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Apr 22, 2020

Executive functions (EF) are much more than just organization! We need executive functions to be able to be flexible, generate ideas, problem-solve, hold information in our brain while completing a task, manage task demands, and monitor our own performance against some standard of what is needed or expected. Today we speak with Kit Savage, founder and managing director of Savage Advocates ( In addition to special ed advocacy, Kit follows the Brown Model of ADD/ADHD ( and Dr. George McCloskey’s research on Executive Functioning ( to inform her coaching work with students who experience executive dysfunctions. We’ll talk about how EF impacts students in and out of the classroom, strategies for addressing EF, and what parents need to know to help their students with weak executive functions – especially now, during the COVID-19 school closures! You can find Kit and Savage Advocates at:

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TRANSCRIPT (not proofread)

executive functioning, student, child, kids, parents, school, skills, talk, prompt, deficits, adhd, teaching, advocate, special education, executive functioning skills, zoom, learning, executive dysfunction, iep, life

Dana Jonson, Kit Savage


Dana Jonson  00:03

Hello, and welcome to need to know a Dana Jonson. I'm your host, Dana Jonson. And I'm here to give you the information you need to know to best advocate for your child. I'm a special education attorney in private practice, a former special education teacher and administrator, a current mom to four children with IPS. And I myself have ADHD and dyslexia. So I have approached the world of disability and special education from many angles. And I'll provide straightforward information about your rights and your school's obligations, as well as tips and tricks for working with your school district. My goal is to empower you through your journey. So if there's anything you want to hear or comment on, you can find me and this podcast at special ED dot life. You can also find me on Instagram at special ED dot life. Or you can email me, Dana at special ED dot life. Now the first thing you need to know is that sometimes I have a bit of a potty mouth. So if your environment isn't ready for that, feel free to pop in your earbuds. Okay, let's get started. Today, we're sitting down with Kitt savage who is the founder and managing director of savage advocates, which is a special education advocacy group in Connecticut. And Kitt is also an executive functioning coach. So you've got two hats in the game here. I want to start with there is no regulation or specific definition of advocate. So when I speak with the advocates, the way I usually position it is what is it that you do? Because there's nothing that tells me exactly what an advocate does mean, you have a general idea, they're helping you advocate for your child, but I feel like most advocates have their own niches. So would you say that? What services do you offer as an advocate?


Kit Savage  01:55

Well, with the advocacy hat on, I really feel like advocates are sort of the nexus between interpreting data from all different areas. So whether it's reports and evaluations on disabilities or school data, but mostly what I'm doing is I am an investigator trying to figure out what is going on with the student, that they're struggling in school? What are the parents instincts and gut needs for their child because I believe that parents may not have the terminology or the acronyms down, but they absolutely have the answers for where their child is struggling. And what I consider myself is as a master negotiator to work with PPT teams to pull out a program not just goals, but a program that meets all the needs of their students. My personal background is very much in the area of ADHD and learning disabilities. So I would say literacy and behavior are areas that I have a tremendous amount of respect and experience for our teachers as well as our experts in those areas.


Dana Jonson  03:00

So let's talk a little about that. How did you get to be a special education advocate? What is your journey that brought you to being an advocate and knowledgeable in special education, executive functioning, coaching?


Kit Savage  03:13

Oh, gosh, that's a long story. Well, the short story would be that I have two children with disabilities and both of whom could not read. I mean, it was it was evident from kindergarten that one of my children couldn't sit through circle time to go through the the phonemes wanted to leave the room. So the journey from there was understanding that I have a sibling with dyslexia, and that I then learned fairly quickly that I have two children with dyslexia and related disorders. So I had a career and I decided that if I was going to do this, I didn't want to sit in meetings anymore and not understand all the acronyms all of the interventions, unless I educated myself. So in addition to working with an advocate, which I still do to this day, I started going to conferences for literacy, social thinking, data collection behaviorism, and over time realized I have really amassed a lot of knowledge about civil rights as they relate to process to the PPT. So in 2012, I started a support group in my hometown, because there were a lot of problems. And I found very quickly that people did not have even the basic understanding of the PPT process. So I developed a speaker series of bringing in a school psychologist, a speech and language pathologist, and started to really talk and informally advise families on how to get through it. So the results of that were that our town went through an enormous period of change and investigation into some practices that were really illegal. And it took several years but throughout that I was approached so many times by so many parents and was able to help them that I decided to pursue it professionally starting in 2017. And at that my children at that that point could actually fluently read and get through their work. And I realized that their greater challenge lifelong was going to be executive functioning, which,


Dana Jonson  05:10

that's what I was gonna get to, because that's I was gonna say, You know what I'm actually most interested in either I'm always interested in the advocacy component. But I wanted to talk more about the executive functioning component, because I know that that is a very strong focus for you. And I think it's an interesting area that is very misunderstood most of the time, but also really impacting our students right now, given our current time of COVID closures. So I wanted to dive a little bit into that.


