Categories
ADHD

Why Is ADHD So Often Missed in Girls?

We know that girls are diagnosed with ADHD less frequency than boys, even though both boys and girls have ADHD at the same rates. Unfortunately, this under-diagnosis of girls continues to be a problem.

I’m glad to see that The BBC is covering this issue as one of the keys to fixing this problem is publicizing that there is a problem to begin with! The article lays out clearly exactly what ADHD is and how it affects boys and girls similarly, supporting this important point with easy-to-understand statistics.

The author goes on to address the impact social conditioning has on how girls with ADHD often don’t appear as hyperactive as boys with ADHD:“Girls are far less likely to bounce around the classroom, fighting with the teachers and their colleagues,” says Helen Read, a consultant psychiatrist and ADHD lead for a large London NHS Trust. “A girl who did that would be so criticised by peers and other people that it is just far harder for girls to behave in that way.”While girls with ADHD are more likely to be expected to behave in school, the consequence is that they will fly under the radar and struggle with untreated ADHD for years, often with disastrous consequences. Emily Johnson-Ferguson, an adult woman with ADHD interviewed for the article, describes who her struggles with ADHD led her to self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

Students with ADHD, regardless of their gender, need to learn about how ADHD impacts them in addition to strategies and supports designed to help them cope with the way their brain functions.

I think this would be a particularly good article to share with any parents or colleagues who are not aware of the prevalence of ADHD and girls. What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

Categories
Executive Function

Executive Function and Helicopter Parenting

When children are young, parents do almost everything for them. Young children are not capable of organizing, self-checking, or thinking flexibly about the challenges they face.  As children get older and become developmentally ready to tackle the executive function demands of life, they take on increased responsibility, eventually emerging as full-fledged adults.

This process is far from smooth. When teenagers begin to take on the executive function demands of the world, there are sure to be fits and starts and a few outright disasters. It can be hard to watch as a parent, or a teacher, and sometimes it might seem easier to just keep doing everything for the student. This desire is at the root of the rise of the “helicopter parent.”

Helicopter parents are parents who monitor every little thing in their childrens’ lives, from homework and extracurricular activities to socializing and beyond. While the motivation may be understandable (no one likes to watch someone they love fail or struggle), the long-term consequences of helicopter parenting can have a negative impact on the development of executive function.

Research shows that students who have more unstructured time develop strong executive function abilities later in life. Why is that? Shouldn’t students who spend more time playing sports, participating in clubs, and getting all of their homework done on time be better at executive function tasks? Not if the student has no choice in the matter. Students develop their executive function abilities when they are able to create their own structures and strategies to pursue goals that are personally meaningful to them. This process does not happen in a vacuum, and parents are important partners in their children’s lives. But autonomy and self-awareness are crucial for this process.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and author of How to Raise an Adult, makes a passionate case against the dangers of helicopter parenting. Check out her TedTalk below.

Categories
Goal Setting Metacognition

Amishi Jha: How Can We Pay Better Attention to Our Attention?

At ResearchILD, we believe that metacognition — thinking about one’s own thinking — is an essential component of teaching executive function strategies.

The link between metacognition, mindfulness practices, attention, and meditation has been getting a lot of publicity lately, but it can be hard to figure out what ideas are supported by science.

Amishi Jha, a neuroscientist whose research focuses on attention, working memory, and mindfulness, sheds some light on the scientific research about what attention is, how it can be studied, and what mindfulness practices can be used to improve it.Jha explores the role of attention as “the brain’s boss.” How does attention control us? What can we do when attention is not helping us get our work done efficiently? Jha uses the experiences of a former Marine experiencing the symptoms of PTSD to explore how our emotions and thoughts affect our attention, and the power of mindfulness training to help us regulate our attention.

What did you think of Dr. Jha’s talk? Have you used mindfulness practices and meditation to help improve attention and metacognition? Looking for other ways to integrate opportunities to build metacognition into your teaching? Let us know in the comments!

Categories
ADHD

Self-Compassion and Managing ADHD

We all have moments when we experience anxiety, doubt, and frustration. Experiencing stressful emotions is hard enough; managing them, especially if you have ADHD, can be even more challenging. One way to ease the stress is to practice self-compassion.While negative thought patterns are not always harmful, they can become self-destructive when we fixate on them and become paralyzed with self-doubt. This can create a toxic cycle of procrastinating to avoid experiences that trigger negative feelings, which can lead to failure that reinforces those feelings.

