October 20, 2020 | Special Guest Speaker: Sarah Bays, Field Training Coordinator – KATC & Stella Beard

Stella: Well, thank you all so much for joining us today for our webinar. We are very excited that you have decided to join us today on this Tuesday morning for our Tuesday Tips, we are going to be talking about executive functioning today with our special guest speaker, Sarah Bays.

[00:00:18] So before we get started, I would like to show you all or talk to you just a few minutes about Kentucky SPIN...

Stella: Well, thank you all so much for joining us today for our webinar. We are very excited that you have decided to join us today on this Tuesday morning for our Tuesday Tips, we are going to be talking about executive functioning today with our special guest speaker, Sarah Bays.

[00:00:18] So before we get started, I would like to show you all or talk to you just a few minutes about Kentucky SPIN and a little information about what we do.

[00:00:28] We are the Special Parent Involvement Network. We are the parent training and information center for the State of Kentucky. I guess I should introduce myself, I am Stella Beard. I am the Assistant Director for Kentucky SPIN, I always forget to do that. But we are funded by the U.S. Department of Education and we are actually mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. And we have been the parent training and information center for the State of Kentucky since 1988. And I’m very happy to say we were just awarded our grant again for another five years. So, yay. We are happy that we are still going to be able to help families across the State.

[00:01:07] We work with all types of children and youth with many types of disabilities from birth through age 26. We work with families, parents, and professionals.

[00:01:18] Something we do not do is, we do not act as attorneys. But we effectively advocate for families to help them be the best advocate that they can. So we like to empower families. Give them the much needed tools and resources that they need to be those advocates for their children, all through, you know, birth through age 26, but also and beyond.

[00:01:44] And we provide peer support to help families access that needed information and resources. So really, all of our staff are either a parent of a child with an intellectual developmental disability, or they are a person with a disability or they are a sibling or a family member of someone with a disability. So I love that we add that added touch to help families along the way, so that is wonderful.

[00:02:15] This little slide here says a little bit. Oops, excuse me. About what we have been saying through all of this that we’ve been going through since March, when this pandemic started. And it says together we can accomplish great things for our children. None of us have all the answers, we are working through this pandemic together and adjusting as we go.

[00:02:37] And so that to me, says a lot of things. It says we love to partner, but we are also just to let you know, we don’t have all the answers. So just a little bit of housekeeping tips before I turn it over to Sarah to get us started or, excuse me, Amanda, dear me. Well, actually I think I have messed this up. I still have Amanda on there, but this is Sarah with us. I am so sorry about that.

[00:03:06] But anyway, before we get started, just a little bit of information that will provide you all with some tips as you’re navigating through today. On the right hand side you will see that, you have a dashboard. In that dashboard you can, there’s a dropdown box for questions. Please feel free to type your questions in there. And then that way we will have them. You’re free to ask questions throughout the presentation and we will be sure and answer those as we can. And hopefully we will have plenty of time to get all the questions answered for you throughout the presentation.

[00:03:51] Also, if you want to chat or say something in the chat box, there is an option for you to send your chat to an organizer or a presenter or a panelist. If you send that to the panelist, Sarah will see that, and that way she will be able to answer that for you. And we will stop periodically throughout the presentation so that she is able to answer questions. And so be sure and do that.

[00:04:21] And then she can talk a little bit more about that as we’re going on, because I know she wants to have some interaction., just know that there might be a tad bit delay in the presentation today. So we might have to pause for a few minutes so that folks questions can be answered, quickly.

[00:04:38] So without further ado, Sarah, can you hear me?

[00:04:43] Sarah: I can, can you hear me?

[00:04:46] Stella: I can. I’m telling you it’s always something, isn’t it.

[00:04:50] Sarah: Oh yea.

[00:04:51] Stella: I knew when that slide popped up, I was like this isn’t Amanda, this is Sarah. I know who I’m talking to you.

[00:04:57] Sarah: That is totally fine.

[00:04:58] Stella: So that was my little typo there. That’s what you get for copying and pasting, correct?

[00:05:03] Sarah: Oh yes. Technology can be our best friend and also our worst nemesis.

[00:05:09] Stella: You betcha, you betcha. Well, I am going to turn this over to you. Let me start giving you the control of this and then we will let you start and get us on our way. I am so looking forward to this presentation, I know it’s going to be wonderful. And like I said, I cannot wait to hear what all you’ve got to say.

[00:05:33] Sarah: Well and I —

[00:05:33] Stella: Let me make sure you have control now.

[00:05:36] Sarah: Yeah, we’ll give that a test. While we are getting the control shifted over. I want you guys all to go to that chat box, if you can, in the tool bar and let’s test this out, if you can just send me your name. And then since we were in Kentucky, send me the County that you’re in. And that’s kind of how I know the different regions. And if you have that option in the dropdown, make sure it goes, I am a panelist today.

[00:05:59] Okay. Kellie, thank you, I see yours coming through Kellie from Jessamine County. So if you will, again, in that chat box, just send me your name and then what County you are tuning in from here in Kentucky. And making sure that goes at least to the panelist, if you have that option.

[00:06:21] And Kellie, I did some work, I was out in Jessamine at an elementary school a few years ago. That’s a great little town kind of right there, close to Lexington, but far enough to where you feel like you’re in the country.

[00:06:35] Stella: Sarah, I’m also seeing some in the question box we’ve got Stasha from Kentucky. She just says, and then, Marchelle from Kenton County, we’ve got someone from Henderson County.

[00:06:47] Sarah: Nice.

[00:06:47] Stella: So they’re going in different places too.

[00:06:50] Sarah: Okay, and we’ll kind of play with that throughout the training. Cause I’m not seeing those on my end, but that is okay. Also as Stella mentioned, you will have the handout, it should already be there in your toolbar. It is a PDF of the slides, especially towards the end with resources, you will get tons of clickable links to go and explore, on maybe another rainy day this week when you’re stuck inside the house.

[00:07:16] But just to introduce myself, my name is Sarah Bays. I work at the University of Louisville for the Kentucky Autism Training Center. And although we are based here in Louisville at the university, actually off campus, we share a building with the now Norton Children’s Autism Center. Some of you may be familiar with them for the clinical services that they provide.