Kit Savage  05:39

Yes, so executive functioning became obvious for both of my children that it was underlying all of their learning. So, again, I did what I have done before I went to school, I went back to school and started learning the neuroscience that there isn't a single test for executive functioning. It's a collection of evaluations, that it affects not just organization, but perception and focus. And it's related to ADHD, but not the same as its relating to learning. How do


Dana Jonson  06:09

we differentiate that from ADHD? Because that I think, is when you say, you know, one of my children has extreme executive dysfunction. And I think when I say that people assume, Oh, they have strong ADHD. But it's, it's more than that. And it impacts so much more than just they can't keep their locker straight, right? Yes,


Kit Savage  06:30

I think, because I'm not a psychologist, I'm not going to the details. But I can tell you as a parent, and as a coach, how this plays out is the intersection between executive functioning ADHD is really strong. I almost don't care what the label is, I think what we have to get to is, what are the skill deficits for that student in school and in life? And let's peel that back and start giving them support in those. And


Dana Jonson  06:57

that's what I need. Because I think what I want you to talk about is, what are those deficits that come with severe executive dysfunction? Because I think that there is a distinction between executive dysfunction and just ADHD in general, you know, you look at a kid, you're like, Oh, well, they're disorganized. I mean, there are issues about flexible thinking that involve problem solving, and critical thinking and the way you talk and the emotional control. And so like, what are these other areas that are specific to the executive functioning?


Kit Savage  07:26

And this is where the investigative hat comes on? Because I would say that every student has a slightly different profile, I can tell you, there are two leaders in the field of executive functioning that I follow Dr. Brown's model, which is used by where I've received training, Landmark College, and Dr. George McCloskey is model and what I found an Aha, so yes, so so when I discovered them, I realized how layered executive functioning is and why, like you said, some students it is literally getting their organization together, but they don't have any difficulty with comprehension at all. Another student, it's it's the comprehension of what is the expectation of the classroom, and initiating that and getting through an anxiety moment. So I think this is where parents and educators and coaches come in to really identify out of these variety of skills, what areas of deficit impact their performance, which is my other message, which is that I think when it came to literacy instruction, there was an expectation, and it happened for both my children, they could read fluently, even if it took eight years, that it's a skills deficit. So we have to teach if you see a lot of executive functioning programs literally teach kids how to do binders, and how to stay organized. And I think that that's missing, the greater point is that


Dana Jonson  08:51

about, like, when you talk about growth mindset versus fixed mindset, is that when you're making those neural pathways, because you're doing it out of habit over and over again, is that how a child with executive dysfunction will ultimately learn is to be the repetition, or


Kit Savage  09:08

I don't think so. I think that what what are the signs that I see is it's certainly repetition is essential. But it's not going to be as clear cut as that, in fact, it's a performance deficit that's based in self regulation. So it's day by day, it's based in CO regulation. So even if one day I think if it doesn't wave that student can do the organizer does not mean that that student is going to be able to access that organizer under stress, anxiety, and challenge. So that kind of brings us to where we are right now.


Dana Jonson  09:45

That's the performance part that is the the main so what are you teaching them? Are you teaching them how to get through that moment and demonstrate the skill? Is that what we focus on? Or is there a different way to learn the skill that they can then get To realize into moments of stress,


Kit Savage  10:02

I think with each student, it's different. But as age matters in this because developmentally as a student's age, they more skills come online. So if we know that neurologically, Neuroscience tells us that the frontal lobe is where all of this lies, and again, I'm not a psychologist, but as a parent, I can I got a sense of relief when they say, you know, this doesn't come online fully for neurotypical kids to early 20s. And for kids with comorbid, I hate that word. But let's just say more than just one thing. That can take an extra three to five years. So we're looking at 28 to 30, I sort of could take a breath and say, Okay, these are not skills that are going to be easily acquired. So yes, it's about setting up a structure based on the assignment, you know, every student has different skills. And if we're talking about performance versus skills, there are students that can access math and science, but that they cannot access language arts. So for those students, the scaffolding is what matters. Where are we starting?