There are many brain-based strategies for promoting emotional regulation, but one powerful way to break this harmful cycle is to practice self-compassion. How? One way, described in a recent article from ADDitudemag.com, is to talk to yourself as you would to your best friend.

When a friend is in distress, our first instinct is to comfort them with kind words. However, many of us don’t practice positive self-talk when dealing with our own mistakes, so we can’t learn from our mistakes. If you find yourself thinking, “I am a screw up, I always make mistakes!” offer yourself the advice you would give to a friend. Tell yourself something like, “Everyone makes mistakes. This is not the end of the world. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”

Of course, this is easier said than done. To get started, try this simple mindfulness self-compassion strategy. (As you know, we here at SMARTS are all about systematic strategies!)

Set a timer for several minutes (anywhere from five to 15 minutes will do), and follow these instructions:

  1. Start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable posture.
  2. Take a few deep breaths. Gather your attention… focus on the movement of your body with each full breath.
  3. Next, with each inhalation, observe it all… Then consider, “Everyone has moments like this.”
  4. With each exhalation, set an intention: “May I find strength and kindness for myself right now.”
  5. You will get distracted almost immediately. That’s what our mind does. Treat that distraction in the same way — it happens, no need for frustration, come back to take the next breath.
  6. Continue in this way for a few breaths or until your timer goes off. Do you think this self-compassion strategy would be helpful for your students? What other strategies do you use? Let us know in the comments!

Do you think this self-compassion strategy would be helpful for your students? What other strategies do you use? Let us know in the comments!

Categories
Executive Function

Project-Based Learning and Executive Function

Thinking about bringing project-based learning to your classroom? You can help students succeed by weaving executive function strategies into every step.
Project-based learning is a hot topic in education these days. By actively engaging in real-world projects, students often experience higher motivation and deeper learning. Students are able to explore issues that are personally meaningful, such as bullying, or make an impact on the community by helping out someone in need, like a homeless shelter or animal rescue. The skills and strategies needed to engage in project-based learning (e.g., organizing, public speaking, research) are essential for success in college and the real world.

Unfortunately, projects don’t always go smoothly and learning opportunities are lost. When we work with schools that are implementing project-based learning, it’s not unusual to hear stories of projects gone wrong: students who don’t understand the point, materials that got jumbled up or lost, or a timeline that left everything to the last minute.To be successful when implementing project-based learning, executive function must be addressed explicitly. Students need to organize their time and materials, sift and sort information when conducting research, and self-monitor and check their progress.Here are three steps to follow when thinking through how to integrate executive function into project-based learning.

PLAN – A successful project takes thoughtful time management. This includes both long-term management (setting the timeline for each phase of the project) as well as short-term management (identifying work time and helping students use that time efficiently). Students must be engaged in the planning part of the project. While the teacher may need to do most of the calendar planning, students can create their own personal timeline to gain a sense of the scope of the project.

DO – Project-based learning relies on academic tasks with a high executive function demand (note taking, reading comprehension, breaking down directions). This is the perfect opportunity to teach executive function strategies in the content of an engaging project! Model the successful use of an executive function strategy, and then let students practice this strategy on their project.

REFLECT – Take time to ask students to reflect on how they used executive function strategies within their projects. This helps them to make connections between the problems they are exploring or to apply strategies they used on their project to other areas of their lives.

By explicitly embedding executive function into every step, you’ll increase the success and impact of your students’ project-based learning experience.
Want to learn more? Join us at the 10th Annual Executive Function Conference for a session on “Designing and Assigning Projects through an Executive Function Lens.” We’ll see you there!

Categories
Remote Learning

Remote Learning – Parent Perspective: Changing Schedules and Changing Them Again

Distance learning is forcing everyone to adjust. Teachers, parents, and students are adjusting to new schedules. Many students have no ‘live’ classes to attend, spending their day completing asynchronous assignments. Some classes meet once or twice a week, with students working on assignments independently between classes.

Learning a new schedule is hard for all students (and all teachers, for that matter), but the negative impact doesn’t affect all student equally. It’s especially hard on students with learning differences, such as ADHD or dyslexia. Without transition times and clear expectations of how the day will unfold, students with learning differences may struggle to stay engaged.

In this installment of the SMARTS Online Remote Learning stories, a parent of a middle schooler describes the chaos and stress caused by rapidly shifting schedules.