[00:07:38] But we are a statewide center. We provide trainings all across Kentucky, out in schools, for parent groups, for first responders, pretty much anyone and everyone who wants or needs information about autism spectrum disorder. But I also like to add the disclaimer that although I will be looking through the lens of autism in my work, please know that the things I’m going to talk about today, will relate to just about anyone, even whether they have a disability or not. You know, whether they have autism, executive functioning deficits are also very prevalent, excuse me, for learners with ADHD, or other developmental disabilities.

[00:08:19] So please know again, that I don’t want you to think, Oh, well my loved one doesn’t have autism, I’m going to tune out today. Or I’m going to go do something else around the house. I’m hoping that you will all walk away with an abundance of information and a few things that you can start implementing right away.

[00:08:35] So let me see if I have the ability I’m not, let’s see. Can I click through here? Stella, I am still seeing your screen and I’m not able to click through here.

[00:08:49] Stella: Okay, hold on just one second.

[00:08:51] Sarah: Okay. And again, while we’re transitioning, if you haven’t already done. So my next slide is going to be at my prompt to have you get out a sheet of paper, or if you’re using a device, whether it’s a, you know, a laptop or, oh, now I can show my screen. Here we go. Let’s get this rolling.

[00:09:15] Oh, yeah, you guys missed out on my fun meme from this morning. Let’s see. Can you all see my screen now?

[00:09:25] Stella: Yes.

[00:09:26] Sarah: Okay, great. So if you can grab a sheet of paper or grab a blank envelope or the back of an envelope on the kitchen counter, if you’re like me. If you are on a device, open up either a blank note or a blank word document, and just put either a list of one through five or five big circles or five big stars.

[00:09:46] And my purpose for this is to have you walk away today with at least three to five strategies that you can begin using immediately. I’m going to give a lot of information today. I was telling Stella before we got started, you know, I could spend a week talking about executive function. It is such a big topic and something that, you know, we can spend a lot of time diving really deep into, but I wanted to make today as useful as possible, mainly for parents since that’s probably the audience that I’m speaking to. But also I’m a special education teacher by trade. So these are things that we can use no matter who we’re supporting, a loved one or even ourselves.

[00:10:28] So again, get that list of three to five. And as you hear something today that you’re like, Oh, that’s really going to help my son or, Oh, my, my granddaughter would really benefit from that. Just jot it down. And like I mentioned earlier, don’t feel like you have to write everything down. You will all already have access, or if you need it at the end, we can make sure we get that to you, the PDF of all of my content and the resources at the end.

[00:10:54] Also before we get into that main content, you know, I want to assure you that each one of you in this webinar today, you already know a lot more about executive functioning than you think. Especially if you are a mom or you have children, or if you have four legged children, like I do. We are all, especially now that COVID has been dropped in our laps, we are juggling so many things at one time. You know, we’re balancing remote learning, some of us. Some of us are working from home now, which is a whole new world to navigate. If you’re like me, you have a color coded calendar that you would be lost without. You may be super Type A like me and have an organized grocery list. So that as soon as you walk into the grocery, you can go from left to right, get everything you need and be in and out as quickly as possible.

[00:11:44] You know, you’re navigating schedules between things like soccer practice. I think we’re having soccer practice. Soccer practice is now, that’s the thing again. But even meal planning, simply waking up and getting out the door. You have all of that developed strategies and tools to help yourself and also your family and your loved ones to do this on a daily basis.

[00:12:06] So whether you know it or not, you are already quite an expert at executive function.

[00:12:13] So before we dive in and I’m not going to give you the brain science to all of this, I tell everyone, you know, my mother was a nurse, but science and the medical field is not my forte. You know, I’m strong in behavioral science and educational science, but the second you start talking about neurons and synapses and frontal lobes, and my brain kind of turns off. So I am not going to dive into the brain science.

[00:12:37] But I also wanted to make sure that the autistic perspective is heard on this topic. So what I’m going to start with, and I’m hoping this plays, I will start it and then pause for a moment just to have Stella or some participants let us know that it’s playing. But one of my favorite resources is a autistic self-advocate, and I use that word autistic, not in a demeaning or, you know, uneducated way, a lot of self-advocates prefer to be identified as autistic instead of a person with autism.

[00:13:11] And this person is one of my favorites. Her name is Amythest Schaber. Let me going to go ahead and go, here. She has an entire YouTube channel devoted to very short videos. This one that we’re gonna watch is about 11 minutes. And she has an Ask an Autistic series that I use on a regular basis.

[00:13:35] And I tried to clip this video into a shorter segment, but Amythest has so many amazing points. She’s going to give a few definitions of executive functions. She’s going to explain, as an autistic adult, you know, how executive dysfunction affects her life and how it feels. And also some tools and strategies that have helped her along the way.

[00:13:57] So fortunately, this video has a little musical intro. I’m going to play that, pause and let’s double check and make sure everyone has sound.

[00:14:05] External Video: [music] I want to run the sun. To shine a light to be the change we want. Something’s right even away. [music pauses]

[00:14:17] Sarah: Was everyone able to hear that little musical intro?

[00:14:21] Stella: I could hear it. I can hear it just fine. This is Stella of course.

[00:14:26] Sarah: Okay. Kellie, this sounds good. Let’s see if, hopefully everyone else can hear that.

[00:14:32] If something is happening on your end, feel free to drop a question or chat and Stella or Kellie or someone can jump out to me and say, hold on, we’ve got some tech issues.

[00:14:41] Stella: And Sarah, we’re seeing all of your slides on the screen. I’m not sure if that’s the way you want it to be, but it’s not just the current slide on the screen. It’s like all of the, all of your slides that are coming up.

[00:14:54] Sarah: Oh, well, let’s see here. Thank you for that. Let’s get this, not showing anything. That’s fun. Showing main screen. Let’s try this.

[00:15:13] Stella: There we go.

[00:15:14] Sarah: Now you can see just executive function and executive dysfunction.

[00:15:17] Stella: Yeah, we see the slides at the bottom, but I think it’s just because of, it’s a video on YouTube, but yes, it’s perfect now.

