LD Expert Podcast

Episode 28: Executive Function – Back to School Expert Tips with Jill and the SLC Team


    In this Episode


    I’m excited to feature our amazing staff in this week’s podcast episode. 

    They share their favorite back to school tips that help build Executive Function skills, and walk you through how to apply them.


    In this week's episode, you'll learn:

    • Develop a routine and schedule with your child
    • How to create a productivity space
    • Examples of SMART goals for the new school year
    • Self-care tips that boost Executive Function skills


    Episode Highlight

    "Working with your child to create their productivity space is a really great idea, because the more your child is involved in the process, the more he or she really owns it, so it can be really fun and motivating."

    - Chantel Quach, Center Director at SLC Irvine



    Bonus Q&A

    Have you tried using pictures as a visual aid to help your child get ready for school independently?

    Learn how the SLC staff uses visual aids and role playing to help kids build Executive Function in this week’s Bonus Q&A.

    Episode Transcript

    [00:00:01.450] - Jill Stowell

    Kids are going back to school or getting ready to go back to school, but it's not quite business as usual yet. So we have a very special show for you today to help with the transition. We'll be talking about things you need to know about this year, and some of our Stowell Learning Center team will be sharing their favorite back to school success tips with you.

    [00:00:28.920] - Jill Stowell

    This is LD expert live. Welcome to the LD Expert Podcast, your place for answers and solutions for learning differences, dyslexia, and auditory and attention challenges. I'm your host, Jill Stowell, founder of Stowell Learning Centers and author of the new Amazon number one bestseller Take the Stone out of the Shoe: A Must Have Guide to Understanding, Supporting and Correcting Dyslexia Learning and Attention Challenges.

    [00:01:06.930] - Jill Stowell

    Going back to school after summer break is always a transition, and this year it's even more so with new and changing safety guidelines. In a minute, some of our Stowell Learning Center team are going to share their favorite tips for getting off to a good start in school. But before we do that, I want to talk to you about how you can help your child navigate the special challenges that this school year may present.

    [00:01:39.390] - Jill Stowell

    First, whenever we're facing a transition, mentally preparing ourselves and taking time to prepare our kids is time well spent. It's less scary or frustrating and easier to have self control, whatever that looks like, out of each age. When we know what to expect, make sure you know the rules your school will be following.

    [00:02:06.280] - Jill Stowell

    Spend some time before going back to school talking about what it will be like. Depending on how disrupted your child is by chance, you may even want to role play how things will be, share the why in a simple, positive way, and then have young children explain to their pet or their teddy bear about the rules. Have older siblings explain to younger ones so that everyone gets the opportunity to verbalize, talk about and practice, especially with children with body control issues, what it looks like and feels like to stand in line or play on the playground with social distancing.

    [00:02:54.570] - Jill Stowell

    Second, whatever the safety precautions look like in your child's school or classroom, or your classroom, if you're a teacher, they will make some things more difficult, and we just need to be aware of that. Masks, Plexiglass, social distancing makes it harder for students and teachers to interpret emotions.

    [00:03:18.870] - Jill Stowell

    People have to speak louder when wearing a mask, which may cause some children to think that their teacher or their friends are mad at them. It will be harder for kids to ask for help, especially those who are quiet or easily embarrassed or misunderstood. They're going to have to speak louder than they're comfortable with, and it will take more effort for them to be understood, so they may tend to just give up or not even ask.

    [00:03:52.170] - Jill Stowell

    For students with auditory processing issues, distance, plexiglass, and masks will make it much more difficult for them to get a clear, complete, and accurate message. These students are already working much harder to get the information than their peers, and so these barriers reduce visual input and dampen the high frequencies in sound that are so critical to the student's ability to listen and pay attention with an already compromised auditory system.

    [00:04:27.990] - Jill Stowell

    Third, all of the emphasis on safety and distancing may cause confusion or fear for kids. We know that kids miss their friends and they need social interaction. So we might think, oh, they're going to be so excited to go back to school. But for well over a year, everyone has been pretty isolated.

