has multiple sounds. I always have them tell me the sounds back in the same order. When you go all out of order, then you're more likely to forget something you're like wait, did I mention this other one? Oh, yeah, no, I did that one. But what Which one did I forget? And we want to make sure that if we Do something in the same order every time, it limits how far off track you can get. Because you always know first I do this, then I do that. And it makes it a lot easier to make sure all the key elements get done every time. It's also, you're also able to tell if something's been forgotten, because first I do this before I do that other thing. Oh, wait, I didn't do that yet, though. So I can't do this, I should go back and finish that first thing that I forgot. As an adult, you can also model how you create a plan, don't just do it for them. So for example, I often, especially for my kiddos, who struggle with executive functioning will have my planner open in front of me during our tutoring sessions. And so it's not because I need to plan while they're in there with me, it is because I want them to see what I do, how I put important dates on the calendar, how I backtrack certain things, how I cross out something that isn't going to be the plan after all, and I move it to a new date, I show them how I put things in colors, and how each kid has a different color on my calendar. So at a glance, I can see how often I see that kid for the week. And I show the kids the way I use my plans to be able to help them know what a finished product of a planned out week could look like or planned out month. So there's a plan on my wall, there's a calendar that has all of the big things that I need to do for my business, on my wall in my office, and the kids can see the way I make a plan, the way I see right down, oh, I have this many students this day. So that means this day is going to be a busy day. And so I don't say all the names of all the kids, but I might put a number of I have six kids this day. And the next day, I only have four. So that helps me plan that this day will be a busier day than the next one. And it's partly for me, because it does keep me organized. But it's also partly for the kids so that they can see what finished looks like. So they can see what a clear plan looks like and how to execute it. Not just say use a planner, saying use a planner means nothing. Showing them how a planner works, showing them how you check things off after they get it done. And showing them what it looks like to use it properly, can make a big difference on how effective it is when they go to do it themselves. One of the big things that you need to do is explain your reasoning, not just telling them what to do. So for example, when I said that calendar that's on my wall, that kids would ask me what the numbers are. And so I would tell them, Well, I put the number of how many kids I'm going to see that day, this summer, because my summer schedule is not very predictable at all. And so I can tell myself a plan of how busy my day is going to me. And so I give them my reasoning, I don't just tell them what to do. I tell them my reasoning behind doing things. And if you're telling a student to do something, if you give them the reason why you want them to do it, then they're much more likely to do what you ask them to. If they think you're just being bossy and annoying, they don't care. They don't want to do it. But if you show them that there's a reason behind why you want them to do something specific through a lot more likely to do it. And they're like, Oh, that's a great idea. That makes sense to me. Okay, I'll do it. Versus if you just told them to, probably not gonna want to do it. When you talk about your homework routine, and how to make homework not quite such a battle. The biggest thing is to make it a routine. Look at the assignments at a certain time every day, maybe right as they get home. Actually, I would prefer after they go play and get a snack or something and reset their brain, not the moment they get home and have him look at the assignments make a plan based on when they're due, and how big their if it's due tomorrow, we should probably get that one done today. If it's not due till Friday, let's look at the whole week, how many other assignments are due this week, and which ones are more important to get done first. If there's a large assignment, break it down into your own mini due dates. If this huge project is due by the end of the summer, then we'll say we'll read the book. Then June and July, the end of July, we'll start doing the summer project that goes with the book report. And then in August, right before we go back, we will talk about the presentation on how we're going to present this summer reading project. You're creating plans and goals and their little mini goals that seem a lot more achievable than thinking I have to do this huge summer project. I don't know what I'm gonna get it done, I want to go play, I don't wanna do this. I don't want to do that. But if you set a goal of 20 minutes a day, an hour a day, whatever it is to take the project and break it down into pieces, it makes it a lot more manageable and less overwhelming and less likely to have screaming battles to try to get it done at the last minute. Another really easy thing that you can do is set timers for breaks. And saying, Alright, I want you to work for 20 minutes. You stop working though this timer hits pause, and having a timer going and you don't let it keep going if they're stalling because kids are the kings and queens of stalling is as soon as they realize what your button is what they like to ask you about the they know that you'll answer it, start chatting with them about to get them off track. And then you won't notice that they aren't doing their work. They are very mischievous, and we want to make sure that we account for that when we're making a plan. So when you set a timer, make sure the timer only runs while they're working. And then give them some sort of reward when they're done. And that reward can be any number of things. That reward could be a A chance to go eat a fruit snack, it could be a chance to go play on the swings, it might be five minutes of iPad time, it might be getting to eat their dessert after dinner because if they ate dinner, then they did their homework. They're rewarded to go get their dessert when they're done, or creating some sort of routine, that they get something pleasant as soon as they're done with this task they really don't want to do. So my advice is really just to make routines and schedules and help them make a plan. When you have to make a plan. talk out loud, let them hear your plan. Now to recap today's episode, today, we covered what executive functioning is, how it impacts school and daily life and a few strategies that you can use to make life a little easier for everyone. Because we all know when a kid has a bad day, the grown up in their life also has a bad day. So if we can do systems and routines to make life easier and more predictable, helping kids create a plan, modeling what it looks like to create a plan so they see what your grown up plans are in the way you structure things so that they have a model of what it should look like when it's done. Help them see what done looks like. Alright, so if you want to learn anything else about dyslexia, be sure to check out that online course I have, where I talk about the unexpected associations with dyslexia beyond just executive functioning, go to Parnello education.com forward slash courses. Thanks for joining me today, and I'll see you next time.
Bye. Thanks for listening to today's episode of dyslexia devoted. Join us for our next episode by subscribing to this podcast as we devote each episode to different aspects of dyslexia. See you next time.
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