[00:15:23] Sarah: Yeah. You’ll see some little video thumbnails, like there’s Temple Grandin in the third one and a few other people.

[00:15:28] Stella: That’s great now. Thank you.

[00:15:29] Sarah: All right, thanks so much.

[00:15:34] Let me get these out of the way. And see, I was so excited to not be using zoom for this, I am zoomed out, but GoToWebinar is quite a learning curve for me, so thank you all for your patience and flexibility with me learning this new fun tech system.

[00:15:50] All right, I’m going to get started with Amythest and I’m going to keep her video going. And again, make sure you’re listening for her perspective as an autistic adult. You know, how does executive functioning affect her on a day to day basis? What are some tools and strategies she has found that really help her to become successful and independent?

[00:16:08] External Video: [music] So, hi everyone, I’m Amythest, and welcome to Ask an Autistic. In today’s episode, I’m going to be talking about executive functioning and the executive disfunction.

[00:16:21] I find it kind of funny that in order to make this video, I had to battle my own executive dysfunction along the way,. And I got it now and we’re here. So let’s get started.

[00:16:31] Executive functioning is a very complex topic and it’s a function of the mind and brain that actually isn’t very well understood yet. So it can be hard to explain.

[00:16:41] I’m going to give you two definitions that I’ve heard. The first is that executive functioning is a set of cognitive processes that allow us to manage, control and regulate our thoughts and actions. The second definition I’ve heard is that executive functioning is a set of mental processes that allow a person to connect past experience and working memory with the present situation and their actions in the moment.

[00:17:06] But neither of those definitions give us very much to work with. They don’t actually tell us very much. So I’m going to give you some examples of the processes or things that executive functioning affects in everyday life. So some of those are planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, verbal  reasoning, inhibition, cognitive flexibility, initiation of actions.

[00:17:31] So what this all means is that executive functioning affects a person’s ability to identify a task or problems to organize and prioritize. To break apart a task into smaller steps. To stay on task and focus through the steps to complete a task. And also it affects the ability to call on working memory. And possibly the most frustrating part of all, is that executive functioning, actually affects a person’s ability to self-monitor. So it can be hard for person with executive dysfunction to even figure out what is going wrong.

[00:18:07] People with executive dysfunction, that is that their executive functioning is impaired or atypical in some way, will also have  trouble open-ended questions and open-ended tasks. And being told to do something where they’re not sure how to do it, or they haven’t been given enough instruction or  enough thorough instruction. So you’re likely to get the best results when communicating or asking something of a person with executive dysfunction if you were very specific in what you want. You give lots of details and if possible you provide step-by-step instructions telling us to just, clean the kitchen, for example that results in a person with executive dysfunction wandering into the kitchen and being overwhelmed by all of the steps that they are unable to break down when their own. Or that’s very difficult for them to.

[00:18:56] And so you get stuck in the executive dysfunction spiral of kind of feeling of frustration and sometimes even panic because you know what you want to do. But you are unable to get your brain to cooperate and organize itself, pull itself together long enough to actually do the thing.

[00:19:16] From the outside or to people who don’t know about executive dysfunction, executive functioning issues can, and are often interpreted as laziness or being defiant or having a poor work ethic. When really that’s not the case at all. Procrastination and executive dysfunction are two totally different things.

[00:19:36] Persons procrastinating is able to do what they need to do. They remember that they need to do it. And if they sat down, they will be able to break it down into steps, complete the steps, transition between the tasks.

[00:19:50] But a personal with executive dysfunction, if we can even remember what we have to do in the first place, then it’s a matter of well maybe we can’t even transition from what we’re doing now. Maybe the task needs to be broken down and we’re incapable of doing that.

[00:20:06] So we can actually have a lot of anxiety and stress because there’s something that we know we need to do or something that we even want to do, like just something fun, but we’re unable to get there. It’s like running up against a wall in your brain. It’s like being stuck in place.

[00:20:24] When it comes to autistic people and executive functioning issues, it can be tricky to pinpoint exactly what is what. Sometimes it’s just impossible to figure out exactly what brain weird thing is going on.

[00:20:37] With executive dysfunction there are some similarities like to sensory processing disorder. When a person with atypical senses becomes overwhelmed they may experience some of the same frustration, the same kind of stuck in place feeling. The inability to task switch, to identify problems or to transition and leave the situation that’s causing them to be overloaded.

[00:21:02] And there are many autistic people who have comorbid intellectual or cognitive disabilities. Which can also look like executive dysfunction or can cause executive dysfunction. But it’s a safe bet that probably every autistic person will have trouble with executive functioning in their life at some time.

[00:21:18] So when it comes to explaining what living with executive dysfunction is like, it’s tricky because it’s something that affects almost every part of your life. And when you have executive dysfunction, you’re probably dealing with it almost daily. Although, like most things that are neurological and go along with autistic people, the amount of stress in your life, how much sleep you got, if you’re sick, if you’re tired, all of those things can affect your executive functioning.

[00:21:45] So it can be worse or better on different days, different weeks. When I hear it from people with executive dysfunction, it seems like the trouble they have most often in their life comes with their school work or their job. Which makes sense, because our school system is built around the neuro-typical majority. And even then it doesn’t do a very good job accommodating those children. So it does a terrible job with autistic children with executive dysfunction issues.

[00:22:11] And then of course, I think that most autistic people, by the time that they’re adults have experienced issues between having executive dysfunction issues and needing accommodations in certain areas to be able to do a good job. And implores unwillingness to accommodate disabilities.

[00:22:27] I going to link to some resources below, because again, very big topic and I can only scratch the surface here. So if you want to learn more about what I’m talking about now, check the video description.

[00:22:38] But to give you an example, a child with executive dysfunction is probably going to seem this disorganized. They may have a messy desk and backpack. They may be losing assignments or forgetting that they have assignments, forgetting to turn them in. But it’s not unusual for there to be kind of patchy performance in school.

[00:22:57] A child very well one day, and then not so well with organization the next. And that’s because of the nature of our brains, how stress and a thousand different factors can affect our functioning. Every child is different. And so it can be tricky to find the combination and methods of teaching that can get through to a child with executive dysfunction. For example, if you provide an agenda to write your daily homework, and then it’s not unlikely for a child with executive dysfunction to forget the agenda entirely, to forget to write in it, to lose it.