Dana Jonson  11:06

Yeah, and when will I guess what I'm talking about too, is when you have a student who can't access or can't, can't deliver that performance, maybe they have the skills, but they, you know, in times of stress, or, you know, if the sun is out, they can't focus,


Kit Savage  11:21

what we have to start with is regulation, which is emotion. So every session of every single student, whether or not they have executive functioning deficits or not, starts with where is that student and I think that at this time in the world, and this might be the silver lining, for a lot of people, mindfulness, and taking a minute to see where your body is at starting with your actual body really helps these students, because especially if it's after a typical school day, if we went back to when we had school, they're not they're not in the habit of actually sitting still with themselves first to say, what about this assignment is challenging? Well, I


Dana Jonson  12:02

think that's a good point for parents, too, because that's something I've been talking about a lot recently, too, which is that intentional self care is important. And the same way that our students need to regulate themselves and have control over their emotions in order to access education. We do as parents, you know, I have to recognize what's triggering me. And if I can't take those five minutes to take a breath, and figure out where I am, and organize what I need to do if I don't do that I'm useless to them.


Kit Savage  12:34

Yes. And I think that that is key right now. So that self regulation piece for us fill your own cup, which I've know every special education parent sits there and kind of laughs at that notion, because we haven't been able to fill that cup since we know, that's fine. But this is something that's a really important piece of it. And then I think that the tendency is because the behavior and performance is is dysregulated. The tendency is to think it's it's their fault. Like why? Why can't you sit down right now. And if we can start from the fact that you can't attend to something, if your body is not in the room, and your head is not in the room, especially now let's let's allow for that. And maybe, you know, I have a student who's my son, who is not doing work till 1030 At night, and that's what works for him. He's still getting it done.


Dana Jonson  13:27

Yeah. And I think, you know, that's a good point, too, because it also it takes effort to maintain those skills. So for someone my understanding, living with six of us in this house with limited executive functioning skills,


Kit Savage  13:43

well, then that's the point, isn't it? Aren't we, as a guest, that's


Dana Jonson  13:46

exactly what I'm talking about. I feel like if there was nothing I'm gonna say is, when you get tired, it's harder to do it. So like, I've exhausted It's Sunday, you know, and so it's harder for me to muster the energy, I require more energy to focus, right. And so, you know, you see children too, it's not just about that inconsistent performance. But if they've been performing really well, for several days, or if they're under extra stress, they may not have the energy to contribute to it.


Kit Savage  14:17

Exactly. And one, one specific way I can explain that is we're all learning distance learning at this moment. And one student was really struggling, even though there was a zoom classroom. So the perception of the parent was that there was instruction happening. And this is a language based learning disabled student. So this is someone where content is going to overwhelm and in fact, it was a check in so the Zoom was not actual instruction. It was a check in with an attachment with an assignment and a video that then had to be put together and the due dates were missed. And the assumption made was there was instruction and follow up and this is a kid that would need someone else to go through that for All assignment with them. And the learning first, I


Dana Jonson  15:03

think that's a good point because they think that when I hear and I'll just talk for my own kids, when I hear well, it's all on Google Classroom, you know, that's great. I don't care if it's tattooed on your forehead that takes so many steps for them to get there that we have to remember that remembering which email address they're signed into, for which drive for which Google Classroom, and then they have to go in and they have to find the right class. And then they have to figure out where they're behind. And for somebody that that comes very easily to, you know, they can take for granted that it's right there if you just follow the prompts, but for somebody with executive functioning deficits, the all those individual pieces are not as easy. Is that correct?


Kit Savage  15:44

Exactly. They need guidance, sports. And again, one of my hopes of out of this time is I don't see that this is this has now become our common experience. I you know, people are talking about not getting dressed, not showering. What am I going to do today, because the structure of their lives is gone. I wonder if we could think about that feeling is what students who cope with executive functioning deficits live with every day, even when school is in session, that feeling of I don't know what's coming next, or I'm overwhelmed at this moment. Or I just did grade on that. But I need a break. And I can don't get a break because I'm in high school, I go to the next class. So they need regrouping they need what they call pre teaching in IEP land. Maybe I could explain that. Because I think a lot about that race, creed teaching design class before the class happens. Yes, out of leg up, because that's what exactly, yeah, so let's let's demystify that, first of all,


Dana Jonson  16:43

by the pre teaching,


Kit Savage  16:44

great teaching, is actually talking about the big concepts that are coming up that week, whether it's in third sixth or 10th grade, and ensuring that your fifth grader who can't decode the word photosynthesis, maybe understands the basic concepts coming up, so that their profile, which learns at a slower process than a neurotypical profile, or working memory is impaired, they are actually teed up to hit the ball, it is not a like up, it is essential, because if the first time they hear the information, it's like, you know, anyone who lives with this knows this is like flying over their heads and gone, but a third time, and there's some kind of support before they hit the classroom, then that student can actually participate in the learning.


