This is the fourth segment in a series about executive functioning (EF): our “5 R Solutions for Everyday Living.” In this episode, we discuss how and why “Rhythm and Routine” can alleviate problems with EF.
You can create Rhythm and Routine for any segment or transition in your day that is challenging or causing unnecessary stress and conflict. I prefer Rhythm and Routines to “schedules.” Schedules are based on specific times, such as start times, length of time, and ending times. Rhythm and Routines allow for more flexibility while consistently ensuring the same tasks (and sequence/order of those tasks) are always stays the same.
Let’s look at school mornings. Take a minute and reflect on your morning routine from wake-up to drop off at school—how is that going? Do you have a routine or established rhythm? How consistent are things remembered versus forgotten? How often do you have to circle back home (tire screeching) to grab a mask, lunchbox, or homework? School mornings are often a stress-filled sprint for families. By creating a set morning routine that follows a stable and predictable rhythm, the habit of chaotic mornings can be completely transformed!
There are 4 keys to establishing a successful morning:
1) Identify all the items that need to be done (your child should help with this).
2) Chunk the items into smaller segments based on where in the house they take place, and put them in order based on the layout of your house and logic (brushing teeth and combing hair are in bathroom and brushing teeth happens after breakfast).
3) Create a checklist with visuals that follows the order/sequence (put this list in a plastic sleeve so that items can be checked off with a dry erase marker each morning—checking it off the list is part of the routine).
4) Create and implement a system of rewards and reinforcers (more on that next time).
Be sure to check out our latest podcast/video (embedded above) for more details about Rhythm and Routine!
This is the third segment in a series about executive functioning (EF): our “5 R Solutions for Everyday Living.” In this episode, we discuss how and why “Reduce” can alleviate problems with EF.
I love this R Solution because it can address all six clusters in Dr. Brown’s Model of Executive Functioning (Activation, Focus, Effort, Emotion, Memory, and Action)! The goal here is to help the student reduce to a single point of focus, which will help the student focus and sustain attention, prioritize, reduce overwhelm and frustration, activate with a starting and ending pointing, etc. There are so many strategies (too many to list in one short article) that really work…so I hope the takeaway is that when in doubt, reduce, reduce, reduce. Below is a list of 5 strategies that really work for students, parents, and teachers:
1. Set a timer and work on one task for a set amount of time. The amount of time will vary depending on the student and the task ,and you may have to experiment to identify the optimal number of minutes (could be 20 could be 55). This strategy reduces attention and productivity to a single point of focus, helps activate and prioritize, reduces stress and overwhelm, reduces load on working memory, chunks larger tasks, and provides a method for self-monitoring and time management. This can be especially useful for ”studying,” “practicing,” and completion of long-term projects. For example, if I say, “study your test.” What exactly does this mean? Setting a timer provides a quantitative measure for a qualitative task. It also promises relief (it will be over in 20 minutes) for mentally fatigued and exhausted students.
2. Declutter. Remove visual, auditory, and tactile clutter in the the learning environment, workspace, bag, folder, planner, desk, room, etc. If the mind is ”cluttered” or disorganized, the environment must be orderly. Also, if you notice increased clutter in the student’s space or belongings, it is a good indication they are overwhelmed.
3. Tighten up your Message: When giving instructions or directions, eliminate unnecessary and only loosely related information, words, and directives. In other words, talk less and stick to key actions and objects. Avoid overtaxing their working memory, diverting their focus, and overwhelming their senses.
4. Give Big Picture (or punch line) First. When giving instructions or directions provide a clear idea of where the activity is headed, when will it be done, and what is the point so that the student can focus on key details, prioritize, and maximize their worming memory capacity.
5. Set SMART Goals. SMART GOALS are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Time-specific. I love SMART goals because they help direct focus, break larger goals into smaller goals, set timelines, reduce overwhelm, and help students self-monitor progress. I also love setting SMART goals with students because the aspect of the SMART goal they struggle with, reveals their specific area of executive dysfunction. For example, if the goal is identified as “Work on my Science Project,” I might suspect this student has trouble prioritizing, planning, chunking, sequencing, and self-monitoring.