    [00:04:51.850] - Jill Stowell

    And as a society, we've learned to cover our faces and stay away from people because it could be dangerous to get too close. So for some children and teens, and even young adults, especially those with some social anxieties, this can be very scary. If someone gets too close to them, they may think, Am I going to get sick?

    [00:05:14.790] - Jill Stowell

    They may be afraid they won't be able to remember all of the new rules. So listen between the lines with your kids right now so that you can catch and address those fears.

    [00:05:29.730] - Jill Stowell

    And one more thing. As your children and teens begin to interact with more of their peers, they're going to find that some families have very strict ideas about safety and behavior in the pandemic, and others are more relaxed. This is not so different from other issues around growing up and other aspects of peer pressure that children experience. It's just a new one. So it's going to be important to provide your children with guidelines you want them to have and why.

    [00:06:05.490] - Jill Stowell

    Help them to think about language they can use when confronted with differing opinions and actions. Okay, so that's a little food for thought about this particular school year.

    [00:06:20.620] - Jill Stowell

    Let's switch gears a bit. I want you to meet some of our Stowell Learning Center team. We have four centers in Southern California where our truly exceptional clinicians get to work on site with students. But we found in the 2020 lockdown that we could also very effectively work with students remotely. So our clinicians have also had the pleasure of helping students all over the US, and in several other countries. Some of our team recorded their favorite back to school tips, and I want to share those with you now.

    [00:07:01.410] - Briana Hurst

    Hi. I am Brianna Hirst from the Irvine Center at Stowell Center. And my back to school tip is for parents who have kiddos who are maybe anxious about starting at a new school or just anxious about what school is going to look or feel like now. For some kids, it's been over a year since they have been in a classroom or on a campus. So using visualization or roleplay is a great way to ease that fear of the unknown and calm some of the anxiety that students might be facing.

    [00:07:39.870] - Briana Hurst

    If you have a student going to a new school, google pictures of the campus and visualize with the students what it would look like to walk from building to building or down the halls, or class to class, what might they see or who might they talk to. If you can, drive by the school or even park and get out and walk around the perimeter or the parking lot, do that.

    [00:08:07.170] - Briana Hurst

    If you have a student who is nervous about being in the classroom and what that might look like or feel like. Visualize and role play. Have the students imagine walking into the classroom. What would they see in the classroom? Where would they sit? Who might they talk to and what would they say to that person?

    [00:08:29.930] - Briana Hurst

    You can even role play a conversation with a friend or a teacher. The other cool thing about this technique is that it could also lead to a great opportunity to guide a student through problem solving if they visualize an issue coming up.

    [00:08:46.530] - Lorena Ghale

    Hi. My name is Lorena Ghale. I am the Center Director at our Chino location and I have a school age son. And the moment that he started school, we ran into challenges with routine. So just really being able to make sure that things were getting done when they were supposed to be done, it really was kind of like a battle from the beginning of our day.

    [00:09:11.980] - Lorena Ghale

    It's a busy morning and I would start with my questions. Have you combed your hair? Have you brushed your teeth? Have you put on your shoes? Backpack ready? All of these things are really demands. And so what I did very early on is I really worked with my son on setting a routine.

    [00:09:33.340] - Lorena Ghale

    And one of the important things for us, in particular, was he needed to be able to see that routine. He needed a visual, something that I didn't have to be yelling at all of these demands. He could do it on his own. So what we did is we started really to work with a visual chart, and from there we began to really develop our routine. I have some examples of what those charts would look like.

    [00:10:06.990] - Lorena Ghale

    I did some where it really was from the very beginning of my day to when it was his homework time, to after that, where he had some playtime. One would be where it is just kind of preset up. That one is titled My Week. And you can see there that there is just really getting dressed in the morning, brushing my teeth. And then you can see that homework portion, which was very important for him to really know what he needed to do in that day.

    [00:10:45.530] - Lorena Ghale

    Then we also had our afternoon right in there. And what was really great about this chart is that he could earn points. We developed a reward system where he would go ahead and be able to earn points every single day and be able to earn a prize. Now that was predetermined by me, so it would really kind of vary.