Dana Jonson  17:36

And I think I love that you said the third time because you think about that, how many times do you hear parents say, How many times do I have to tell you? Well, the answer there, that would be three, you know how you're used to it, some kids, you actually do need to tell them multiple times in order for it to get into their head. So instead of being upset about the multiple times you need to relate this information, taking a breath back and saying, okay, my child has executive functioning issues, I am going to have to tell them 10 times how to do this. So I have to know not to be triggered by that. And that is next to impossible life for kids with ADHD. I'm not saying that's easy thing to do.


Kit Savage  18:19

I think that that's where the lesson right now is we're I kind of feel like every parent with or without a kid with a disability is is living in a small way our lives because we are self contained. And many, many parents are struggling with even understanding what is the expectation of have my child in school or not. But what you really touched upon to is how frustrating it is to teach coach or parent, a person who seemingly goes Uh huh, a lot. So I have something that I always start with, with with consulting parents and students. And teaching teams is when you hear the word Uh huh. The next question is, okay, let's look at it. Because that's when you know, the rubber meets the road. That's when the study guide that was an aha for two weeks is actually not even started. So they're really skilled at not really wanting to go through those steps, because it's been an aversive process for a really long time. So


Dana Jonson  19:20

when I, when I see that and I say, okay, when I hear that, Aha, I say, Okay, could you repeat back to me what I asked, and the majority of the time they can't because they are so programmed to to me out that they genuinely didn't hear the question.


Kit Savage  19:38

Exactly. So, so if we take out their shaming, that's true. So you're in a classroom setting,


Dana Jonson  19:44

even blame we're trying to eliminate the shame and blame


Kit Savage  19:47

right so shame drives why on any setting in person, classroom or online even more, you're not going to hear a question from this learner necessarily typed in to express I don't understand So that's where even the via zoom a one to one setting, or very, very small group where they're actually comfortable and expressing what they don't know, or what they just didn't do is really essential and has to be really often.


Dana Jonson  20:15

Well, and so I think that when you're talking about that, how much time it takes the first time they do, it shouldn't be the graded time, right. So for some students, they should be able to do it the first time that they should be able to obtain that. But, you know, for a learner who doesn't have those executive functioning skills, they need to have it multiple times in advance, right, because sometimes you hear extra time, and you think that's only after the fact right, but for for


Kit Savage  20:47

an exam, I mean, I think when it comes to study skills, which is what I think we're getting at, they're going to need one of the requests that I make a lot, whether as an advocate or as a coach is contents curriculum in advance, so that this is a student that another student could maybe study for one week in advance, but we're going to start studying two weeks in advance, because it's right, take that much longer. So the extra time in the actual exam, but also, preparing for the exam is going to take longer. And I find a lot of resistance in a lot of settings, that again, that perception of giving a leg up personally, I think the whole curriculum should be up for every student from the beginning. I think that these skills of giving kids content in advance that they could plan, they're learning better giving kids scaffolding is just good teaching. And it should be held back from any student.


Dana Jonson  21:37

Yes, yes. No, just complete. I you know, I think it's that idea that completely individualizing education isn't a bad thing. And that that doesn't mean that kids who learn the way regular schools teach can't continue to learn that way. There's nothing saying that that has to go away. If it's really successful for certain number of kids. I don't think it is, you know, I think it's just what we know, it's not that it's successful. It's what we know, right?


Kit Savage  22:03

Yep. Yeah, absolutely. And I think we the other piece, which is checking in after for understanding, yeah, this is a big piece of executive functioning, is you may actually get through the task, the three paragraphs and the conclusion. And two days later be required to be tested on that before then there needs to be a check for what do you recall? What do you understand from that, so that you're ready for that next step, and can build on that because


Dana Jonson  22:32

it's not being graded the first time you do


Kit Savage  22:35

it, or being aware that the learning again, it's sort of like a wave? Where are we in this wave right now, it's going to be variable, it's going to change?


