Executive Functions: Help your students develop and strenghten their own inner voice

If you’ve visited my blog before, you know I love using commercials to help get a conversation going with students about a topic. So, when I saw this Nike commercial it reignited my interest in helping students develop and strengthen their executive functioning skills. Use this video to help explain and teach executive functions to your students.

 

A few years ago, I was part of a team that developed a program to help middle schoolers learn how to use “self-talk” to navigate social situations and problem solve situations on their own. What we discovered in the process was that many students lack the inner dialogue necessary to effectively complete school tasks, figure out social situations, and get to where they needed to be on time and with the necessary materials.

The culture in schools is slowly changing, but for the most part, executive functions are not directly taught in schools. And, many school-aged students simply have not developed the skills necessary to get their work done and be socially successful in school.

So my advice to parents and educators would be…

DO NOT ASSUME children have fully developed organizational systems to complete tasks or socially savvy inner dialogues to navigate nuanced situations.

It’s your responsibility to explicitly teach them and provide opportunities for them to develop and refine these executive functioning skills.

I have found many resources out there to help students become more aware of the ability to use an inner dialogue to help them problem solve and successfully navigate the social world. See one of my favorites below.

The Zones of Regulation

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I’ve also created many activities and resources for building executive functioning skills. Check out my two most recent creations.

BUNDLE Build Social Skills with Executive Functioning Activities

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Executive Functions Informal Assessment Questionnaire 

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When you’ve taken the time to help your students build stronger executive functioning skills, use your own “self-talk” to tell yourself, “Good job.” ; )

 

 

 

Who? What? When? Where? Why?

The ability to appropriately answer abstract questions is an important developmental language skill. In order to accurately answer these questions, children must understand what each question word is asking.

See below for normal developing ages for answering “wh” questions:

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A great way to help children develop and refine their ability to answer “wh” questions is through story time with books that are simple in plot, repetitive in writing style, and include lots of great visuals.  There are a lot of children’s books out there and many of them for younger children lack the content needed to elicit these “wh” questions. Many younger children’s books are simply images with vocabulary images and labels. While these books are helpful, they don’t promote the development of more abstract language understanding.

However, I came across a book that’s great for young children and promotes the development of “wh” questions.

You can find it on Amazon by clicking the link below:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0692735348

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Mimi and Moto was written by Nancy Gerloff and Mark Augustyn. http://mimiandmoto.com/

 
I also recently created a visual resource to help children more effectively answer “wh” questions for my Teachers Pay Teachers site. I’ve been using this idea for years, but have always just used blank paper and basic drawings to teach the different “wh” types. I’m sure my clients will appreciate not having to view my awful stick figure drawings. You can find it here:
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When it comes to social skills, CONTEXT matters!

When it comes to social skills, CONTEXT is very important. You can say one thing in one place or situation and it will mean one thing, but if you say the SAME thing in another context, it can totally have a different meaning.

When it comes to social situations, some things are “OK” to DO in one context, and considered not “OK” in another. Students who struggle with social skills have a hard time figuring this out. They may start digging for a booger in the middle of class and not understand why that is SO not “OK” and the entire class is screaming, “Eeeewwww!”

You may find it uncomfortable to think about, but I explain to my students that it’s not “OK” to pick your nose in public, but it IS totally “OK” to do so in the privacy of your home as long as you use a tissue to discard of the findings and wash your hands after. You know you do it too… Don’t deny it.

The booger picking example is an extreme one but actually the list of examples of how context matters goes on an on. The booger one is just an attention grabbing one that most students can relate to.

When it comes to social skills, CONTEXT matters when it comes to what is considered “OK” to say and do. I love using this book to help my students learn more about context and the role it plays.

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I’ve also created an activity on my Teachers Pay Teachers site to help students learn and discuss this topic. Check it out here.

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Talk with your students and come up with a list of what’s “OK” and not “OK” to SAY and DO in different contexts and don’t forget to laugh and have fun with it!

 

 

Tips for Talking about Social Skills

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Have you ever said this to your child?

“When my voice sounds harsh, that means I’m frustrated.”

“When I raise one eyebrow up, it means I’m confused.”

I’m pretty sure the answer is NO.

That’s because traditionally, parents and educators typically don’t have to “teach” children the basics of social interaction or the nuances of social situations. However, interacting with others can be both confusing and frustrating for many children. Children with poor social skills are often socially isolated and that along with lack of social awareness can have life long effects.

Check out the article I wrote for the Carolina Pediatric Therapy blog by clicking the link below. I came up with six basic talking points to help parents and teachers educate students who struggle socially.

FOCUS ON SOCIAL SKILLS: TALKING POINTS TO IMPROVE SOCIAL AWARENESS

My Friends Can Tell What I’m Thinking

“My friends know me so well. They can tell what I’m thinking just by looking in my eyes.” -Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston’s friends must have good social awareness! They are able to tell what she’s thinking by looking at her eyes. I suspect… is what they’re REALLY doing is looking not only at her eyes, but checking in with her entire face and body to figure out what she’s thinking. They are observing and paying attention to her non-verbal language.

Non-verbal language is how we communicate nearly half of our verbal message! Many students struggle to pick up on this social skill. Think about how much meaning they are missing or how much they misunderstand if they struggle to understand the importance that non-verbal language has on communicating meaning.