Just when I thought things were calming down a little bit with some routine and schedule in place, the school decided to change the whole schedule around.  Change for change’s sake? Now we have a whole new set of stress around figuring out what’s changing and what’s not, new uncertainties around what seems to be a much more complicated schedule, with more “fun” electives and book clubs (dyslexic torture, if they’re “good old-fashioned” book clubs).The email from our teacher says, “This school-wide schedule change was created to improve the functioning of the remote schooling experience for as many constituents across the whole school as possible.”  As usual, the goal is to make school work for the majority, with no concern for individualization or the needs of the minority. 

No one likes to feel out of control. Given how unexpected the shift to remote learning has been, a sense of chaos was probably inevitable. However, as schools shift and adjust their schedules, it will be important to communicate the rationale and to reaffirm the commitment to meeting the needs of all students, especially those with learning and attention differences.

There’s so much talk about this time of crisis as an “opportunity” to slow down and simplify and limit screen time — to do things in a more old-fashioned way.  But, that doesn’t work for everyone.My student needs technology and lots of activities that are dyslexic-friendly.Right now, it seems like there’s a good excuse for this teaching-for-most approach. But really, this is business as usual.

As educators, how can we help our students, who may be used to feeling like school is not for them, feel connected and valued? We can begin by:

Schedules and teaching practices have to change, but if we can build in opportunities to differentiate assignments, leverage technology, and build in transition times, we can help our students, and their parents, feel supported.

Categories
SMARTS

Free SMARTS Webinars on YouTube!

During this time of distance learning, executive function learning strategies are more important than ever. We’ve heard from many teachers (and parents and students) that their executive function is on overload! Never fear, our sister site, SMARTS Online, is here with strategies you can use whether via remote learning or in a classroom.
You can now access all of the free executive function webinars on the SMARTS Webinars playlist. These in-depth webinars cover the basics to understanding executive function, specific strategies for organizing and goal setting, as well as how executive function relates to important skills like reading (shown below) and math.

More webinars will be added to this playlist, so check back for new resources in the future!

If you’ve watched these webinars, did you find them useful? Which webinar was your favorite? Let us know the comments!

Categories
Remote Learning

Remote Learning: Keeping Kids Engaged

Teachers, parents, and students, with or without learning differences such as ADHD or dyslexia, have all learned a hard lesson during the past weeks: remote learning can be boring.
Keeping students engaged is essential for successful learning. Here are some practical strategies you can use to keep your students engaged and active during remote teaching.

Encourage fidgeting

Keeping your hands active is great for paying attention (one of the many reasons note taking is so valuable). Students with ADHD especially benefit from being able to fidget. Ask students to keep some fidgets on hand. From fidget spinners to a Rubik’s Cube to paper clips, the range of fidget toys is endless.

Make time visible

Students are still developing an accurate sense of time, and the dramatic shift to remote learning has completely upended their sense of the passage of time. Typical transitions that would normally structure their day, such as walking to a new class, have all but disappeared. Start your classes with an agenda and use timers to help students gain a more concrete sense of time passing. Give students time to plan and prioritize their tasks. Discuss ways they can use timers to structure their homework (my students like to use playlists with defined amounts of time as planners).

Promote active learning

Watching a video by yourself and then filling out a worksheet is not as engaging as learning with your classmates. Students learn best when they can actively contribute and learn from multiple perspectives. When possible, structure time for students to contribute actively to the instruction. Well-placed activators, discussion questions, and group discussions using breakout rooms are all great ways to encourage active learning.

Remember to reflect

One of the biggest challenges of remote learning is we can’t see our students face to face! Teachers are experts at noticing when something isn’t working and thinking on the fly about how to differentiate. Now, however, we are teaching blind. We can’t see our students, only the assignments that they do or do not turn in. Use weekly reflections to get your students’ perspectives on how their learning is going (ask parents to fill out a reflection, too). Student reflections will give you valuable information to help make your teaching more equitable. It will also help students feel more engaged with learning as they reflect on what’s working for them, what’s not, and what they would like to do differently moving forward.
This is far from an exhaustive list of strategies to engage students during remote learning. What are we missing? We’d love to hear from you.
You can also find some great strategies in this blog by Carey Heller, Psy.D., “Keeping Kids Engaged in Online Therapy/Coaching and Other Remote Sessions.