Dana Jonson  22:44

Well, you know, it, it's, it's actually it's paying attention to mastery, not the grade, if it takes you four weeks to learn that math problem, then we're gonna let you take four weeks to learn that math problem. And if it takes you four days, then good for you, you can move on.


Kit Savage  22:59

And that sort of brings me to something that I think is really critical for all students, and particularly bright students who may not have a learning disability, who may struggle with ADHD. So they're in the world of a 504, if they're lucky, which is I think students need to be really active in tracking their own progress. And I missed in the simplest forms possible, but I don't think you can know where you're going unless you know, your, your mistakes and your errors. And where you can improve. And I don't think there's an age that's too young to start that in a positive way. Because the idea is I don't have the skill. Performance wise yet.


Dana Jonson  23:38

Yeah. So that's a big word in our house yet. Yeah. And


Kit Savage  23:42

then and then as a parent, the phrase I keep thinking is act as if it's going to happen. We don't know when, but we're going to get there.


Dana Jonson  23:50

Right? Yes, exactly. You're going to get there. It's just a matter of when. And I think you know, that's an important one, we're talking about these school closures, which everything we're talking about right now is irrelevant, whether we have COVID-19 or not, right? This is all important information, and how we have to break down for kids who have these executive functioning pieces, where those skill sets aren't where those strategies are, but also how do they accommodate for themselves is what I think I'm hearing you say is the goal is if they're never going to get to that skill, then we need to help them understand how they can cope with that and then they need to learn how to be independent with that coping skill.


Kit Savage  24:29

Correct. Exactly. That's that is the life for all of us is how do we adapt to our own learning style and and compensate? Yeah,


Dana Jonson  24:36

how are we going to adapt to different environments from what we learned in school?


Kit Savage  24:40

Yeah, and I know a lot of people talk about and this is something I advocate for too is you know, there are tremendous apps out there and Google Classroom like you started with that look amazing. If you could access all that and guess what, sometimes the printed out planner, where you box off in pencil what you're doing is far more effective than those ask us. I can't tell you how many families say they're really great. My kid won't even open them.


Dana Jonson  25:08

Right? Right now. And I have a student who does fantastic with a written plan or just absolutely fantastic, but just doesn't for whatever reason, maybe it's overwhelming. It doesn't really matter what the reason is, you know, and I, and that bothers me too. And I hear well, that's not really real life. Well, no, but yeah, it is because I choose what kind of planner I use. Do you choose? What kind of plan are you using?


Kit Savage  25:29

Yeah, I went back to paper and a hardcover plan. I


Dana Jonson  25:34

but I mean, that's my point is that Israel life is choosing your own planner, right. So we should be allowing children to have more control over those choices.


Kit Savage  25:45

And also, by tracking with their teacher at school, if they have the benefit of the services, or even with their coach, or their parents are tracking what is actually working, we can open up a dialog with our kid that doesn't start from failure. It's just what's working.


Dana Jonson  26:01

I love that. That's a great perspective. So what is working? And what do we still have to work on?


Kit Savage  26:06

And also what we still have to work on sometimes feels like it's, it's a dictate from somebody else? Yeah, we have to make sure that this students involved in where do you want to be going with this?


Dana Jonson  26:18

Yes, yes. And we do a lot of talking about, well, you might not find this as a goal. However, this goal you have over here, you're going to need this skill. So is it worth your time?


Kit Savage  26:30

Exactly. If you want to become an artist, you're going to need to build a portfolio, which means all your extracurricular stuff at school, your your specials should be geared to that. And if you're not really willing to do that, well, then maybe art school is not in your future. I think that kind of discussion is really beneficial, again, for students who are not necessarily forward thinking, because they've had a lot of failure. And that's also neurologically part of Donald that they're in the moment, right?


Dana Jonson  26:58

Yes. And I think, you know, we there's a lot to being motivated by what you want and what you like. And I think that is a fair thing to say. And there's a level of maturity that comes with that. And I think that when we talk about kids with ADHD, or add, it takes them longer to acquire a lot of skills, and sometimes it can take longer to acquire that level of maturity as well. So expecting them to learn, maintain and generalize a skill at the exact age equivalent of their peers might not be a realistic expectation, would it I don't think it would be.


Kit Savage  27:32

Well, one of the examples that I love is that again, with both of my children language based learning, one went to a private school that was excellent at this when we're in school, but my my other child who went through Publix actually saw the nine books that comprised how to learn to read. And each time he completed one, which was years behind his peers, and then eventually it wasn't, he got to, like, throw the book out. I feel like learning seems endless. If you're middle of trying to catch up whatever that skill is. So any any kind of framework that an educator or parent or a coach can give a student for like, this is what we're getting people and there's an end to it.