    [00:11:10.840] - Lorena Ghale

    We started with a low number very early on and then he had to go longer and longer by upping the points and the prize. So we did things as simple as going for ice cream if he could get 20 points to as much as he's going to earn a particular game that I'll purchase for him. And that of course was more points. So I knew it would take a few more weeks to do. So we would just print this out and put some points right on that chart.

    [00:11:41.570] - Lorena Ghale

    Okay, another example of things that we've done in the past has been where we did a chart that just had my afternoon. Okay? And that one, as you can see on the second page there's little tasks that we had just predetermined, even working in snacks and having some time to relax after school. Those were important for him because we needed to work breaks right into his afternoon so that he knew it wasn't just work, work, work. We had to work with that.

    [00:12:18.290] - Lorena Ghale

    The great thing about this chart, as you can see on the first page, is we could order the activities, we just cut them out, we would order them and stick them right on. And some double sided tape works really well with that. We also use some velcro that could work well there. That way, as he finished the tasks, we would go from the first column to the next column. So things to be done to our done column. And that way he would feel accomplished every single day.

    [00:12:53.020] - Lorena Ghale

    The great thing about this one as well is under the time column we can put the actual times that he would need to do this. We would start right away, right after school. When he got home. One of the first things we did put on there was break or time to relax. So he knew that he got home and he had some relaxing time. 15 minutes was great. That way he had some downtime, could get back into the mode of being able to be ready for homework and then we would put all the other activities in order, depending on what we had decided together would be the start of that day.

    [00:13:34.170] - Lorena Ghale

    The last one is actually something that we started this summer. This is our countdown to electronics. And this one is really cool because what we did is we called it our days off chart. And on this one he basically had to do each of the ten tasks in order to have his electronic time. I also wanted some summer reading in there, so we added summer reading as part of it, but also some time to be active without the TV on, without the electronics going. Just some time to be active and of course, time to be helpful as well, so that is a great way. As we work down, we started with number ten getting ready, getting things going, and worked our way down to number one. After he got that last check mark, then he would get his device and be able to have his electronic time.

    [00:14:34.360] - Lorena Ghale

    It was earned, but it was also an opportunity for him to know that he had expectations during the summer. I'm adjusting that so that we could start a countdown for our new school year. He's a little older, so he may not need as many details as the first two charts have, so this one would just be a little more global. He has five things that he needs to get done before that electronic time can be earned, and so that one is going to be what we're looking forward to this fall. I'm still having the expectations of things that need to be done before that electronic time is his. Okay, so thank you very much.

    [00:15:24.610] - Chantel Quach

    Hi, everyone. My name is Chantal, and I'm the Center Director at our Irvine Center. A common back to school tip that I always give to parents is to make sure that their child has a designated and distraction free homework zone. There are a lot of places in the house that kids can do their homework, but planning it out ahead of time and setting that up for the students before school actually starts will help with the busyness and the craziness of school starting, and it's one less thing to worry about.

    [00:15:56.650] - Chantel Quach

    In general, I would say that the ideal place is comfortable for reading and writing, well lit, quiet, free from distractions. So if, you know, the kitchen is a busy area after school, it might not be the most ideal place for homework. Clear of clutter, definitely stocked with all the materials needed, for example, pencils, rulers, and line paper. Whatever the student might need so that it reduces the need to get up and waste time, or so that the student doesn't get distracted looking for materials and then end up wandering off somewhere.

    [00:16:37.150] - Chantel Quach

    I really think the idea of working with your child to create the space is a really great idea, because the more your child is involved in the process, the more he or she really owns it, so it can be really fun and motivating. It's their space, and when they walk in there, they feel more focused and just more ready to work overall.

    [00:17:00.610] - Maddie

    Hi. I'm Maddie from Stowell Center, Irvine. I'm a team leader here, and my back to school tip is to work with your child to make a schedule together. So this might look a little bit different depending on how old your child is, but the basic tips can kind of apply to anyone. So first things first, get some kind of tool, whether it's a whiteboard or a planner or just a piece of paper that will work for your child.