If you like these strategies, pick one or to work on this week, and see how they go for you. We recommend you don’t try all 5 at once. After all, the point of these is to reduce – not to overload yourself! – Dr. Katen
A Free Presentation Series for Parents with Students of All Ages
Individual Matters hosts a series of presentations for parents of students of all ages. Join Dr. Katen and other local experts to learn about all things that have to do with learning.
The presentations take place on the FIRST TUESDAY of every month for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. Topics will include:
- Learning Simulations
- ADHD: What is really causing the attention problem?
- Dyslexia and other Learning Disorders
- Auditory and Visual Processing
- Executive Function and Learning
- Learning Styles and Using Strengths to Find Success
- Gifted and Advanced Learners
- Successful Learning Skills: Organization and Homework Strategies
- Autism and Other Social Challenges
- IEPs, 504s, and Advocating for your Child at School
- And many more!
Location: 2530 E. Foresight Circle, Grand Junction, CO 81505
Day/Time: 1st Tuesday of each month, 5:30-7:00pm
If you can make it, please RSVP by email or phone so we can be sure to have enough seats and snacks.
Hope to see you there!
Do you answer “yes” to any of the following questions?
- Are you curious what hidden gifts or talents you possess, but don’t use?
- Do you sense that you learn or perceive the world differently from others?
- Does it feel like you could conquer the world – if only you didn’t have so much anxiety and self-doubt?
- Do you have big wishes/goals, but feel like you’re not educated (or smart) enough to attain them?
- Ever wonder why you experience relationships and social gatherings differently from your family and friends?
- Is school or work a struggle? Boring? Simply a poor “fit”?
- Are you an entrepreneur who wants to fine-tune your role in your business?
- Are you an employee who secretly wants to be an entrepreneur?
- As a mom, do you sense that your child is not performing at their best? Or as happy as they should be?
- Is it hard for you to pay attention, remember things, organize and manage your busy life?
- Do you feel like you’re a smart, creative person who is drowning in a world of checklists, to-dos, and non-stop life maintenance?
Maybe these questions seem like an advertisement for a motivational class or success
seminar. But sometimes, they’re questions that lead individuals to seek a neuropsychological learning evaluation.
A comprehensive, high quality, neuropsychological learning evaluation can help you understand:
- How you think.
- How you learn.
- How you relate to the world.
- Your interests and talents.
- Factors that may be suppressing your performance and happiness.
The goal of this evaluation is not to “diagnose” what is “wrong” with you or your child.
But it is important to identify what issues may be keeping you from functioning your best – and being your happiest. Here’s an analogy we can all relate to:
What would you do if your car did not start in the morning? Would you “give up” – i.e., call your boss your boss and quit your job? Would you “check out” – i.e, climb into the driver’s seat, stare out the windshield, and wait for something miraculous to happen? Would you become “behavioral” – yelling and cursing, maybe hitting your car? Or, would you buckle down and work harder – i.e., push your car to work?
Everyone will respond in his or her own way, depending on temperament, motivation, how many times this has happened before, financial situation, whether a phone is available, and so on…
Of course, the ideal choice would be to call a tow truck and have your car delivered to a mechanic’s shop. There, the mechanic would begin his assessment of the problem by asking you what happened. Based on the history you give, he might continue the diagnosis process by considering your vehicle’s make/model, identifying the type of engine in the car, checking the oil, evaluating whether the engine parts are moving correctly, determining whether any parts are broken or jammed, ensuring the engine is connected to the drive rod, axle, and wheels, etc. He might even check to see if your wheels have air in them – or if the gas tank is empty!
Basically, the mechanic would take a comprehensive look at your vehicle to figure out exactly what is keeping your car from performing the way it was designed.