[00:23:31] And then if they do write their assignment in their agenda, there’s a chance that when they get home and open it and review what they’re supposed to do, they will know what they have to do, but they’ll be unable to start.

[00:23:42] I find that the best thing you can do to help children learn better and to have a better school experience is to ask them what they think would help. Children are more aware of their abilities and their limitations than adults know. And they can have some really good ideas.

[00:23:56] Just generally speaking I have heard of people having success with visual reminders like charts or a daily schedule with pictures for helping children and adults with executive dysfunction to stay focused on what they want to do. And also providing one-on-one attention from a teacher or an aid.

[00:24:17] Adults with executive dysfunction experienced many of the same difficulties. For example, if we set an alarm, there’s no guarantee that you’ll remember what the alarm is for. That we will have loose our phone in the mean time. Or that when your alarm goes off, we’ll be able to transition from what we’re doing or that when we go to do the task, we won’t become overwhelmed and our brain won’t completely stall.

[00:24:39] And a slightly frustrating fact that I found in my life, and that I’ve heard from other people with executive functioning issues, is that having a tidy, organized environment is a real key to success. Because the more sensory information and just stuff in your environment, the more there is for your brain to sort and process and that’s executive functioning.

[00:25:02] So you can use up all your executive functioning, just being in a messy environment. But this is difficult because people with executive dysfunction have trouble organizing. And again, I don’t have any like quick solutions, every person’s different. And so I find that the best thing to do is actually to seek out other people with executive dysfunction and ask them what they do. And you can get some really good ideas that way. We have to be kind to ourselves.

[00:25:30] Executive dysfunction can really, really suck and it can make us feel crappy sometimes like we’re lazy or like we just can’t do things. And why, because that’s what it is, it’s like, you just can’t do it. It’s like the thing that you’re trying to envision is just too big, your brain, can’t take it in. And so it be easy to feel down on yourself.

[00:25:50] So you have to remind yourself that you’re human and that being disabled in a non-disabled world is tough. But you’ve gotten this far and you’re strong and it’s totally valid and it’s a balanced struggle and you’re not just lazy.

[00:26:03] Okay. So this video is already running kind of long, so I’m going to cut it off. But I will be uploading another video sometime soon, I hope, where I give more specific examples of little tricks and tips that I learned, or I’ve heard from others on how to deal with executive dysfunction and your daily life. But I hope that this video was helpful for you.

[00:26:24] If you have an autism related question that you would like answered in a video, please post it in the comment section below. And I might just answer it. And again, for further reading on this topic, please see the video description, but I’ll also include links to my tumbler blog, my Twitter page, my Facebook, all that good stuff. Thank you for watching. Ask an Autistic.

[00:26:50] [music]

[00:26:52] Sarah: All right. So thank you all for indulging me for that 10 minutes. You know, I just so love Amythest’s Ask an Autistic series and I don’t believe in the PDF that you guys have a copy of. Since the video was embedded here in my slides, we’ll need to make sure we get that link to you.

[00:27:12] Or if you just search YouTube, Ask an Autistic, it should pop right up. And this video is just called what is executive function? And Amythest just has a great series again, and on that specific video, she has an abundance of additional resources below her video, of some different tools and resources that she has found helpful as an autistic adult.

[00:27:35] So again, we will make sure we get that YouTube link to you, for that video and Amythest’s whole channel, or if you could just do a quick search in YouTube for Ask an Autistic and it should pop up. And she’s got many —

[00:27:47] Stella: Sarah we’ll be sending a follow-up email later this afternoon that will have a link to the PDF. And I will be sure and add that link to that specific video in that follow-up email.

[00:28:00] Sarah: Great. Thank you so much. So there are so many different definitions of executive function. And as I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to get into the science of it, but it’s mainly just being able to think through situations, you know, act, not acting impulsively, being able to really rationalize and think through and not just respond automatically.

[00:28:19] So here lately, my best example have been, you know, navigating. Do I have one scoop of ice cream versus the entire carton? You know, sometimes I really have to think through that process, especially, now during quarantine. Also, you know, reminding myself I need to first at least start a load of laundry before I kind of binge out on the couch, watching television. So we, as neuro-typical adults, have developed these skills and strategies to help prioritize and make decisions. Our learners, whether they have autism or not, they’re going to need our support in this.

[00:28:59] So, whether you are eight or 18, whether you are neuro-typical or neurodiverse, if you have strong executive functioning, which, you know, on a Monday, my executive function may not be as strong as it is on a Wednesday. As Amythest mentioned, you know, even different times a day or different days can have different results.

[00:29:19] But if one has strong executive function, you are going to have all six of these planning skills, at least in some way or another. You know, you’re going to be flexible. You’re going to be able to control your impulses, maybe not every day, but in general you can. You can think of objectively. You can be empathetic, you can make predictions and you can reflect.

[00:29:41] Additionally, if you have strong executive function, you’re going to have some level of these four coping skills. You’re going to be able to wait. You’re going to be able to tolerate frustration. You’re going to be able to stay calm, again you know, at least most days and the majority of time. And you’re going to be able to shift gears from one task to the other.

[00:30:02] Our learners are going to need support in developing these skills. So take a look at this list, there are 18 different skills here that learners with executive function may challenge with. I’m going to pause for a moment. Let you read through these and do a quick tally.

[00:30:21] How many of these could you check off, either for your loved one? Or for a student that you work with? Or some even yourself? It’ll be totally anonymous. How many of these boxes could you check off of things that either you or your loved ones struggle with?

[00:31:07] [silence]

[00:31:11] Kellie is saying, I think all 18 of those, at least on one day or another. Hopefully not all in one day, but at least over the course of a week or a month. You know, we all have struggles with these too.

[00:31:24] If you had just about every single one of these marked, thank you, Michaela, that was going to be my next question. Prioritize, you know, one, two, maybe three of these that are either the most challenging or the most prevalent on a day to day basis. Michaela shared that planning head, staying calm and shifting gears are probably the most prevalent or problematic.