    [00:17:30.830] - Maddie

    I just had a conference with one of my students parents and she said that having a planner in her child's favorite color made a big difference. So that could be something to think about. But whatever you choose, go ahead and get it out.

    [00:17:45.090] - Maddie

    And the first thing you're going to do before you start putting things into like, time columns is just make a list of everything that's going to need to get done. So I would start with one things that never change. So these are like your appointments, anything that's consistent, hopefully your TLP listening or your sound therapy. Anything that's not going to change, make sure those are in place before you start to add anything else.

    [00:18:12.690] - Maddie

    And then after that, make a list of anything you need to get done during the week. So whether that's probably homework or chores, make a list of all the stuff you're going to need to get done. Now, I will say for a younger student, anyone under the high school age, thinking about the whole week in advance might be challenging, so you could even just do it for the day.

    [00:18:37.510] - Maddie

    But everything you're going to need to get done that's not at a set time, go ahead and put that down and then talk to your child about okay, before you say what's going to need to get done, maybe get their input first and see, okay, what do you think you have to get done today? What do you think you need to get done during the week and then just make a list.

    [00:18:57.970] - Maddie

    The reason I say to have them give their input first is one, it makes them feel a part of it, and you're not just giving them a whole list of things you need to do and that can kind of get them on board better. And then two, it helps them develop the skill of being able to plan out their own week so that you don't always have to do this with them, which is always the idea.

    [00:19:18.720] - Maddie

    So go ahead and get that all done and then you have to decide where everything's going to go. So go ahead and put in all the set things and then you can fill in the rest and you get their input on where they think things should go.

    [00:19:36.020] - Maddie

    Once you have everything set on your calendar that you're going to need to get done, then you can kind of fill in the blanks, okay, what would be the best time to do this activity? What would be the best time to do that activity? And again, the same concept of see what they say first. Maybe they think, oh, I have a math test on Thursday, so my studying is definitely going to need to be before then. This is where I want to do it.

    [00:20:01.890] - Maddie

    And every person is different as to where they're at with being able to make those kinds of decisions. So if they say something and you automatically think that's not going to work. Instead of just flat out telling them that, see if you can kind of use some more questioning to see if they can come to that conclusion themselves. So maybe, OK, why do you think that is a good time to do that? Or what will happen after that's done? Will you have enough time for this? Things like that and maybe they can come to the conclusion themselves. And then if not, you can kind of give some suggestions after.

    [00:20:39.250] - Maddie

    So once you have it all filled out, then just make sure you put it in a spot where you're going to be able to see it and remember to do everything you planned. Otherwise then what's the point of planning? So put it in open space and then just try your best to stick to it.

    [00:20:54.280] - Maddie

    If you do have to make any change to the schedule, just try to give them a heads up so it's not the last minute because that can feel kind of no one likes last minute changes if you can prevent it. So if you can give them a heads up on oh, we have a doctor's appointment at this time this week. Just so you know, we might have to do your math homework before, for example wishing everyone a great back to school. See you later.

    [00:21:18.670] - Irene Lee

    Hello. My name is Irene. I am the Center Director at Stowell Learning Center in Pasadena. My back to school tip is regarding SMART goals and SMART is an acronym. You probably have heard this everywhere. It's very popular during the New Year.

    [00:21:38.890] - Irene Lee

    So SMART stands for Specific, Measured, Achievable, Relevant and Time. So basically what you're doing is creating goals that meet what each letter stands for. I think a great prerequisite to understanding SMART goals is referring back to the LD expert show with Stuart Ablon on collaborative problem solving. You want to create goals with your child that gets both of you on board.

    [00:22:10.100] - Irene Lee

    It can't just be something that you're telling your child to do. So you definitely want to sit down with your student and come up with a goal together. Help keep the student in check because their perceptions might be a little off. Or also keep yourself in check because your perceptions might be a little off.