Dana Jonson  28:15

Yeah, notch it right at the end of the tunnel. That's right,


Kit Savage  28:19

or you're going to adapt, and you're not going to go into becoming a writer, because it's the thing you hate the most. And I like


Dana Jonson  28:26

the idea when you talk about extended timeline, sometimes I wonder, you know, does it really matter? You know, because the concept is, you're going to get this, you're gonna get it eventually. And we'll just keep working on it until you do. So what is wrong with that extra timeframe?


Kit Savage  28:42

It's the structure of school as we know it. And I think that the other piece of that is, you sort of touched a little bit on which I've worked with parents and students a lot is why not ask, right? Why not ask that question? We need to have this dialogue more and more. And maybe out of this experience, there will be more discussion of what is the real expectation that we're giving our kids? Are we putting them on the treadmill just for the sake of being on the treadmill? Yeah, the outcome of this? What is what is it? What's the purpose? or would I rather a child take longer and do three paragraphs? Well, and not great? Three pages? Absolutely.


Dana Jonson  29:17

Yeah. Well, one of my children has a specific math disability as well as ADHD. And yes, she's waving at me from across the room right now. Because there's six of us in our house is six workstations. So we overlap a little bit but you know, what we said was unless she decides she really wants to go into a field that requires math, you know, let's get her through algebra and make sure she has all those appropriate functional skills, but I don't see the purpose and tormenting her with calculus, or with you. I mean, what I would rather work on something else that will build up a strength for her rather than focusing on weakness that yes, she needs but not not at a higher level.


Kit Savage  29:56

I think that's that's a really great point is working from strength. which we don't get to as parents really focused on in education, we are entirely focused, because we have to be in ensuring weaknesses are addressed. But there are strengths within that. And we need to look at those as well. And again, what's the purpose I was asked this in all my presentation is what is the actual purpose of an education? The purpose, to me, the purpose is to be a functioning member of society, to have a way to make a living, to contribute to society, and to have a good life that's functioning. So always require calculus, it didn't for me,


Dana Jonson  30:36

No, and that's what I say, it's to be the most independent that you can, you know, happy and safe and as independent as possible, and a contributing member of society, a contributing member of society, who is as independent as possible.


Kit Savage  30:51

And while there are, of course, expectations throughout the process, I think that that's where the growth mindset comes in. That's where the research shows that motivationally to think about you, you are not going to all be on the exact same timeframe. So we're going to be working incrementally and ambitiously, I think that's a relief for a lot of families to recognize. Yeah. And I think sometimes


Dana Jonson  31:14

we think that oh, that, you know, maybe they need specialized instruction. And the reality is no, they just need more, you know, they see more time or they just need more repetition, they're going to get there too. And you don't even really necessarily have to change much about it other than it has to take longer.


Kit Savage  31:33

Well. And I would say that in general also that when we bring it back to the executive functioning, they do need a, like an instructor of coach, another being my personal rule is when your child hits 12. So right before the teen years, the family, you are biologic teen years, you are not built to teach your child executive functioning skills, because you are in a normal, it's like developmentally appropriate for them to pull away. And yet the increases in the workload at school, you need a case manager, you need someone who you can trust, whether it's a teacher or a coach, or another adult who understands executive functioning well, to kind of go over this and keep checking in and keep checking in because that that really does have to happen otherwise, is that fall off the map.


Dana Jonson  32:21

Yes. And I think that is a really good point that it can be really hard for parents to be the ones to do it. And actually, yeah, I mean, you know, I have I have four kids all have ADHD, and I haven't My husband has has it. So it's actually the opposite of isolating over here, the opposite.


Kit Savage  32:39

I think that right now, and I'm just speaking about now, but it's every day, parents beat themselves up for not knowing how to keep their kid keeping up. I mean, this is this is a spiral of guilt. And I want to say like, you're not able to do this for a kid with identified issues in these areas. So take a deep breath, either advocate through the school for actual study skills, which


Dana Jonson  33:07

are Yeah, so what are your recommendations for parents right now, and we're talking about executive functioning pieces. And, you know, they applied education, no matter how it's delivered. So for parents who are struggling right now and saying it's not working the right way, or they're not grasping it, maybe all the other kids are what what is your recommendation? What are parents need to be doing?