[00:31:49] So prioritize just a little bit what maybe two or three affect daily life most often.

[00:32:01] And again, I wish I could see your all’s responses. I think I’m only seeing my fellow panelists and organizers here. But know I will get a copy of this transcript so I will see all of your responses after.

[00:32:16] Stella: I don’t see anyone putting anything in the question box right now. I’m looking at that, but they can, if they want to. And I can certainly relay that to you and Kellie, can see the questions also.

[00:32:30] Sarah: Right. And Kellie added, you know, focusing, maintaining organization and having that working memory are kind of her top three. So I’m going to mention this again at the end, but executive function is a giant beast. It is something that we all have to focus on all day, every day.

[00:32:50] It is something that takes a lot of time to improve and strengthen. And it can be very overwhelming to try to fix the whole of these right and change all of these aspects. But really prioritizing and trying to come up with maybe two or three to focus on first.

[00:33:09] So your learners with weak executive functioning, and I try to say learners in trainings, because although I come from a school background, I know that you’re not necessarily working with students. You may be working with a son, a daughter, granddaughter, a niece, a neighbor. But we are all learners. And we are helping support people in their learning.

[00:33:28] So your learners with weak executive function or needing some support with executive function, they are living in the moment. They are not necessarily thinking about how their actions will affect them or others in the future, or even what the consequences have been in the past. They are living right here in the present. Which, you know, I can definitely value that there is definitely a time and place for being present, but can also cause some problems later down the road.

[00:34:00] All right. We’re jumping right into strategies. Again, I told you I wasn’t going to bore you with all the science I wasn’t going to get too technical on you. I want to give you practical tools that you can begin using immediately, whether it’s with yourself, maybe with your significant other or your spouse or your loved ones at home.

[00:34:19] So I’ve broken down, we’re going to first talk about four main skills to teach and ways you can do that.

[00:34:26] So the first one is how to teach our learners to reflect on the past and also predict what may happen in the future. This is definitely something that your learners are working on in school, especially, you know, in literacy units, but it’s also a great life skill that they need our help. We need to be able to teach them how to do this effectively. So first is thinking about cause and effect. You know, all of those early childhood toys, a lot of them are cause and effect, you know, you push a button and something lights up. Or you put a ball in the container and it makes a crazy noise.

[00:35:03] Cause and effect is a constant part of our life. And we need to be able to point those out as they’re happening. You know, use concrete examples right there in front of you as they’re happening something simple as, Oh man, we left our toys out on the deck last night and it rained. Uh oh, what happened? You know, being there in those teachable moments, and helping understand that our actions and the things that we do have a specific cause and effect. And having conversations about those or at least addressing them. So we can start recognizing causes and effects.

[00:35:41] Similarly, we need to practice, you know, looking forward. Making predictions, not just, you know, as you’re reading a bedtime story and you know, before you turn the page, Oh, what’s going to happen. Something as simple as. Wow, that’s a really full cup of orange juice that you’ve left on the kitchen counter. What would happen if our cat jumps up? You know, thinking about either worst case scenario, even great positive scenarios. Making predictions about again, in those, in that moment, things that are naturally occurring, in that moment of time.

[00:36:15] Doing some reflection, you know, looking back and making sure that we’re doing that for both successful and unsuccessful situations. You know, if it’s an unsuccessful kind of tough situation that we’ve been in definitely wait till your learner is calm and able to discuss. You know, we all know during that sometimes meltdown or explosion, that’s not the time to have conversations. So once they’re calm, able to have a discussion, but also as soon as possible.

[00:36:44] You know, we don’t want it to be eight o’clock at night and then say, man, this morning, you remember when you did that? That would have been a lifetime ago. So try to be, you know, as close to the real time as possible, without criticism, you know, allowing time for processing and really reflect on either what happened this time? What happened last time? Practicing some empathy. I’ve got a nice visual here. I’m going to skip to.

[00:37:11] So reflecting, you know, what happened last time you did this? How would you feel if someone did that? So, how do you think they feel? And using some of those sentence stems to start having some conversations.

[00:37:28] Also this is where social narratives can really come into play. Come see me next Tuesday, we’ll be doing another Tuesday Tip on social narratives. So you can learn more about those and how they can come into play here using things like comic strip conversations or social stories can really help understand these scenarios. Also role playing or modeling using video modeling. Oh my goodness. There are so many great examples on the internet, that you can borrow or use as an example to help your learners think through this process here.

[00:38:06] The next skill that we’re going to talk about is teaching impulse control. This could be a big one, right. The first thing you need to do though, is look behind the scenes. Are there some changes that you could or should make to the environment? You know, think about sensory input. Are they just overwhelmed in a sensory aspect? Are there too many distractions? Is there something we need to add to their environment such as a visual support to help them be successful in controlling their impulses?

[00:38:37] Oh, I’m having network connection difficulties, apparently. Am I still good audio wise folks and video wise?

[00:38:45] Stella: Yes. I still hear you on my end and see you too .

[00:38:49] Sarah: Great, that was a fun, little pop up that came up and it’s actually stopped raining. So that’s not it.

[00:38:56] Stopping and thinking, you know, making sure that in that moment we are providing very clear kind of natural responses. Sometimes that involves incentives, or positive reinforcement to remember, what are some of the prompts that have been happening? And making those choices there in the moment. That think aloud is going to be a very powerful strategy for you to help your learners think through these different scenarios.

[00:39:24] And also don’t miss a beat, you know, acknowledge every single attempt and accomplishment. This is going to be a very slow process. You know, we’re not just going to wake up the next day and be really strong executive functioners. That’s not how this happens.

[00:39:39] If you know, all of those small victories, I am eternally optimistic and always try to find the small victories.

[00:39:51] How to teach advanced planning. This is one of my favorites, I am such a planner. You know how your learners with executive dysfunction live in the moment? I always live in the future. Fun story about me. When I was at summer camp as a kid, I was always told don’t anticipate, participate. I always needed to know what was happening. What are we going to do after this? What are we going to do tomorrow? What are we going to do on Friday? I have a really hard time living in the moment. But these are some skills and some tools that you could and should be using with your learners.