    [00:22:29.380] - Irene Lee

    So remember that your child would do it if it was easy and so kind of expect that they are going to need help and it will be a challenging process. Get them to accomplish an initial easy goal and help them feel successful and then slightly make it harder as you go along throughout the school year.

    [00:22:50.830] - Irene Lee

    Also, if you refer back to my LD Expert show, you definitely want to open up channels of communication. Help your child to understand that it's completely okay to ask for help. They will likely need help and they have to understand that if they come to you, you will be a reliable source of help. And that you will be completely okay with it.

    [00:23:13.820] - Irene Lee

    So, an example of a SMART goal. Let's say this past semester your child had a ton of missing assignments. So you might sit down for the next school year and say something like perhaps your goal can be you will have zero missing assignments for the first week of school and we will check in on Sunday.

    [00:23:38.110] - Irene Lee

    So let's go through the acronym with SMART goals. Is this goal specific? Do you have the who, what, where, when, and why? Basically zero missing assignments. That's a very specific number. And you're going to check in on Sunday, and their goal is to have zero missing assignments for that entire week. That's pretty specific.

    [00:23:58.090] - Irene Lee

    Is it measurable? Yes. At the end of the week, you can count the missing assignments.

    [00:24:03.020] - Irene Lee

    Is it achievable? You'll have to kind of gauge this, but I feel like this can apply to any student. One week of zero missing assignments, first week of the school. That's pretty achievable.

    [00:24:14.830] - Irene Lee

    Is it relevant? Yes, because last semester they had so many missing assignments. So this year our goal will be to have less missing assignments.

    [00:24:23.950] - Irene Lee

    Is it timed? Yes. Again, we put that end of the week goal. We're going to check in on Sunday. At the end of the week, you're going to check in to see how that goal went. Perhaps it went beautifully, and then you're going to add to that goal.

    [00:24:38.320] - Irene Lee

    So maybe the next goal will be I will have no more than one missing assignment for two weeks. And again, you're going to have very specific dates. You're going to check in at a very specific time, and you're just going to continue building off from that.

    [00:24:53.470] - Irene Lee

    It's an added plus to have some kind of reward to go along with your smart goal. So let's say you check in at the end of that week. Your child was very successful, so maybe they get a dollar in their bank for allowance or something like that. That will make it much more exciting, motivating and help your child to stay engaged with these smart goals.

    [00:25:18.070] - Irene Lee

    You might want to think about, like if they achieve their goal for a month at a time, that could be a bigger reward, like, let's say a bigger amount of cash or something like that.

    [00:25:27.970] - Irene Lee

    Something very important to keep in mind is if they fail with the goal, really make sure you communicate that it's no big deal and there's always a new opportunity to earn a reward and try that goal again. You never want it to feel like a failure. You just want it to seem like it's okay, it didn't work out this time, but let's try again. Or maybe we need to rework that goal.

    [00:25:53.230] - Irene Lee

    The more specific that you can make these goals, the better. I talk about that in my previous show. Specificity is key, and that's what you want to work towards, especially when creating goals with your child. Again, make it as collaborative as possible. Let your child's voice be heard and make it a fun thing that you can do together.

    [00:26:14.650] - Michelle Vergara

    Hi, my name is Michelle Vergara and I am the Assessment Evaluator here at Stowell Learning Center. And I am here with a back to school tip that I'd like to share. It actually has three elements to it. Life is strenuous and the school year is especially busy. We need to equip our minds and our bodies to be ready for the demands of the school year and for life.

    [00:26:38.720] - Michelle Vergara

    And so these three elements are things I like to share with families. The first is movement. The second is meals. And the third is mindset.

    [00:26:49.450] - Michelle Vergara

    Get outside and move with your child. Take a walk, play two square in your driveway, jump on a trampoline, anything that will get you outside, breaking a sweat and just laughing with your child.

    [00:27:04.090] - Michelle Vergara

    Meals is our second element. Stop eating your sad diet. Change to a diet that involves lots of wonderful vegetables, the colors of the rainbow, especially lots of green, leafy vegetables. Good proteins like chicken, eggs and salmon, and of course, your healthy fats, avocado, nuts and seeds, olive oil.