Similarly, a neuropsychological learning evaluation involves understanding where you are, how you got here, and where you want to go.
Like a mechanic’s shop, the diagnostic process evaluates your brain – its horsepower (IQ), output (e.g., academic achievement, behavioral symptoms, emotions), how various parts work together (e.g., attention, working memory, executive function), and if the engine connects to the rest of the car (e.g., visual, auditory, sensory processing). This is a simplistic comparison, of course, but it illustrates the value of comprehensive diagnostic assessment.
Since every human is unique, a neuropsychological evaluation is arguably much more complex than figuring out why a car won’t start… Especially when one takes into account the influences of emotional, social, and behavioral functioning, the infinite scope of interests, personality, temperament, and family dynamics – and the fact that everyone is unique!
But the overall goals of the two assessments are similar – to figure out how to optimize performance.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma about “psychological testing” that may prevent adults from pursuing a learning assessment – either for themselves, or for their kids.
Over time, this will change, of course. At some point in the future, neuropsychological learning evaluations will become mainstream. Someday, it may be as common as getting vision or hearing checked, having cavities filled, or getting blood pressure checked – just another approach to living longer, healthier, and happier lives.
Few people would disagree with the sayings, “Live life to the fullest,” or “Be the best you can be.” Wouldn’t it be nice to find out what the “fullest” or “best” really means? And then to identify and overcome any obstacles that might stand in your way?
– Dr. Katen
“Live the life you were meant to live!”
©2017 Individual Matters. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share this article with others, as well as to print or post it on other websites, so long as credit is given to the author.
“Shame cannot survive being spoken… and met with empathy.” – Brené Brown
Individual Matters is pleased to bring the Experience Dyslexia® Workshop to Central Kentucky and beyond.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the term “dyslexia.” You probably know it refers to a type of “reading disability” that makes decoding and understanding text difficult, results in poor spelling, and is often associated with left/right confusion.
But you may be surprised to learn that you already know someone with dyslexia. In fact, you are probably surrounded by them! Research suggests that the disability is very common. As many as 15% of the population experiences some form of dyslexia, yet only 1 in 10 are ever diagnosed.
If you are an educator, these statistics may not be surprising. Perhaps you witness the struggles of dyslexia in your classroom every day. Its effects include a wide range of learning-related symptoms, as well as one or more of the following behavioral symptoms:
- Low Self-Esteem
- Family Problems
But regardless how familiar you are with dyslexia, it can be hard to relate to the personal struggles of those who live with the disability. And when we don’t understand another person’s behaviors, we tend to make assumptions about the reasons for them.
When dyslexia is undiagnosed, or its effects are not well understood, those with the disability may be labeled as lazy, oppositional, immature, or dumb. Their childhoods are often characterized by continual and frequent failures, as well as by nonstop criticism from teachers and parents, and teasing from classmates. Not surprisingly, the silent shame of this burden inhibits learning, destroys self-esteem, and can lead to depression and other mental health problems that continue well into adulthood. Even when students have been identified with dyslexia, it may be difficult for parents or teachers to empathize with their struggles.
Fortunately, the International Dyslexia Association has created the Experience Dyslexia® Workshop. Now people without the disability can begin to understand what it’s like to have it.
Empathy and understanding is vital for compassionate teaching and parenting. Understanding what dyslexia feels like helps us to avoid making assumptions, recognize learning problems for what they are, refer for appropriate treatment and interventions, and help children with dyslexia and other learning problems find success. With empathy, we can begin to scaffold individuals in overcoming the challenges of dyslexia – as well as capitalizing upon its many upsides.
At Individual Matters, we are pleased to facilitate the Experience Dyslexia® Workshop – as well as others that focus on learning, teaching, and parenting. These experiences are available throughout Central Kentucky and beyond. They are appropriate for teachers, parents, or anyone else who works with dyslexic individuals and/or wants to understand impacts of living with the disability.
To learn more, or to schedule a workshop with Individual Matters, email us or call (859) 260-1914.