[00:40:23] Using countdowns either to show the amount of time left or the number of tasks that are left to pace themselves. Visual timers will be your best friend. Sometimes even the microwave, if that’s all you have available. I’ve used a microwave timer plenty of times in my teacher days with students.

[00:40:44] Chunking tasks or skills, you know, breaking things down into a timeline. What do we need to do this week versus next week? Or what do you need to do before lunch or after lunch? Coming up with a nice list, providing breaks. Oh, my goodness. I am loving this one. Even as I was working on this training, I mentally had to break it down and give myself a little reinforcement break afterwards. Whether that just met simply getting up and getting a snack or getting up and switching the laundry downstairs.

[00:41:15] And then finishing tasks later. We mentioned earlier, you know, learners with autism can have, or even learners with other disabilities can have what’s called sticky attention. Disengaging from a task, especially if it’s one that they really prefer and switching to another task. So having a specific place, either for unfinished assignments, unfinished tasks, either a folder or a drawer, a pause card is also my favorite.

[00:41:41] I’m going to show you here on this slide. So these are lots of different either checklists that you can have, even for things like calming down. You can make it visual with a checklist. Anyone who grew up in the 90’s knows they had those best little water and oil timers. Those things were the coolest they were in just about every gift shop under the sun.

[00:42:02] Time timers are excellent. There is a free app, I know it’s on, the iOS Apple store. I’m not sure about Android, I’m pretty sure it is. But time timer is. Excellent. It visually shows how much time is left and you don’t even need to get the actual clock now you can just pull up the app on your phone.

[00:42:21] A simple five, four, three, two, one countdown. Even simply written on a post it and every minute or so, or every task you just mark off a letter. So you’re seeing that progression of time.

[00:42:34] In the bottom left corner, this one is for all the Transformer fans out there. Hasbro toy box tools has done a lot of work recently with making play inclusive. So I have the link here. I encourage you, especially if you have younger learners to check that out, they have tons of free resources for you, to help kids learn how to play appropriately. They have countdown timers like this, that you would fold each one over or open them to reveal the transformer as the time passes.

[00:43:03] The pause card is my all time favorite. I’ve been in classroom before, we are working on a giant floor puzzle and Uh oh, it’s time for lunch. And one of my students in particular was not able to leave that puzzle unfinished. Any of you have some loved ones like that? Whether it’s Legos, if it’s not totally built, the puzzle’s not done and we’ve got to go. We are running late. I grabbed a piece of paper off the printer. Every kid knows what that pause symbol looks like now. We all use videos on our phone, we are making videos or we are watching videos simply using a pause card to place on top of that can really help shift that attention.

[00:43:47] The last of these strategies here is to teach waiting. And I will tell you, every single one of us here is awful at waiting. Whether you believe it or not. As humans, we are the worst at waiting.

[00:44:00] And the prime example of this is the second you get to a stop light in your car. What do you probably do? Do we just sit there with hands on the wheel, waiting for the light to turn green? If you’re like me, the answer is absolutely not. I’m either changing the song on my radio, I’m pulling up my phone, especially if I just hit that red light. And I know I’m going to be there for a minute. I’m either throwing stuff in the back seat to get it out of the front. I’m wiping things down. We are terrible at waiting, even at a red light.

[00:44:30] So we need to help our learners know how to wait. We need to give them activities to do while they’re waiting. I’m going to go ahead and skip to show you, you know, something like a wait bag. Whether you are out in public or whether you’re at the house and you need to just wait for a few minutes for someone to get ready. Have a bag full of either books or an iPad or a favorite toy or something that you can rotate out weekly or monthly. Have a specific wait place either by the front door, a specific chair or a specific stair to set on. Have a specific location and a nice visual representation.

[00:45:09] Another piece that’s very, very helpful for your learners is to use closed-ended statements. I have a video linked here from Chloe Rothschild, another autistic adult who so beautifully describes how helpful it is for her to hear closed-ended statements rather than vague open-ended ones.

[00:45:27] So being very specific, you know, telling a learner with autism or another disability, no, we can’t do that right now. May cause them to panic and raise their anxiety. But if you can be very specific, you know, we’ll do that in 10 minutes or, oh, we’re going to get to that after dinner, give them a very specific, either a number or timeframe. Something very closed-ended can be helpful.

[00:45:53] The autism helper has great little visuals for waiting. These are more school-based, but again, can give you a nice example of a little card you can pull out with different options for when you’re waiting. What are some things that you can do quietly? So you’re not just sitting there thinking about all of the things that you would rather be doing right now, or the one thing that you’re waiting to get.

[00:46:20] Some additional tips for home and I will totally admit, I am pretty lousy at some of these. I am good at the Sunday Game Plan. You know, my children all have four legs, so I don’t have nearly as much to get ready on the weekends, as you all do, who have children or other family members in your house? I just have a fiancé and four pets, although they are quite a handful. But thinking about that Sunday Game Plan, really looking at the week. You know, as a family, even sitting down and saying this is what we have going on, this is what we need to do first. Or even just you as a parent, getting yourself prioritized, keeping a consistent sleep schedule. I am awful at this one. Hopefully you all are better than me. But trying to keep that routine and that structure of sleep schedules.

[00:47:08] Setting aside time for that daily movement and exercise that can really help reduce anxiety and also increase mood and attention.

[00:47:17] This last one is definitely prevalent here now that some of you may have remote learners or whether you’re working remotely from home.. Keeping a workspace consistent somewhere that you can go every day to either do your schoolwork or your actual work-work. And free from distractions with everything that you need close by.

[00:47:36] You know, I have an office upstairs. But I cannot work up there because it’s also where my cricket cutting machine is. And I get way too distracted by projects. I have to work at the dining room table and look out the back door because I don’t get any distractions, I can’t see the TV. I can’t see the messy kitchen. There’s nothing there to distract me. So finding a place that works for you or for your loved ones.

[00:48:01] Stella: Sarah one little, one little tip that I have about the adopt a Sunday Game Plan that really helps my family, I have a son with an intellectual disability, he’s 24, and he really struggles with executive functioning. And so he always wants to know what’s for dinner, what’s for dinner, what’s for dinner. And so we made—

[00:48:21] Sarah: A man after my own heart.