    [00:27:30.440] - Michelle Vergara

    And finally, mindset. The third element is really important. They all are. But there are many things to feel anxious about in this life, and your mindset means a lot when it comes to meeting the demands of life. Take time every day with your child to think about and talk about topics that are lovely, topics that allow a thankful heart to grow and develop, and topics that are lighthearted, that allow you to dream and smile and just laugh with your child.

    [00:28:05.110] - Michelle Vergara

    Making your movement, your meals and your mindset a priority truly will set the stage for a wonderful school year and for life in general. Have a great year.

    [00:28:21.470] - Jill Stowell

    Aren't they fantastic? I want to give a huge thank you to our team members who shared their back to school tips and for all of the expertise and TLC they give our students and families every day.

    [00:28:36.830] - Jill Stowell

    Well, we learned in this pandemic that selfcare is critical, and even though things are moving towards a more normal experience, we're still in transition and we'll be dealing with uncertainties and change for a long time. So I have three quick selfcare tips for you and your kids before we wrap up today.

    [00:28:59.990] - Jill Stowell

    Number one make sleep a priority. Sleep is the time when learning that happens during the day gets processed and set into memory. It is also a very important time for processing and working through emotions in a safe, non reactive way, because emotions that we're experiencing during the day are processed during REM sleep when our muscles are paralyzed.

    [00:29:29.690] - Jill Stowell

    You want to try to get a consistent amount of sleep each night. If you or your kids find that your sleep cycle is off, you're falling asleep too late and having trouble getting up in the morning, try stepping outside for a minute or two as close to waking as possible. Do the same around sunset. Taking in sunlight at these times of day when the sun is low in the sky, will gradually reset your internal clock for waking and sleeping. It may only take 30 to 60 seconds in California and most places in the US. But actually step outside. Studies indicate that being outside in sunlight is 50 times quicker and more effective than looking out a window.

    [00:30:22.130] - Jill Stowell

    Number two, take time to move. Exercise activates the executive function part of the brain and it turns on attention, memory and motivation, especially when it's done early in the day. Studies have shown that physically fit children concentrate better, are able to allocate more cognitive resources to the task, and are able to stay attentive to the task for longer. And remember, quick little movement breaks will reenergize your child when doing homework.

    [00:30:59.270] - Jill Stowell

    And third, build in downtime. There is a whole different rhythm to a school day on campus and then homework after school. Before you get all wrapped up in extracurricular activities, make sure to build downtime into your and your child's routine. We saw that in Lorena's tip. She actually built that downtime in to their little chart.

    [00:31:28.310] - Jill Stowell

    Doing that now may help reduce the prepandemic anxiety that kids and moms were dealing with in after school hours. Plus, when you're bored and you don't have anything to do, that's when creative thinking and problem solving get to emerge.

    [00:31:48.470] - Jill Stowell

    When my son was little, he used to come home from school pretty keyed up. He really needed quiet downtime after school before he could start concentrating again on homework or chores or even interacting with his sister and friends.

    [00:32:06.170] - Jill Stowell

    I hope these tips that we've shared with you today have been helpful. As your family gets back into the routine of school, I want to leave you with this thought. Kids do well when they can. People do well when they can.

    [00:32:24.950] - Jill Stowell

    Surviving the pandemic we've had to give ourselves and others grace. We need to keep doing that as we move forward towards a greater sense of normalcy. When there are problems or challenging behaviors, there is always a reason behind it. And if we're really going to change things, we're going to have to do a little digging to figure out what the real issue is. Thank you everyone for joining Lauren and me and some of our SLC team today.

    Bonus Q&A Transcript

    [00:00:00.190] - Lauren Ma

    And then we have Deanna. My son is very nervous. He will be changing classes, multiple teachers for the first time in 6th grade. He has auditory, visual and sensory processing disorders and poor executive functioning skills.

