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.” ; )

 

 

 

“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

What You Say Isn’t Always What You Mean

I love using witty commercials to get a conversation going with my clients about the importance of social skills and these two Citibank commercials are perfect!

I love Citibank’s tagline: Wouldn’t it be great if everyone said what they meant? 

For people who struggle with social skills, life would be easier if everyone said what they meant.

This is especially true when dating. People want to avoid awkward moments, so they mask their true intentions with niceties. Most people want to avoid hurting others’ feelings so they tell “white lies”.

Some cultures use more direct language but here in America, our language is filled with indirect and implied language in order to reduce awkward situations and appear more polite and agreeable.  So, it’s important to think about others’ thinking to figure out people’s true intentions.

After you show these commercials, use examples like this to keep the conversation going about the need to think about others’ thinking:

This is a conversation that happens on a regular basis in my home. My husband gets a lot of practice thinking about my thinking just to figure out what’s for dinner! The implied language is in parentheses.

Husband: What should we eat for dinner?  

Me: I doesn’t matter. (It does matter)

Husband: We could make hamburgers.

Me: We could… or we could make tacos. (I don’t want hamburgers)

Husband: What about steak?

Me: We already have the ‘fixins for tacos. (I don’t want steak either)

Husband: Ok… Tacos it is.

Me: Perfect! That was easy.

Husband: It SURE was. (It was NOT easy. Why didn’t you just say you wanted tacos in the first place?)

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Use this visual to help your students or clients think about the thinking of others. Help them learn to pick up on clues from context, tone of voice, and body language to help them figure out what people REALLY mean. Then, ask them to come up with their own examples of how people don’t always say what they mean.

Get creative and have fun!

Michelle Garcia Winner  has a great book that contains many useful worksheets related to indirect and implied language. I couldn’t do my job without this book!

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You can purchase it here:   Social Thinking Thinksheets for Tweens and Teens

Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers site for more social skills activities. You can find it here: The Creative SLP

It’s Time to Talk to Yourself!

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Students these days are very fortunate. When I was in school, I was never directly taught social skills, how to study, or even how to organize my work. Today, teachers and other education professionals have started to learn effective ways to help students become more independent thinkers and problem solvers.

The list of skills that executive functions are involved with is very long. It can be overwhelming to try to understand how to address and improve these skills. Most people understand that executive functions are related to organization, but the skills involved include so much more than just that. Executive functioning is everything! So check out the blog article I wrote for the awesome company I work for, Carolina Pediatric Therapy . I love how they are always looking for new ideas and ways to help educate the community. This is the first article I’ve written for them and there are many more to come. Enjoy!

5 QUESTIONS EVERY PARENT SHOULD ASK BEFORE SENDING THEIR CHILD BACK TO SCHOOL