Kit Savage  33:26

Okay, so I go back to basics, we talked a little bit earlier about having, you know, a hardcopy paper pen. The first thing, if if there is an IEP in place, I think it's sort of an eye opening experience for families to actually put it in a usable chart like, seriously two columns, type it up, don't look at the 42 page document, and check in on what is working, if we're going to do that exercise, are there kids anyway. And if they're old enough to fifth sixth grade, they should actually read what they're supposed to be doing in an IEP. And they can start to input back and say, well, this did not happen at all. And this I'm okay with. And in a very informal way, they do not have to know the acronyms. They don't have to know prompt levels. They can say, my child I sat with and I had to model how to do a patent paragraph, I had to start the sentence for that child to finish the sentence, but their goal doesn't actually match where they're functioning. That's sort of the investigation part that you just keep a running list every week of what's happening with you that


Dana Jonson  34:27

even if we're not on quarantine, right, that's a good recommendation regardless, right? It is,


Kit Savage  34:33

it is and then for the there's a huge another reason I went into coaching for executive functioning is there's just a huge cohort of kids that don't require special education in the way that we look at it now. So they have five oh fours, if they're lucky, but they're struggling, they're struggling. So for those parents, it really is opening up the dialogue if they can with their their kid to say, you know, this is what executive functioning is at work. Want to figure out where you really need some extra help, because a lot of the times the communication from the school is they missed the assignment, it was up on Google Classroom. And we really don't know what's going on.


Dana Jonson  35:13

Well in for a student who may be when it's about going to classroom and interacting with the teacher directly and having a child sit next to them, that's a friend that maybe they sometimes can ask for a prompt, or they write it in their journal, everything about how they're receiving this information is different now. So if they did have little things in place to help remind them, they're gone?


Kit Savage  35:34

Well, and that's actually a great point. I can't emphasize enough when when students have IEP s that says when prompted for study skills. The very next question I have is, what does that look like? What is the skill you're expecting? And I think this is the Discovery now as to whether these children have enough support that, you know, modeling is a prompt, I'm going to show you just full is a prompt. And I think that we don't have the emails for certain percentage of these kids. It's simply not working, whether they have EF deficits or not. And that's important for families to know about their students, because it's going to impact the rest of their education to


Dana Jonson  36:13

well, and to point out it's not just when you talk about prompts, I think one of the reasons that's really important is a prompt could be a timer. Right? So if you're teaching a student to be more independent, that prompt, right, couldn't couldn't have probably a timer beeping. Yeah, when given. So that's a prompt as well, that might be a prompt that leads them to more independence, right? Because as we said that them as independent as possible. So that deeper might be moving them towards a much more independent place, because they're not relying on you to prompt them. But prompts aren't necessarily a bad thing.


Kit Savage  36:45

They're not. They're excellent. The question to ask now is what prompt is working and what isn't? So if it says When prompted, then the email didn't work. So now it's time to talk to my case manager and say, Is it a FaceTime? Is it a Google touch base 10 minutes a day, during office hours in the afternoon that has to be scheduled? So yeah, prompt tells you where you're at. And when prompted is so broad that most parents, understandably, never thought about this before. What did that really look like? A lot of educators don't they're diving in to help the student. They're not necessarily standing back and saying, wait a minute for that student. I'm not just prompting, I'm actually showing and demonstrating. And then they're, they're reflecting the learning back and forth. I think it's not a habit that we're in. We're doing a lot of data collection on in general.


Dana Jonson  37:38

Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, everything has changed right now. Think we're taking data on everything, right? Because everything has changed, and it's completely different. So a lot of what you would say you recommend for parents whose children are suffering with their executive functioning components right now is take the data, keep track and ask, don't be afraid to ask. Yeah, I would say try try again. And then try something different.


Kit Savage  38:05

And data is a big word. I think data is notes, data is whatever. But you're really good


Dana Jonson  38:11

point. When I say when I hear data, I think numbers I do. And I know what I'm saying right now. But I You're right, that's a really good point. Data doesn't just mean numbers.


Kit Savage  38:21

No, it's not. It's a narrative. And I think that the communication back, imagining teachers teaching to zoom rooms where there is no participation back at them, there's zoom fatigue being researched right now that actually useful information for your teacher to have about how your your child is learning and where the gaps are, because teachers are being incredibly innovative right now. And that can only inform them, it's collaborative,


Dana Jonson  38:48

I have an issue that might be a little more add specific than executive functioning. But on these zoom calls, every time one of those children moves, and their little box starts moving your child's distracted, right? So every time a kid looks out the window, your child is looking at their box. So just using Zoom alone can derail a child.