    [00:00:13.410] - Lauren Ma

    So Diana as well, I'm going to jump into my tip. This strategy, I think is really helpful and it can span the ages. So, like I said, I've been using it with my daughter, who's only five. But also this is a strategy that can be really helpful and you can tweak it a bit for kids that are older and even into high school.

    [00:00:35.510] - Lauren Ma

    So my back to school tip comes from Sarah Ward. She was on her show back in June and she is an executive function expert. And so she shared with us a bunch of strategies that parents can use with their kids at home to develop executive function skills. So not only to make it through your day, but also to build those executive function skills. And so this one focuses on visualization.

    [00:01:03.980] - Lauren Ma

    So visualization as a skill is the ability to create mental pictures. It is essential for planning. So if you're just relying on rote memory, just making a list and thinking about your list, that's memory, that's not planning. Visualization allows us to be mentally flexible and to plan and to think ahead.

    [00:01:23.880] - Lauren Ma

    So when you're working on a routine with your child, when you're working on getting them to be independent, when you're working with them on getting ready to get themselves ready in the morning, which is what my tip is going to focus on, you want them to visualize because that means that they're planning and it is more likely that they won't forget something.

    [00:01:43.450] - Lauren Ma

    So a lot of our kiddos with auditory processing issues or executive function issues or attention issues, sometimes you give them a list of things to do, especially during a hectic morning. Go upstairs, get dressed, brush your teeth, brush your hair. And then your kiddo goes and starts to do that and might forget something or get distracted by the dog or something like that. And before you know it, you're up there with him, helping him to put on his clothes and there goes your morning.

    [00:02:13.780] - Lauren Ma

    Okay, this is a tip to help your child to take ownership for getting themselves ready and to be independent with it. So the strategy is to take a picture of your child and print it out and put it in a sheet protector. So I did that with my own daughter, Tammy. There she is. So I took a picture of her as she was all ready to go to school, and I printed out and it's in a sheet protector. You can see the glare there.

    [00:02:40.870] - Lauren Ma

    And you use this as a visualization tool, especially if your child has difficulty with the skill of visualization, if they're not able to easily create pictures. Okay, make a physical picture. So you take a picture of what it looks like for them to be done and ready for school. And then you work backwards, and you ask your child, tell me what she needs to do to look like this.

    [00:03:06.260] - Lauren Ma

    And then my daughter can talk about, oh, I need to brush my hair. I need to brush my teeth. I need to get dressed. And she's planning. And what you want to see from your child is visualization. So looking up, using gestures, we do that when we're planning. And so you want to see those things.

    [00:03:24.440] - Lauren Ma

    And at first, if your child is very concrete and they need that and they have to point, or they have to use a dry erase marker to draw and plan, that's fine. That's what I've been doing with my daughter. And again, she's an incoming kindergartener. She's five. She's still pretty much in that concrete thinking phase developmentally, so that's just fine.

    [00:03:47.180] - Lauren Ma

    So I'll tell you, we've been starting to use this. She hasn't started kindergarten yet, but she's in a summer camp program this summer. And so last Friday was safari day. Safari day. They were supposed to dress up like they were going on a safari or an animal print or something like that. So we talked about, okay, what would you need for safari day a few days before, and she decided she was going to bring her binoculars. So then it gets to be Friday. I show her a picture. Okay, what does she need to be ready? And she yes, she needs to be dressed. She needs her hair done. She needs her teeth brushed, but she also needs her binoculars today because it's safari day. So she drew the binoculars on picture Cammy, and she remembered to get them. And that's what you want. It's for your child to make a plan and then go execute.

    [00:04:35.900] - Lauren Ma

    Now, for our older kiddos, you might want to just start out with a picture and then take it away as soon as you can see that they're say, okay, I need to brush my hair. I need to brush my teeth, and they're pointing, and they're visualizing. They have that skill. They probably don't need the physical picture anymore. But the physical picture does help our kiddos that are a little bit younger or are very black and white thinkers that have difficulty with visualization.

    [00:04:58.870] - Lauren Ma

    So I suggest you try that. You can put it up on the wall. You can put it at the breakfast table right next to them and have them with a dry erase marker start to draw on it. But it's been a really effective tool for getting my own family ready for the back to school craze, so I suggest that you try that.