[00:48:23] Stella: We have a plan now on Sundays, is we plan our menu for the week and we go to the grocery. And so that has really helped. And I put that menu on the refrigerator and he doesn’t like change very much. So one of the things in order to provide flexibility in my, since I’m a little off at times, I have one day that’s like raid the refrigerator, which means you’re on your own. I’m not cooking. I’m not planning, we’re not doing anything. And that has helped so much in my family, just to have that little game plan and we do it on Sundays.

[00:49:04] Sarah: And Stella, I so appreciate that. And you bring up a good point and something that I’ve mentioned in all my trainings and a couple of times here, you know, if there’s something, a question that you’re getting asked over and over and over and over again by your loved ones, or if there’s something that you’re having to remind them over and over and over again.

[00:49:23] Chances are they need a visual support for that. Something as simple as a list of meals up on the fridge. Whether you have one of those fancy meal planners or not. You know, slap a post-it somewhere with a nice visual reminder. If they are not readers, you know, some sort of picture schedule or picture icons. Chances are in almost every situation you’re struggling with a visual support could be a possible answer to that.

[00:49:50] So thank you, Stella, just for that reminder that just simply putting it on the fridge can hopefully prevent at least a few of those questions of what are we having for dinner tonight? What are we having for dinner tomorrow? When are we going to have hot dogs this week? All of those fun questions that I’m sure you get asked multiple times a day.

[00:50:09] So our last part together are some resources. And again, you will have, all of these are clickable. They will all have links to take you to either books or outside resources. These are two of my favorite books. The one on the right, my copy of it looks absolutely disgusting. I’ve shared it with  every co-teacher. It is my favorite book and a lot of today’s training came from the Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Inclusive Classroom.

[00:50:34] So, you know, if your loved ones are of school age, it’s an excellent book. It’s very unexpensive. Very scholastic. And another great book full of practical strategies, and they’re not textbook like, you know, they’re larger books, but they’re not textbooks. They’re very easy to navigate. Flip the Switch is another excellent one. And those are both linked here for you. I don’t get any profits from those, so I’m not trying to sell them to you. I just use them and love them, and I think they’re very approachable.

[00:51:05] These are four different websites or blogs. I’m not sure if you guys are familiar with any of them, but they are four of my favorites. Understood.org. If you have not been to that website. That is your homework after this. Go and explore. They have so many excellent resources for struggling learners.

[00:51:26] Social Thinking has a lot of great strategies as well. A Day in Our Shoes has a ton of information, trying to navigate, you know, the special ed world. They can be a bit controversial sometimes. A little anti-school at times, but they have some great executive functioning resources there. So that’s why I’m sharing that one with you.

[00:51:46] And Seth Perler. You have not heard his name, write it down in one of your squares or circles or whatever you wrote. Seth Perler is the guy when it comes to executive function. He is phenomenal. He does it for a living, it’s all he does is executive function. He has tons and tons of videos, and webinars, and resources for executive function. And he’s just, he’s fun to listen to. He’s not a buttoned-up kind of guy, you know, sitting in an office. You know, he’s very real and very practical.

[00:52:16] So these are some different blogs and websites that you may find beneficial. I also linked, there is a group called Brighton Quirky and they work a lot with twice exceptional kids. So kids with often autism and you know, who are gifted and talented. They have two very short seven minute videos specifically about executive function. And I also showed this to bring back Amythests’ point that your learners are not necessarily unmotivated or lazy. You know, it may seem like they’re being impulsive or they’re being obstinate, or they’re just being a pain in your you know what today.

[00:52:56] But chances are, they’re experiencing some executive dysfunction and they really need your support or a visual support to help them be successful.

[00:53:05] So again, those are linked here. Some quick little videos, some more homework for you guys. These two, the first one, that’s got the star. If you open that, it is a questionnaire. That you can either have your loved one, your learner, or you can fill out for them and really rate and help prioritize which area of executive functioning should you prioritize. Cause again, this can be very overwhelming.

[00:53:32] I’m not expecting everyone to overcome every executive functioning issue known to man right now. But definitely check out that questionnaire.

[00:53:40] The next few slides break down some information from those. And again, you will have these, so I’m just going to quickly go through them. For 11 of the executive functioning skills and again, some more strategies to help you with each of those.

[00:53:55] This first one, completed work samples, under metacognition, simply taking a picture of what an organized sock drawer looks like. And having that posted on the front of the drawer so that they can compare, you know, does my drawer look like this? Does my closet look like this? Does my desk look like this?

[00:54:14] Letting them know what a successful work sample even looks like. Whether that’s homework or housework. Under task initiation, that last bullet there is behavioral momentum. Sometimes we just need to get that ball rolling. You know, I’ll put away three of your shirts and I need you to put away the last two. Or we’re going to do the first two math problems together, then I need you to do the next three on your own. Just getting that ball rolling can help them get started with a task.

[00:54:45] I’ll let you guys go through these on your own. There were a few others I wanted to point out.

[00:54:52] Working memory, that first check box there, you know, I would have never known how many times I had to rely on mnemonics that I learned as a kid. You know, I was just looking up, you know, we all go through the ROYGBIV, remembering the colors of the rainbow.

[00:55:09] MVEMJSUNP, I learned that one from Saved by the Bell. Again, any nineties kids out there for the order of the planets. Even knowing the places of musical notes, we have these little mind tricks or putting things to songs to help us remember, that can be very powerful.

[00:55:27] Over on flexibility as a teacher, I loved to make mistakes mainly because it normalized errors. We all make mistakes. We are all human and that is perfectly fine. So sometimes I would sabotage myself just for that teachable moment.

[00:55:43] Also things like surprise cards, you know, making sure that in the moment, we can have sometimes fun surprises, sometimes bad surprises. But our life cannot always go according to a set schedule.

[00:55:59] Under seven and eight, let’s see, oh, number eight, definitely. Using estimation skills, knowing about how much time it takes to do a certain skill. That’s very important to help with your time management and your planning.

[00:56:18] My favorite one under organization, anyone who knows me, knows things are labeled. I have color coded everything. I am Type A to the core, but this last bullet there developing routines. There is a quote out of Teach, it’s a group at university of North Carolina and they have a quote that I love and it’s, there’s a place for everything and everything has its place.

