4 Puzzle Pieces for Planning (Executive Function Series #5)

4 Puzzle Pieces for Planning  (Executive Function Series #5)

I am the queen of to-do lists.  I have them on paper, on digital lists, in my head….but they aren’t fully functional for planning! A to-do list is just a list! 

Planning involves strategy, problem solving, time management, time estimation, sequencing and prioritization.  

Planners, which we touched on last week (#4) are awesome...if you use them!  Any tool that you or your student will USE is the right tool!! 

Academic planners don’t always take into account other tugs on time such as appointments, extracurriculars, meetings, family responsibilities, etc.  They are one piece of the puzzle...

Here are four more puzzle pieces that are BOSS for planning:

  • Timers are magical! 

    • Time blocks: set a chunk of time to get work done and focus on that ONE thing.

    • Taking breaks: set a break time  Get up, get a drink, move around, clear your head. 

    • Assess: how long tasks really take? Keep track- this is helpful data. 

    • Keep track of the rabbit holes! Set a timer when you drop into social media and don’t allow yourself to get sucked in! 

  • Set alarms

    • Name the alarms to reflect what you need to do when they go off- “feed dog” 

    • Use alarms for daily routines and reminders such as “check planner for assignments” after school so that homework gets done.

  • Schedules

    • Use Google Calendar: everyone gets a calendar and they interact in different colors for visual clarity of what’s happening in the household

    • Print the weekly calendar to post in a central space

  • Project chunking

    • Start at due date and work backwards

    • Use post it’s, planners, or digital format to break the project into bite sized chunks and schedule them into the calendar

The consistent use of these tools alongside a planner are golden for planning...you’ve got this! 

If digital planning is your jam, check out my Trello course.  It includes video tutorials and templates on boards for homeschool, school, family, recipes, and “my brain” which is my master board.  It comes with a Facebook group for support and future training, as well as the accessibility of 1:1 coaching to personalize your system.  

Want to hang with a bunch of resilientAF midlife mamas ? Join our Facebook group! 

Want all of my executive function info sent directly to your inbox? Click here! 

Attention, Focus, Teens and School! (Executive Function Series #3)

Attention, Focus, Teens and School!  (Executive Function Series #3)

As I write this the scenario for many teens is:  

  • class on the computer from 9-3  

  • homework after classes

  • 10+ hours sitting inside on the computer

  • often in bedroom

  • multiple tabs open 

  • phones, pads, games nearby

Is it messing with their ability to FOCUS and maintain ATTENTION 

How are they managing EMOTIONALLY?  

Are they feeling ANXIOUS and/or DEPRESSED?  

Are they CHECKING OUT during classes?

What about the students previously identified with attention and focus issues in a physical classroom? 

And the students that perhaps struggle with how to advocate for themselves to ask for help, repetitions, clarifications?  

These are the teens that each day quietly sink deeper into the quicksand. The ones that will slowly FALL BETWEEN THE CRACKS.

Attention is the executive function skill that allows us to focus on the present moment, to details, to people, and for a span of time.

Limited attention skills can present as laziness, opposition, rebellion, exhaustion.  For many students, this is a legitimate struggle, they simply “can’t” attend.  It’s not that they “won’t”, they truly “can’t.

The breakdown of attention spills into other executive functioning skills such as time management, organization and emotional regulation.  All of this can wreak havoc in academic and home settings. 

Some students might have a diagnosis that is concomitant with the executive functioning struggles. Regardless of a diagnosis or not there are issues that exacerbate limited attention:




Hello most teens! 

Those with IEP’s/504’s need to asses the accommodations or modifications as they may not translate to virtual learning.  Observe and communicate with your student and their teachers about what is and isn’t working. Determine where the breakdowns are and look outside the box to advocate with your student and offer suggestions.  

Teachers are doing their best

Support them while you work together to create solutions. Use your voice to request what may serve your child best. For example: 

  • If they can’t focus from 9-3, prioritize the classes that need to be done online and suggest skipping the online presence for the others 

  • Take a critical look at the assignments and determine if there is work they can be exempt from

Supporting students where they are, with what they need for mental/emotional health is essential.

And as always...take care of YOU, set the model for self care! 

Check out my resilientAF midlife mamas group in Facebook to dive into radical self care and support  

Want all of my executive function info sent directly to your inbox? Click here! 



A Quick Guide to Executive Function for All Ages (Executive Function Series #2)

A Quick Guide to Executive Function for All Ages (Executive Function Series #2)
Part two of my series on executive function (EF)  is summed up in this link: 

As a Speech Language Pathologist, I always look at development through the lens of language.  Other professionals may approach EF from more of a social emotional or academic perspective.  As we progress through the series and breakdown EF further, I will draw in all areas as they are critical to view as intersectional components. 