    [00:05:21.720] - Jill Stowell

    Great, thank you, Lauren. And that tip that you showed with the picture, that's a great tool for kids who have organization problems, too. If their backpack is just always exploding or their desk, their workspace at home, take a picture of what it looks like when it's organized, because now they have that tool to look at and then kind of compare and visualize what they need to do.

    [00:05:49.650] - Lauren Ma

    Hi, so Lisa is asking my daughter is in high school. Any suggestions specifically for older kids? Also, socialization is a real issue for mine. She is very immature. Any help with that subject?

    [00:06:06.170] - Jill Stowell

    You probably have some thoughts about this, Lauren, but I'll jump in and then let you tag on. Everything that we've talked about it really applies to any age thinking about that whole idea of preparing.

    [00:06:24.000] - Jill Stowell

    If your child has difficulty socially and this is going to be a different year socially, visualizing, talking it through, kind of dialoguing about how school is going to look and kind of what is going to be expected right now with masks and everything. And then kind of listening to your child's responses and together kind of visualizing outcomes of that.

    [00:07:02.650] - Jill Stowell

    If your child tends to do silly things like poking other kids or grabbing at their mask or, you know, and kind of think, we don't want to say don't do that. We want to say, wow, that could be funny. Let's think about this year. Is that going to be something that's going to be okay this year? Just kind of looking at two sides of it.

    [00:07:35.230] - Jill Stowell

    In terms of planning and everything, I know some of the charts that Lorena showed with her son were a little bit younger because he is younger, but the same kind of thing applies.

    [00:07:52.010] - Jill Stowell

    We need a calendar or a planner or something to think ahead with, and our kids don't think very far ahead. So to kind of visualize and plan out your day and just use the same tools, but with materials that feel a little bit more age-appropriate.

    [00:08:15.610] - Lauren Ma

    Absolutely. We've been talking a lot about visualization on today's show because visualization is an essential skill to planning. And so that's also what I would suggest is to incorporate as much visualization into thinking about social situations as possible.

    [00:08:35.650] - Lauren Ma

    Another thing, just depending on the maturity of your daughter, is introducing the concept of theory of mind or what is somebody else thinking? Which is a huge kind of barrier. Sometimes when students are kind of socially adrift or kind of egocentric, they're kind of doing their own thing, and they're not really conscious of how that looks to someone else.

    [00:09:02.770] - Lauren Ma

    You don't need to necessarily use that term. That's kind of the clinical term, theory of mind. But what if you're doing this? Stop. What am I thinking when I see you do that? A lot of times in sessions with students, clinicians have to what I call be the students mirror and in questioning, get a student to realize what they're doing. Oh, I'm kicking you underneath the table. How does that make you feel? And so that they're starting to be a little bit more self aware about their own behaviors and how their behaviors impact others. So theory of mind is the skill, and then that's you go after it by questioning, what am I thinking when you do that? Or how do you think I'm thinking when you do that?

    [00:09:56.360] - Lauren Ma

    And then, just as Jill said, using those visual aids, a strategy I've seen some high school parents use is they actually take the planner that the school provided, and they made a copy on legal size paper, so they made it a big visual. They took the exact page out of the planner, and they printed it out and made several copies for several weeks and put it up on the refrigerator, or put it up big up on the wall so that the family is kind of using it together and helping the team to plan together instead of just on their little planner. And that also aids in visualization.

    [00:10:34.340] - Lauren Ma

    When you put something up and then you refer to it, that's queuing in that visualization technique, because I'm looking up and I'm trying to remember where it is on my chart. And that's using visualization more than just thinking about, where did I write that? Kind of like that. So any time you can put something up on a wall in the refrigerator a little bit above eye level, and then you refer to it when the child isn't looking at it, that's triggering visualization.

    [00:11:02.550] - Lauren Ma

    So that's that would be a helpful strategy, I would suggest, for high school parents of high school, high schoolers.