What IS non-verbal language? Well, in the most basic sense non-verbal language includes:

  • Facial expressions- Movement of eyebrows, eyes, forehead, cheeks, lips, etc.
  • Body Language- Posture, hand gestures, proximity or change in closeness during social interaction,  etc.
  • Tone of Voice- Differences in the way the voice sounds, different stress or emphasis placed on  words or phrases

If Jennifer Aniston wasn’t trying to sell eye care products, she would’ve said,

“My friends know me so well. They can tell what I’m thinking by paying attention to my entire body and to the way my voice sounds.”

Use this commercial to get a conversation going with your children or students about the importance of non-verbal language and the meaning it conveys or how it can change the meaning of what people communicate.

I’ve created some lessons specifically teaching non-verbal language and the importance of paying attention to it during social interaction on my Teachers Pay Teachers page. You can find them by clicking the links below:

Non-Verbal Language                

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    How Do You Communicate Without Talking?

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Click below for a helpful article written by Michelle Garcia Winner about the importance of attending to non-verbal language:

4 Steps to Communication

Enjoy (non-verbal head nod given)!

Cat Tintle, M. Ed. CCC-SLP

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“Why do I go to speech?”

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Incorporating executive functions in your articulation therapy improves carryover of skills.

As a speech-language therapist, it’s important to ask yourself:

  • Do my students know what sounds they work on?
  • Could they tell me the steps required to correctly produce their sounds?
  • And, most importantly:

Do they even know WHY they come to speech?

This is a problem I’ve seen in the field for years and I’ve made it my mission to help students better understand the purpose of speech therapy and empower them with the skills to help carryover the progress they make in our sessions to their everyday life.

I’ve been surprised to see how even children as young as 4 can really benefit from explicitly teaching the purpose and steps to correctly produce their target speech sounds. After educating the student and helping them take more ownership of their goals in therapy, I’ve seen students meet their goals much quicker and improve overall speech intelligibility much faster than the traditional “drill and kill” approach.

Try incorporating executive functioning activities in your articulation therapy and see how much more progress your students make! I begin and end each session with a brief review of the student’s target sounds (no more than 2 sounds each session) and have them learn to “teach” the steps back to me and to family members for homework. Another added benefit to having students understand the purpose of therapy is that they will naturally become more motivated and engaged in the session. Explaining the purpose and helping them take more ownership of their goals improves intrinsic motivation.

I created a Teachers Pay Teachers activity to go with this idea. It includes worksheets for students to answer these questions as well asc “key” with verbal prompts for teaching the steps for the most commonly misarticulated sounds. You can find it here.

I also created a bundle that combines this activity with another one I created to help students associate their target sounds and learn the steps to correctly produce. You can find it here.

Enjoy!

I love reading books written for business and applying it to education and speech therapy. Check out the inspiration for this activity here: Drive by Daniel Pinkscreen-shot-2016-09-19-at-3-20-03-pm

Why Work on Social Skills?

The internationally known psychologist Dr. Daniel Goleman published the books Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ and  Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships around a decade ago.

He believes (and I do too) that skills such as self awareness, emotional mastery, motivation, empathy and social effectiveness have a greater impact than traditional intelligence on career success.

To learn more about the importance of social intelligence, watch this talk he gave at Google in 2007:

Or click here

Another innovator in the field of social cognition is Michelle Garcia Winner. She is a speech and language pathologist who has devoted her career to helping those with social cognitive deficits. When attending one of her Social Thinking conferences a few years back she beautifully explained the importance of social skills.

She explained that our social skills directly impact how others feel about us. This impacts how we are treated, how we feel about others, and ultimately, how we feel about ourselves. 

To learn more, watch this video where she speaks about her approach:

Or click here

At her Social Thinking conference, I also loved how she defined SOCIAL SKILLS. She defined social skills as “adapting effectively with others” and “sharing space effectively”.

That really put things into perspective for me. Being social is not just about conversational rules to follow and having good eye contact. Social skills is about judging each situation you’re in and figuring out what’s expected for that situation. When I first began helping students with social skills, we talked about following the rules of conversation. That meant making sure to say hello, trying to keep conversations going, remembering not to interrupt others and making sure to look at others when speaking. Now I’ve learned that it’s much more complex than that.

Now I help students become social observers who focus less on rules to follow and more about thinking about each social situation and what’s expected for that specific situation. I help them build self-talk so they can:

Think About Their Own Thinking     

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& Think About the Thinking of Others

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I help them learn and realize for themselves that social rules change based on the situation. So in order to be an effective social communicator, you must learn to pay attention to many things. You must use executive functions to build awareness of yourself, understand the thoughts of others, and be a problem solver based on the clues you’re getting from others’ non-verbal language and tone of voice. You must make inferences based on the context and prior knowledge because often people say one thing, but mean the opposite and/or they don’t actually say what they truly mean.

To get the conversation going with your students or your children, ask them to define what they think social skills means. I’m always surprised to see how they verbalize it. Once you do that, then you can help them build the skills they need to effectively adapt to different social situations and share space effectively with others.

Here are a few very useful materials I’ve discovered over the years to help students build better social language skills over the years.

Dude That’s Rude

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Social Lang. Development Scenes

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Social Thinking Thinksheets

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I’ve also created many of my own activities on my Teachers Pay Teachers site so check those out too.