Categories
Executive Function SMARTS Strategies Uncategorized

Free Webinar: Executive Function and Math

Why is math so hard for some students? If you ask them, you might hear answers such as, “It’s too complicated” or “It’s boring.” However, many students struggle with math because of weaknesses in executive function processes.
To help all students succeed in math, educators must understand the role executive function plays in successful math learning as well as strategies they can use to make math learning a more joyful process for students who struggle. This important topic will be the focus of our free webinar below.

Complex calculations and problem solving in math are challenging for many typically developing learners, and even more so for students with attentional weaknesses, executive function weaknesses, and/or learning disabilities. In addition, the Common Core math standards are placing higher demands on our students than ever before, adding stress and reducing the joy of learning.

Part of the problem may be the current trend towards emphasizing a constructivist approach to learning math. Students are expected to notice patterns and deduce mathematical rules from their observations. This can be extremely challenging for students with learning differences, who may struggle to sequence information or focus for extended periods. Without differentiated instruction, these students may fall further behind and lose confidence in their ability to succeed.

By understanding best practices for supporting student’s executive function needs, especially as they pertain to math, teachers can integrate strategy instruction into the curriculum and establish regular teaching practices to support their students’ executive skills (self-regulation, working memory, planning and sequencing, organization, flexible thinking, and self-monitoring). Using these approaches will increase student motivation, build confidence, and create more enthusiastic math learners.

We will be exploring important executive function processes as they pertain to math in our free webinar, “Executive Function and Math. Replay is available below:

Categories
Remote Learning

Parent Perspective: How to Support Remote Learning

As schools move to remote learning, parents are being asked to support students at home. Support can range from time management and academic help to regulating emotions and organizing materials. But how do you know when to help and how much to offer?

Many parents, especially those students with learning differences such as ADHD or dyslexia, are unsure of how much help to give. After all, school is a place for students to begin to develop their independence from parents. At the same time, no parent likes to watch their children struggle or give up.

Here are observations from a parent of an eighth-grade student during the first few days of remote learning (read some of her students’ blogs here).

After about an hour of school, I hear her chatting with her friends, cracking jokes, and being by far the loudest voice on the video conference. My blood pressure is going up, but I tell myself not to interfere. I’m actually sort of glad she is socializing as she was feeling so isolated after day one.

Later in the day, I hear sounds of extreme frustration. This can halt all progress, so I tried to help and we got into a big fight! When the storm calms, she says thanks, actually that was helpful, and she dives back into her schoolwork. In our house, there’s no point in holding a grudge.

As is typical, sometimes my daughter just needs a tiny push to get her over the hump of hyperactive inaction. Then she can work independently for hours. I see now that my “helpfulness” is interpreted by my daughter as if I said she’s “wrong”!  Note to self: find a better way to help.Remote learning is challenging for everyone, including parents.

Keep in mind that relationships are more important than any homework assignment. This mom knows her daughter and knows how to support her, and that is the most important thing.Parents can also help by reminding their student to do the things that they enjoy.

Although the hands-on project was just arts and crafts, my daughter started listening to an audiobook while she was doing the project. Since we don’t want to go to the movies right now, she found and started listening to Emma. This was awesome as she’s been so busy and stressed lately that she has not had time to just relax and read (ear reading).

Students may be too caught up in their online schooling to make time for things like reading, listening to music, and exercise. Helping students take time to relieve stress and anxiety can help them better understand the role that anxiety plays in their lives and how to manage it.Finally, parents can help by reminding students to take advantage of available supports.

After the school day ended, my daughter did not want to “meet” with her Executive Function coach! However, after doing some note-taking practice, they discussed the challenges of remote schooling. From that, her EF coach put together a summary table of four challenge areas and solutions for each. For instance:

  • Problem: Reading the assignments is difficult
  • Solution: Reach out to the teacher via email or Google Classroom, keeping in mind that teachers are not always immediately available

Her coach also offered to do a quick review of the reading via Skype, but, timing may not work out. One key solution is to acknowledge that remote schooling is hard – for teachers, too – and it’s only Day 2, so try to give it a little more time.  Good advice for me, too.

Many remote learning models rely on the student to reach out to the teacher when they need help. This may be a challenge, especially for students who struggle with motivation or who have experienced academic failure.

If your student was seeing an executive function coach, educational therapist, or a tutor, try to see if they can maintain that connection. These professionals can help students develop concrete strategies for adapting to online learning. They also provide one more supportive relationship that students can rely on as they adapt to their new remote learning lifestyle.

Looking for more resources? Check out these free executive function resources for parents.