As a parent, to be honest, I missed so many signs with my own kids.  As parents we are quick to fix, to jump in and bring them the lunch they forgot, or email the teacher to help advocate for more time. When we step in and do ALL.THE.THINGS. we become their pre-frontal cortex...they need to work that part of the brain to learn or hone their EF skills. 

As a parent that's been there...still there, I also know how important it is to take care of ourselves!! We need to do our own work.  Check out my resilientAF midlife mamas group in Facebook so that you can  dive into radical self care and support from this dynamic emerging community.  

School or no school? Best Communication Tips for Mask Wearing!

School or no school? Best Communication Tips for Mask Wearing!

Hot topic: School or No School? Right?!!

It's undoubtedly the question of the summer...and none of the answers make sense! 

I have been homeschooling for 17 years, this year is my youngest child’s 8th grade year and we were already planning to homeschool.

So,  I am not approaching this quandary as a parent, but as a Speech-Language Pathologist that has worked in schools with many children over the years.  

I’ve worked in both inner city schools, elite boarding schools and preschools with a diverse population of communication issues. 

Truth is that there is no best decision...there is no easy answer! 

The inequities of our education system are being illuminated and our most vulnerable populations are facing many barriers.  

Specifically, I’m addressing the students that receive special education accommodations that are at a disadvantage regarding not only their education but also their therapeutic services.  

I spent years sitting closely with children prompting them with phrases such as “look at my mouth” and “watch my lips.”  

My bag of tricks included, horns, straws, tongue depressors, bubbles, and a box of gloves for some of my work involved physically helping cue speech sounds.  

And these accomodations apply to all ages… for example, my oldest goes to Rochester Institute of Technology and one of it’s colleges is the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.  On campuses everywhere there are students that will be affected. 

So, what happens when we need to wear masks and physically distance...not just in therapy, but in school and daily living? 

Some of the ways that masks affect communication (American Speech & Hearing Association):    

  • Increased difficulty in understanding speech: Masks attenuate sound by 3–12 dB and also result in low-pass filtering of high-frequency sounds, making it more difficult to understand speech and some higher-pitched voices (Goldin et al., 2020). Listening to masked speech can be especially hard for people with hearing loss. 

  • Reduced discrimination of speech signal among competing noise: For example, reduced discrimination may occur in the presence of traffic or noisy yard work like lawn mowing. 

  • Reduced intelligibility of the wearer’s speech: Listeners may perceive speech as muffled or lower in volume. 

  • Loss of visual cues: Masks remove the ability to speech read and see facial expressions, which augment communication.

  • Increased difficulty of verbal communication: Speaking and understanding language while wearing a mask can be hard for people with communication problems like aphasia, voice problems, and autism. 

  • Reduced ability to provide appropriate cues to the client/student: Masks can reduce one’s ability to provide communication cues—for example, in the case of speech sound production. 

  • Noncompliance of mask wearing: Masks can be uncomfortable for young and school-aged children, and for people who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants. Noncompliance with mask use can also be an issue for those with cognitive or sensory deficits. 


So what can we do? 

  • masks with clear panels for everyone! (check out smile masks by rafi nova)

  • face shields (there are some really fun ones for kids….and adults! Check out shieldpals.com

  • plexiglass or other clear barriers  (not ideal as it creates another sound barrier)

  • physical distancing (speech can be quieter because sound levels go down with distance and  focusing on speech from a distance is more difficult)

  • use of voice amplifiers 

  • use of family member/caregiver as model or extension of clinician’s hands  

  • use of videos or images for demonstration 

(It’s  important to note that there is no documented clinical evidence on how these modifications impact effectiveness of overall infection control processes used in clinical practice.)

What can teachers and staff do to support students while wearing masks?  (American Speech & Hearing Association) 

  • Make sure you have the attention of your client/student before you start talking.  

  • Face them directly, and make sure nothing is blocking your view. 

  • Speak slowly and slightly louder, but don’t shout or exaggerate your speech. 

  • Optimize hearing—confirm that those who use hearing aids or cochlear implants are wearing their devices or use a portable amplifier. Use your eyes, hands, and body language to add information to your speech. 

  • Provide visual references (e.g., printouts, notes, images) to accompany communication. 

  • Ask if they understood you—if they didn’t, rephrase it or write it down. 

  • Ask them to repeat important information to see whether they understood what you said. 

  • Reduce competing noise in the environment, if possible.  

  • If you’re talking with someone new, ask the person what you can do to make communication easier for both of you. 

~~~these are great tips for anyone communicating with anyone using masks because we don’t always know someone’s story 


All that said and I didn’t even touch on sensory issues or children on the autism spectrum….many that will not be able to tolerate a mask, or that require physical contact in order to help them regulate emotions…..

I see you mamas...trying to keep your shit together while all this craziness swirls around you!  Make sure you take time to take care of you!  

We talk radical self care in resilientAF midlife mamas over on Facebook….come on over!