Kit Savage  39:12

There's a lot of cognitive dissonance with that experience. There's just a recent article out about for adults, it's you know, they're saying they're more tired, sitting home and working. And it's because there's no body language, you're you're required to interpret a 10 boxes over and over throughout a meeting and process that and interpret that. And I can only imagine for students, that's even harder. So yeah, this is not an easy time. And I think that this is a really good time for people start looking at their own self regulation and saying, If I'm struggling let's keep in mind that we're all struggling with fun.


Dana Jonson  39:50

One thing that I was doing I am a zoom thing I had to do with kids, the high school thing was I'm going to be asking them to use the same blank background because Everyone's looking at what's in somebody's background and Oh, are they sitting outside? Are they in the kitchen. But if we all have the same blank background, then there's nothing to look at but the person,


Kit Savage  40:10

I love that that's a great adaptation to a new way of learning. That's excellent. That's


Dana Jonson  40:16

exactly that's a different way to reduce the distractions. Yes. That's exactly why this is such a challenging time for kids with executive functioning issues, because maybe something didn't distract them in their house, maybe they were never distracted in Job geometry. And now suddenly, there's one kid who's got stuff going on behind them and they can't read, I read somewhere that it takes, if you get distracted from something, it takes a full 90 seconds for you to actually be able to get back on task that's happening throughout your class, because somebody's moving in the zoom window,


Kit Savage  40:50

well, and then you have to hold the information while looking at you know, the Brady Bunch times 10 have to manipulate it and retrieve it after you hang up the zoom and actually do the assignment. Yeah. And


Dana Jonson  41:04

I'm zooming with adults who can't do that. That's right. So


Kit Savage  41:08

I think that that's that kind of sums up, I feel like every area of executive functioning challenge can be tapped on in distance learning. And then there's areas that it's really excellent for, like you were saying, you have a child where the structure of the day, online is a preference on her own profile. So there are kids doing better in some ways,


Dana Jonson  41:31

right? So important, because now that's something that we need to know. And we did it. We did discover that a couple of years ago when she did a digital class, and it was like, Okay, now we know, what are the components of that she can't do all digital classes. She can't sit in her room and just do it that way. But what are those components of that digital class that that worked for her that we can then replicate in a different environment, and it's the structure and it's a clear cut, beginning and end. And you know, it's everything laid out and written out? Because there's none of that interaction. Everything has to be written out in great detail.


Kit Savage  42:06

Exactly. So for kids that struggle with social, this could be a relief, is that totally,


Dana Jonson  42:10

this is like their jam.


Kit Savage  42:13

They're thrilled. That's right. That's right.


Dana Jonson  42:16

So Well, thank you so much. This is so great. And I really appreciate it because executive functioning is so important, and I think does kind of get swept over with add in. And we don't spend a lot of time focusing on it, and especially right now, and where kids are and where we all are, that to have a little patience and take a little extra time.


Kit Savage  42:37

And to give a kid a structure that works for them. And just realize that right now in particular, but just generally, the feeling we all have now is how they kids with deficits in these areas feel in a typical school day. And I think that gives us a different perspective. Maybe Oh, I


Dana Jonson  42:54

love that. That's so true. This stress that all of the regular children are feeling in this new format is how a lot of children with disabilities feel on a daily basis when things are quote unquote, normal,


Kit Savage  43:06

right? Yeah. I didn't even say not just children, but adults as well. Yes,


Dana Jonson  43:11

yes. And we have to remember ourselves as well. We're impacted too. So somebody's listening. And they say, Oh, my God, I need to talk to kid savage. Because I got to find out more about this executive functioning stuff. How would they find you?


Kit Savage  43:23

They can reach me, I have an Instagram site, savage advocates, but my email is kit at savage And I also have a Facebook page. So I appreciate


Dana Jonson  43:35

I put out again, I'll put all that in the show notes. So you'll give me all the very specific links and I will put those in there. But Excellent, great. So we'll find you online if we need you. Thank you so much for joining us.


Kit Savage  43:46

Thank you, I mean there.


Dana Jonson  43:48

Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast so that you get notifications whenever new episodes are available. You can also find this podcast on his website at special ED dot life. You can follow me on Instagram at special ED dot life or you can email me at Dana at special ED dot life. I want to know what you want to know. So please reach out with your comments and questions. And I'll see you next time here on need to know with Dana Jonson Have a great day