[00:56:42] So making sure that you have a specific place in your home, you know, where shoes go or everything, especially the stuff that gets left out in the living room, or that just gets left out everywhere, making sure there’s a designated space for that item. Sometimes it needs something like a label, whether with words or pictures. And making sure that that’s part of your routine, you know, before bed, these are the things that we always do.

[00:57:09] And finally prioritize. It’s very overwhelming. We have to start somewhere. So that’s why I love the checklist that I had listed and starred on the previous slide to really help identify which two, maybe three areas do we need to start with.

[00:57:25] Finally, I’ve linked three other resources here. Each of these little post-its, you should be able to click on. There is a video here from Child Mind Institute. Another it’s a transcript, I believe from a webinar on from don’t IEP alone, that day in our shoes resource. And then the Northern Kentucky Cooperative. They had a great module put out for teachers, but parents and other professionals could benefit too on executive function as it relates to behavior.

[00:57:53] So again, free resources for you guys to explore. And that’s it. Here is my phone number and email. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out. I will stick around for any other questions that have come through. If you haven’t already done so, you know, check out our website at the Autism Training Center. KYautism.org. We have a Facebook, a YouTube and a Twitter that are all pretty active. Reach out to us if there’s anything that either I can do or we can do. We are doing a lot of great work with Kentucky SPIN. I am so thankful for them and the work that they do and their partnerships. And I just thank you all for your attention today.

[00:58:30] I wish I could have heard from more of you, but we will hopefully get that figured out for next week’s Tuesday Tips on social narratives. So I will maybe see some of you all then.

[00:58:44] Stella: Thank you so much, Sarah, I think that was just wonderful. I was jotting notes, trying to navigate, do everything I’m supposed to do. It was a little scary for awhile.

[00:58:56] Sarah: You mean you were experiencing some executive dysfunction during that?

[00:59:01] Stella: I was, could you believe it?

[00:59:06] You announced, next Tuesday, the webinar our Tuesday Tips with you. I’m so excited that we’ve got you two weeks in a row. How cool is that? That it’s going to be wonderful. If you want to register for that folks, you go so onto www..kyspin.com, and you will see where you can register for all of our upcoming Tuesday Tips.

[00:59:26] We also have webinars every Thursday at 11 on a variety of topics. So you can be sure and check all of that out. We have a wonderful COVID-19 web page that has many wonderful resources. We have a great video library that’s available. So please check out our website and you’ll find all kinds of wonderful information.

[00:59:49] Also at the end of the webinar today, you are going to be prompted to complete an evaluation. We would really appreciate your time. It’ll only take just a few minutes to do. If you would fill out that, that would be wonderful. That way it gets us, letting us know what we need to do different and also some feedback about today’s webinar.

[01:00:10] And Sarah I just got a great comment that said love this presentation, great info. So I think that is wonderful. And so, that’s great.

[01:00:18] I’m looking to make sure there was no questions before I let you go. Do you have time for just a quick question?

[01:00:27] Sarah: I will be here as long as you guys need me. So yeah, stick around.

[01:00:30] Stella: Okay, great.

[01:00:31] Sarah: If anybody has any questions. If you need to get out of here and get lunch planned or go pick up something or someone, I totally understand.

[01:00:40] Stella: Okay. Well, here’s one, it says I work with consumers trying to find employment for them that are on the spectrum. How would you use these examples in the workplace?

[01:00:49] Sarah: So definitely in the workplace, the ones that come to mind right off the bat are models, and video models. Especially if it’s a pretty predictable work situation, or work environment, if they can either before each task watch a very quick little video modeling either of them doing the task or someone else to help watch and rewatch, you know, especially, I think this generation has just grown and up with technology in their hands from birth. So as much as you could use that for them to be independent, watching a quick video.

[01:01:24] A task analysis, or some sort of visual checklist of tasks, either for the day that they need to get done. Maybe even broken down more simply as to alright, when you were in this station doing this task, these are the things that you need to do.

[01:01:42] And then the final one that just comes to mind right off the top of the bat and it’s throughout the slides. I didn’t get to hit on it as much but are teaching those self-advocacy skills. You know, teaching individuals how and when to ask for help is huge. Teaching them how and when to ask for a break or more time. That’s something that we need to start doing even with our youngest learners. It’s okay to take a break. And sometimes our younger kids don’t understand, like I’m, I’m allowed to take a break sometimes. I’m allowed to, not necessarily say no, cause there are some situations where we can’t, but I’m allowed to ask for five more minutes or to maybe do that later. So self-advocacy, self-advocacy skills, excuse me, are going to be very crucial, especially for a person in a work environment.

[01:02:34] So there’s three right off the top of my head that I’d come up with.

[01:02:37] Stella: That is awesome. I love that. And that’s something that we did with my son, is we created a little video of him doing the tasks themselves. And so that way he’s able to go back and watch it. It’s on his phone. He is always with that phone. So, you know, when he has questions, he can go back and watch that.

[01:02:53] And I think it’s really cool to see himself doing  it. I think that’s a really important thing if you can, if that’s something that could be arranged, you know, and created for them. I love that.

[01:03:04] Sarah: Right. And even if it’s a skill, that they [inaudible] I think that having a favorite person, you know, if there’s a coworker that they really love or a supervisor or a boss that they have a close relationship to have them in the video, and that would make them a little more eager and willing to watch it as well. If it’s someone that they really know and enjoy seeing.

[01:03:22] Stella: I love that. That’s great. That’s great. Well, Sarah, thank you so much. And we had talked at the beginning about a part two, and I think we’re going to have to plan that. I think there’s so much more we can dive into, so we will definitely plan that. And have you come back to do part two for sometime?

[01:03:37] Sarah: Sounds like a plan I’m here whenever you guys need me. I appreciate it.

[01:03:41] Stella: Okay, thank you so much. And thanks again, everyone for joining us and please complete our evaluation, you’ll be prompted at the end. Thanks a lot. Bye bye.

[01:03:50] Bye everyone.

[01:03:51] Sarah: Thank you.